American Life

Music review by
Cynthea Riesenberg, Common Sense Media
American Life Music Poster Image
Madge is off the mark in songs of regret, doubt.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

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.


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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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 a... Continue reading
Adult Written byMichael G. April 9, 2008

...Madonna shows she can do folk!

This album is one of the best albums I've ever heard. All of the songs on this album are awesome, except "Nobody Knows Me" and "Mother and... Continue reading
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 a... Continue reading
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... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

  • Artist: Madonna
  • Release date: April 22, 2003
  • Label: Warner Brothers
  • Genre: Pop
  • Parental advisory: Yes
  • Edited version available: Yes
  • Last updated: July 15, 2015

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