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Madonna's second collaboration with French electronic producer Mirwais includes the lead single title track as well as her recent James Bond theme, "Die Another Day."
||22 April 2003
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Aside from the thumping groove of "Nobody Knows Me" and a few other bouncy beats, much of the electro style Madonna experimented with on 2000's Music has been replaced with warmer sounds and earthy touches, like acoustic guitars and a choir that comes from nowhere on "Nothing Fails."
This may be the first time Madonna hasn't pushed herself to explore new ground, but at least she's chosen a good place to rest. [June 2003, p.155]
Unlike recent collections Music and Ray of Light, the lyrical content of American Life relies less on spiritual introspection and more on woman-in-the-mirror confrontation.
It wouldn't be wildly inappropriate to identify American Life as an early 21st-century update of Love's Forever Changes, effecting as it does a similarly eerie ambivalence with its fusion of mind-altering sonics and mellow acoustics. [Jun 2003, p.94]
New Musical Express
All perfectly good stuff, technically excellent. But 'American Life' also feels like an unnecessary sequel, a 'Men In Black II', made because hell, if it ain't broke...
When she turns from fathoming everyone else's existence to her own, and stops frantically waving her style icon credentials, the genius of hers and Mirwais' partnership is overwhelming.
At its best, her new album offers blunt, questing, decisive music at a chaotic time. At its weakest, she sounds like a gal who's grown content with hubby and kids and the hard-earned privilege of hiring the help to keep herself at tip-top tautness.
A suite of faux-folkie electro that fuses the introspection of Ray of Light with Music's fast-food dance licks. [Jun 2003, p.99]
American Life is revealing and diverting -- no bad things in a record -- but in the end the brow-beating, finger-wagging and psycho-babbling take their toll. [May 2003, p.86]
It's a record about being Madonna. [Jun 2003, p.90]
That's both the best and the worst thing about this album: The music is much more eloquent than the lyrics. [May 2003, p.112]
Making records, it seems, may not be her strong suit anymore.
All Music Guide
Overall, American Life is better for what it promises than what it delivers, and it's better in theory than practice.
This album, if it came from a newcomer, could kill a career stone dead.
For once, Madonna has stumbled not because she reached too far, but because she didn't reach far enough.
The title track's having-it-all exhaustion, underscored by its bipolar sonics and start-stop rhythms, will endear her to the Allison Pearson crowd; a few other tunes will reinforce her fan base among fellow whiny celebrities.
The Onion (A.V. Club)
Even modest expectations can't salvage the clunky, ponderous American Life, which fares only slightly better than "Hanky Panky" and Swept Away on her list of offenses.
The average user rating for this album is 8.5 (out of 10) based on 97 User Votes
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