A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
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.
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.