American Life Music Poster Image

American Life

Madge is off the mark in songs of regret, doubt.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Although she doesn't endorse obvious antisocial behavior, Madonna describes herself as confused and unhappy in many tracks, making her less than an admirable role model in this album.

Not applicable

Sex is not mentioned explicitly, although there are references to love and yearning. A stranger's "social disease" appears to refer to consumerism rather than STDs. "American Life" mentions gender confusion in a way that may be metaphorical ("I tried to be a boy/I tried to be a girl/I tried to be a mess/I tried to be the best").


The explicit version of the title track contains isolated use of four letter words beginning with "F" and "S."


In the album's wittiest lines, the title track ironically describes the rich life: "I got a lawyer and a manager/an agent and a chef/three nannies, an assistant/and a driver and a jet."

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Other than infrequent references to feeling "fuzzy" in her past, drugs and alcohol are not mentioned.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the unedited version has a few four-letter words. Both versions refer to gender and religious confusion; for example, "I'm not a Christian and I'm not a Jew" (in "American Life"). Other songs refer to Jesus Christ, Satan, and prayer. In "Mother and Father," Madonna laments the death of her mother when she was a child.

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What's the story?

Long known for an almost feral capacity to sniff out the emerging trend, in AMERICAN LIFE Madonna is more haunted than hunter. Her past mistakes seem to weigh heavily, as she berates or pities herself in song after song. This wearisome self-flagellation might induce sympathy or at least reflection, were it not expressed with numbing repetition. For example, Madonna complains, \"I'm so stupid/I was stupid/Stupider than stupid/Stupider than stupid\" (in \"I'm So Stupid\"). More is again less in \"Love Profusion,\" where 20 times she chants, \"I've got you under my skin,\" without a trace of Cole Porter's melodious zing. Bad poetry abounds in \"Nobody Knows Me,\" where we are treated to, \"I'm not that kind of guy/ Sometimes I feel shy/ I think I can fly/ Closer to the sky.\"

Is it any good?


Though Madonna rejects her past choices, such as the religion of her childhood ("Mother and Father"), she offers no replacement philosophy. Instead, judging by tracks like "I'm So Stupid" and "X-Static Process" ("Don't know who I'm supposed to be/Don't know what I believe"), she seems without moral compass, and not sure of what she wants to say. Perhaps Madonna was striving for Hemingway-like economy, but the writing is without guts, sinew, or inspiration.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the religious references -- and the seeming confusion Madonna has as she sings of her beliefs. What place does religion play in today's pop music?

Music details

Release date:April 22, 2003
Label:Warner Brothers
Parental advisory:Yes
Edited version available:Yes

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Teen, 16 years old Written byevolinag August 21, 2013

Antisocial with extreme music videos - brilliant, extraordinary, and controversial

If you listen to Madonna's 80s era tracks like "Like a Virgin" or "True Blue" and then skip her discography to this album here, it is almost impossible to believe that it is the same artist. When "American Life" was released ten years ago, Madonna has already managed to look back onto a carreer full of hits. But also she's undergone so many changes of genre, singing style, topics and target groups that you really have to check twice that it is really Madonna who is singing here. "American Life" is nothing like radio-friendly pop music, there is no happy, bright sign of a catchy hit, no teen girl falling in love. What Madonna brings up in "American Life" can be discribed as extreme in every way. This starts up when she beats down American society in the title track, while singing and rapping in front of strongly distorted synthesizer samples. She doesn't hold back anything that comes to her mind. And in "Mother and Father", she starts doing it in an especially rough way, both lyrically and musically. "Nothing Fails" resembles one of her most powerful ballads and is - along with "Love Confusion", the only happier song of the album - one of the more melodic songs. "American Life" brings up topics like religion, fame and society - but mostly in a negative way. It is a huge experiment, and is like nothing you've ever heard, and probably never will hear again. One rough, controversial and extremely risque masterpiece. ------------- The album itself would be on for mature teens, who can handle both language like "f**k" or "s**t", as well as mature thematic elements. But I want to warn you that the music video to the title track has three versions. There is one version, where Madonna performs the songs in front of several flags, this video is completely harmless (note that the song is edited in the video, a passage where the f-word is used repeatedly is cut out, but you still hear "s**t"). Then there is another version, where Madonna is at a military themed fashion show, and, while people are still on stage, drives a tank through the entire room, killing one person on the stage on-screen (it is brief, but see no blood, but he blows up), and implyingly running over several people in the audience (we only see Madonna during this scene, none of the results). Several war scenarios are seen during this video. It ends up by Madonna throwing a hand granade into the audience, and George W. Bush catching it. This version should be okay for viewers 12 and up. The third version is the most extreme. It is mostly like the second version, but much more explicit. When Madonna starts driving in the car, we see people on fire, explosions, people result in visible blood spurt, ther is one scene where a man's leg graphically blows up, and the bloody flesh and even the entire foot splashing onto the stage. The war scenarios are also more extreme, including blood loss and even badly wounded children. When Madonna then throws the granade, nobody catches it and it lands on the floor, but the video stops before the explosion. This is not unlikely the most violent music video ever made, it is shocking, gory and features violence as extreme as "Saving Private Ryan", but in a more unexpected, in-your-face way. I would rate this video NOT FOR KIDS, or at least 16. The brutality is even more extreme than in many movies rated R for violence. The music video for "Die Another Day" features Madonna fencing, and at some points, she suffers bloody gashes, but it's pretty PG-13.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written byStephenrocks204 May 3, 2013


This is truly Madonna at her best. This album is often shunned upon due to it having explicit lyrics and graphic messages, but this album is a work of art. The album is best understood by teens, because they can see that Madonna is showing us war is bad, and sometimes we need to take a step back and look at ourselves and what our world has become. She shows us her journey, and how we can explore ours. My personal favorite is Nobody Knows Me, it shows us that we are all unique and we deserve to be treated with respect. Overall good album, and shows Madonna as a strong role model, not exactly for her inappropriate references, but for her courage, bravery, her need to keep pushing, and her not going to give up attitude.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Adult Written bybrattonm_2006 April 9, 2008

Well, Madonna Cannot Rap and She Sould Watch Her Potty Mouth!

Hmmm, what could I possible say positive about this album, hmmm something yes and something no. She has a few songs that are not bad. However, the title cut and a lot of others just does not do anything for me. My suggestion, save you money! Not worth the the time to even listen to such garbage. Madonna needs to go back to the old style and clean it up!