Music Makes the Divas Come Together





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Who would have thought that Madonna and Björk would once again

cross paths after collaborating on 1994's "Bedtime Story"? Granted, this

time around they haven't exactly worked creatively with one another.

They've simply released their latest albums - Music and

Selmasongs, respectively - on the same day. Just a coincidence?

Sure, but it's difficult not to read more into it.

We're talking two of the most musically innovative women of our

time here, both with die-hard fan bases willing to hunt down every import

single from their favorite diva that they can spend their last dimes on.

For fans of them both, "Bedtime Story" had been the perfect fusion of their

styles. Included on M's Bedtime Stories, the trippy track found

Madonna boldly venturing into Björk's musical territory while Björk

provided lyrics you never thought you'd hear uttered from Madonna's lips.

The same fans of the song must have been going crazy during the days

leading up to the releases this past Tuesday, inevitable trips to Napster

only fueling their fires.

Now one question remains - do the albums manage to deliver the

goods?

At first listen, Selmasongs leaves you with one big "Huh?!"

However, that's a typical first impression for any Björk album. What's

different this time around is the context - this is actually the soundtrack

to the Icelandic pixie's latest film, Dancer In The Dark.

In the flick, Björk plays Selma, an immigrant single mother who

slowly loses her eyesight while working in a big American factory. Selma is

a dreamer, and in her free time she imagines her worklife to be one

fantastic musical. Hence, this batch of seven batty songs which fuse

cinema, enigma and sorrow.

Part whimsical strings, part percussive clings-and-clangs, the

basic musical style borrows strongly from 1997's Homogenic. There's

not too much new ground broken considering Björk's progressive past - it's

mostly more of the same great music that only she could pull off.

Take "Cvalda." Following the symphonic opening of "Overture,"

it's a track that starts off as seemingly unstructured factory clatter and

morphs into a big Broadway bang of a duet with Björk's costar, the one and

only Catherine Deneuve. The clatter turns into a drum 'n' bass backdrop,

and the song builds up to a jazz-step number you couldn't help but

associate with the video for "It's Oh So Quiet."

Similarly, tracks like the whimsical "In the Musicals" and the

enigmatic "107 Steps" are aesthetically mind-boggling even if they're

eerily nonsensical out of the context of the film. Thankfully, there are

songs like the haunting "Scatterheart" and the breakthrough duet with

Radiohead's Thom Yorke, "I've Seen It All," both of which are Björk

best-of's.

Meanwhile, Madonna also hits quite a few high points musically

on Music. She tricked us a while back hinting that her new material

would go further into electronic territory with the likes of trance DJ

Sasha helping out. While she does get more bootay-shaking ditties under her

belt (the retro-thumping title track, the finger-pointing "Runaway Lover"),

the great majority of the tracks go where no Madonna song has gone before.

Dare I say it - they're almost country songs!

That explains all the glam-cowboy gear she's been sporting

lately. Music-wise, acoustic guitars and hokey-but-touching lyrics abound,

with much thanks to French producer Mirwais pulling it all together. As

Madonna's top muse of the moment - William ěrbit takes a back seat,

producing only three songs - Mirwais boldly takes her to the fuzzy

borderline of dance and rock only hinted at on 1998's Ray of Light.

Of course, the new sound is folktronica if anything - very Beth Orton.

"I Deserve It" is the gorgeous example of this new sound. An ode

to M's current beau Guy Ritchie, the track features Everlast-like guitar

strumming colored with siren-like wailing. The hook is one of her catchiest

to date, and the song ends with you happy that she's finally found her man.

The ěrbit-helmed, fittingly-titled "Amazing" also chronicles

her newfound love. But it's also a track that lets you see why it was time

for a change in producers - the swingy beat of "Beautiful Stranger," the

riff of "Sky Fits Heaven" and the vibrating guitars of "Swim" are all

recycled back into the song's groove.

Of course in Madonnaland, things aren't always coming up roses.

The shimmering highlight of the album is also the most bittersweet - "What

It Feels Like For A Girl." "Do you know / What it feels like for a girl? /

Do you know? / What it feels like in this world?" she sings, like a mother

weary of the life her daughter is about to lead. It's definitely

chart-topping material and perfect for all those girls who'll need some

proper healing after all the Britney and *N SYNC backlash kicks in.

By the time the CD stops on both new albums, we're left wanting more,

but not because we're greedy. It's uncannily suspicious that Music

runs 10-tracks long and Selmasongs only seven. Only artists like

Madonna and Björk could do that sort of thing, keep their fan bases happy

and still sell millions. Hello, they're divas - of course they can!

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