Collaborating with Madonna may at first seem like an irresistible opportunity for any up-and-coming producer or songwriter, but in doing so he or she will never be able to escape the superstar’s ubiquitous shadow. The latest example (read: victim) of this mixed blessing is French techno producer Mirwais Ahmadzai. After working on Madonna’s latest album, Music, Mirwais instantly rose from obscurity and into public consciousness (and Epic Records’ artist roster).
It’s difficult to listen to Mirwais’ solo debut as anything more than a companion piece to Music. (Its title, Production, is even more than apropos). The album reveals about as much, if not more, about the pop singer as it does about the producer. The origins of Madonna’s “Impressive Instant” can be found in the stand-out track “Naïve Song.” Like much of Production, the track weaves fluctuating basslines with ‘80s retro synths and acoustic guitar samples. “Never Young Again” was without a doubt the blueprint for the title track of Music. Interestingly enough, Mirwais’ solo version, unlike “Music,” features the type of icy string arrangement Madonna has developed a fondness for in recent years.
“Junkie’s Prayer,” as irksome as it may be upon first listen, provides somewhat of a missing link between grunge rock and electronica (and in this case, Seattle and France). Much of alt-rock’s angst has been displaced and pushed underground only to resurface with electronic acts like Portishead, Tricky and now Mirwais. As silly as Production actually is, tracks like “Involution” and “Disco Science” seem to bridge a gap from the past (the latter even contains a sample of The Breeders’ hit “Cannonball”).
Listening to Production gives one a more complete sense of Madonna’s talent for recruiting the next big thing. The inclusion of “Paradise (Not For Me),” also on Music, is an example of what she brings to the table creatively. But it’s also a reminder of what’s sacrificed in the watering-down process to mainstream accessibility. It’s unfortunate that there couldn’t be a happy medium, with Madonna’s warm pop sensibilities and more of the experimental genius that’s so evident on Production.