While a song that begins with a cha-cha count-in and the lyric “I took a pill” sounds like it should be a dancefloor rager, it’s actually the unexpectedly low-key return of Madonna, who today dropped “Medellin,” the first single from her forthcoming album “Madame X.” A collaboration with Colombian singer Maluma — himself a native of the country’s mountain city — and her longtime collaborator Mirwais, the song combines a sing-song melody with a reggaeton-inflected, shuffing beat; she and Maluma pair trade off flirty verses in Spanish throughout the song.
While she pronounces the city’s name correctly (“meh-deh-zheen”), to her discredit she needlessly references the city’s violent past — it was the home base of drug cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar — in the lyrics: “We built a cartel just for love/ Venus was hovering above us.” Visitors to the city will know that it’s one of the last things residents want to talk about (unless they’re leading one of the tourist-baiting “Narcoterrorism tours”).
The song stretches on for nearly five minutes, stretching out toward the end with an extended instrumental bit designed for some low-key dancing. While produced by Mirwais, the song recalls Madonna’s previous Latin-inflected work with producer/songwriter Diplo.
The rest of the lyrics are more impressionist and romantic, and the city is only mentioned incidentally. “I took a pill and had a dream/ I went back to my seventeenth year, allowed myself to be naive, to be someone I’ve never been,” she sings on the song’s opening verses. “I took a sip and had a dream/ And I woke up in Medellín.”
And while the song may not be the dancefloor-filling that fans might be hoping for, it’s a sultry and promising introduction to Madonna’s latest era.