Madonna, Madame X (Interscope) *****

The hottest ticket in the capital, certainly since Kate Bush’s 2014 shows at the Hammersmith Apollo, is unquestionably Madonna’s season at the London Palladium from January 26 to February 15 next year.

Black-market tickets are fetching in excess of £1,000. Outrageous, especially bearing in mind Madonna’s disastrous and greatly discussed performance at Eurovision. All the same, there is only one Madonna. Likewise, by anyone’s standards Madame X is an event album.

Madonna’s audience has remained loyal since her eponymous debut album in 1982. Their lives have changed over the past four decades: more worldly, with heavy responsibilities of their own. This is reflected in Madonna’s music, acutely so on Madame X, The Material Girl’s 14th studio set.

Gone are the days of instant pop-gratification in Ciccone World. Nowadays, Madonna’s themes are those of an informed, educated and challenging mind. Exploring gun control, women’s rights, social injustice, sexual abuse and LGBTQ themes, Madame X is a meaty feast, far removed from Lucky Star and Holiday.

A challenging work of aural art, rather than a collection of hit singles, Madame X should be heard in its entirety. She adopts a myriad of different influences: reggae, Latin, North African, rap, electro, Portuguese Fado, from her new home city of Lisbon and a sprinkling of old-school Vogueing.

An electronic makeover of The Nutcracker Suite: Dance Of The Reed-Flutes by Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky parades as Dark Ballet.

Available as a standard 13-track CD, some may be enticed to track down the box set version, vinyl sets on black or clear plastic, double picture discs, or, sensibly, the double18-song book edition.

Ian Sime

Ian Sime