Dance music usually operates on the declarative (“I Will Survive,” “Rhythm Is a Dancer”) or the commanding (“Shake Your Groove Thing,” “Vogue”). If it lapses into a question, it’s often at the halfway point between that and one of the previous modes (“I Wonder If I Take You Home”). In other words, dance music is the one place where lyricists clearly feel comfortable telling, not showing, like Dionysian tour guides with a hitching, baited breathlessness. Operating under this strategy, dance music can exist elementally uncluttered by metaphor, leaving you free to let your body move to the music, hey, hey, hey. But this simplicity carries an admission fee. Unless there’s a voice to take you there, your four-on-the-floor will sound like it’s sitting, cross-legged, reading aloud from Dick and Jane.
Up to this point, Madonna has done remarkably well bending her instrument to whatever purpose. For every multifaceted disco dissertation in her catalogue (say, the Freudian “Deeper and Deeper,” Madge’s latent Repulsion), there’s another red herring like “Music,” which makes the “bourgeoisie” and the “rebel” nothing so much as a convenient quintet of syllables. Madonna’s delivery on both tracks—committed in the former, irreverent in the latter—reflects the tone of the tracks without underlining, which lets them play either way.
The poison running through both “Give Me All Your Luvin’” and now “Girl Gone Wild” (the “Girl” singular reportedly due to legal threats from Joe Francis, the Fred Durst of straight-to-video tease porn, though the emergently apparent self-involvement of the upcoming MDNA is a better sell line for haters) isn’t really the evidently deliberate disposability of both. Madonna could’ve easily validated both the beach-blanket-bingo vapidity of “Give Me All Your Luvin’” had she ditched the cursory “collaboration” with M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj, and covertly made mock of Benny Benassi’s crude David Guetta sheen on “Girl Gone Wild” if she’d been on her game. But the crassness of Madonna’s performances reads sadly oblivious, and the demands to have fun are left sounding desperate.
Like a Tumblr-meme version of “Get Together,” “Girl Gone Wild” is a rabbit hole of repurposed content (right down to the album version’s somewhat sacrilegious “Act of Contrition” swipe), ready for you to share if you want, but of which you’ll unquestionably be done with by the time you hit “send.” It may not be the nadir of Madonna’s career so far, but I can think of few moments that feel as much a betrayal of her legacy than the way she deadpans “It’s so erotic” right before chirping “This feeling can’t be beat.” Somewhere, Lady Gaga’s ruefully pondering Madonna’s definition of the word “reductive,” and Dita’s flipping this cheerleader off.