Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Two Songs Not Worth Diluting Your Collection With, But It's Okay: "Nothing Really Matters."

The Good: Good enough lyrics and voice on the tracks
The Bad: Music dilutes message, SHORT, Nothing unique on this disc
The Basics: With only two tracks, "Nothing Really Matters" presents no new material and rather unextraordinary tracks with what it does eke out.

Still smarting from the whopping I took in the ratings on my review of the three-track single "Sour Girl" (reviewed here!) back in the day when I wrote for another website, I decided to push my luck and review another short work. After all, I will find out what it takes to review a work that is only two songs long and get a positive feedback! To take on this challenge, I picked Madonna's ultimately mediocre single "Nothing Really Matters."

With two tracks, "Nothing Really Matters" clocks in at nine and three quarters minutes and is an utter waste of space and time, even for fans of Madonna. I write this because compact discs are designed to hold over seventy-four minutes of music so the point of buying any c.d. single is sketchy at best, made even worse by artists who do not release anything new and different on the single. This disc includes the tracks "Nothing Really Matters" and "To Have And Not To Hold."

"Nothing Really Matters" (the track) is a pop-dance number that laments the consequences of life. It mortgages any real message it might have - i.e. that actions are futile and ultimately life has no consequences because everyone dies - by presenting that message with singsong lyrics and a dance beat musical accompaniment. So, while the message of loving oneself and finding joy through yourself - not through others - is honorable, Madonna presents it with lyrics that are downright simple. Take the refrain, with its singsong rhythm with lines like "Nothing really matters / Love is all we need / Everything I give you / All comes back to me," ("Nothing Really Matters"); it lacks impact.

There is no sense of genuine consequences here. So, while the song opens with the declaration that "everything's changed," it does not seem like a momentous change, especially if the singer declares right off the bat that nothing mattered to her growing up. So, how can everything change if after the supposed change, she reaches the same conclusion she began with?

This is because "Nothing Really Matters" is designed for sound, not lyrics. This is a triumph of Madonna's style over substance. While on albums like Music (reviewed here!) this might have led to a draw, on this short work, it's a clear and glaring detraction. The simple, silly lyrics are accompanies by a heavy bassline, banging drum sounds and synths that are simply designed to get the listener to dance.

In contrast, "To Have And Not To Hold" starts with a softer sound, highlighting Madonna's voice over the very-produced backing instrumentals, which include bells, synths and a drum machine. The problem with this track is not that its purpose is to get the listener to stand up and dance, but rather that it suffers from the same writing weaknesses as "Nothing Really Matters."

"To Have And Not To Hold" is another song that could have genuine resonance, in this case because Madonna is singing is slowly and with clear and clearly expressed passion. The sentiments of loss and yearning are wonderful, but the sentiments do not equal the lines. In short, it's clear Madonna has something here to say that she cares about, but the lines just do not express the concept well enough to engage the listener.

Plagued by some ridiculously simple lyrics, "To Have And Not To Hold" is repetitive and feels like it was written by a tween girl. Madonna sings "To love, but not to keep / To laugh, not to weep / Your eyes, they go right through / And yet you never do / Anything to make me want to stay / Like a moth to a flame / Only I am to blame . . ." ("To Have And Not To Hold") and the rhymes are so predictable and obvious that I found myself cringing, even on the first listen. It doesn't matter how softly or with how much passion one sings a song, when half the refrain is "Ba ba da ba ba ba," the song is pretty weak and not expressing a genuine emotion with enough finesse.

"To Have And Not To Hold" is essentially a subpar pop ballad and it feels just like what it is.

Having not even heard Madonna's album "Ray of Light," I would recommend it over this single. Both tracks appear on the album in the same form as they are on this disc, making it completely worthless as a single. The best singles, like Oasis's "Don't Go Away" (reviewed here!) present new material or reinterpretations of other works. The worst singles, like this one, simply give album cuts from a work and nothing else.

At least the title is not a misnomer. In this case, this single does not matter, except, I suppose, to die hard collectors. It's a shame because Madonna wrote and co-produced both songs, so one suspects that if she was trying to create even a single that was going to endure, she could have made something worth buying and given the listeners a b-side that was unique. At least, it saves the casual listeners from buying this.

For other Artist Of The Month reviews, please check out my reviews of:
50 Greatest Hits - Reba McEntire
@#%&*! Smilers - Aimee Mann
Luck Of The Draw - Bonnie Raitt


For other album and singles reviews, please visit my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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