Madonna has never made an album that's not messy. From her tenuous 1983 debut to her recent clumsy attempts at staying relevant in a pop universe that no longer needs her, Madonna LPs can be as frustrating as they are rewarding. Her 12th album tries to be several things: a breakup record, a dance collection, and a reflective piece made by a 53-year-old woman who refuses to act her age. But MDNA is not a very coherent or cohesive work. From the Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. cameos to the soggy ballads that show up near the end, it never quite gets into the groove. The best songs — say, "Some Girls" or the confessional "I Fucked Up" — almost seem like afterthoughts. But the real problem is that too many Madonnas are competing for space on an album that needs just one. — Michael Gallucci
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