Is it peculiar that my favourite Madonna album is also her least commercially successful one?
Don’t get me wrong. I love Ray of Light, Confessions On A Dancefloor and even the contemporary R&B-flavoured Hard Candy.
But American Life was the first time I felt that Madonna was being necessarily provocative.
This album is essentially a record of the times. With Bush’s war on terror and a global displacement of hope in the air, American Life challenges the American dream and materialism in a society where more is never nearly enough.
In the title track and ‘Hollywood’, the Queen of Pop unmasks the glorified lifestyle of the rich and famous.
“How could it hurt you when it looks so good?” she asks.
Having said that, I don’t think American Life is quite the subversive ‘anti-consumerist’ record that the first two singles depict it to be.
For the most part, this album is life-affirming and cathartic with themes of finding love (‘Nothing Fails’), brokenness (‘X-Static Process’) and loss (‘Mother & Father’).
Sonically, American Life is probably the most interesting Madonna record yet. Co-produced with little known producer Mirwais Ahmadzais, the pair created an edgy pop sound blending acoustic guitar riffs with hard, synthetic electronica.
An all round arty and personal record – American Life is the thinking person’s Madonna record.
American Life (2003)
Reported world wide sales: 4 million copies
Key tracks: ‘American Life’, ‘Nothing Fails’, ‘Mother & Father’ and ‘X-Static Process’