Here's a test: listen to the title track of Madonna's new album, American Life, and if you don't wince when she starts rapping, you're a true fan. Because as evocative as Madonna is known to be, there's something inherently lame about a 44-year-old mommy rapping, "I do yoga and pilates and the room is full of hotties." All you wincers may want to skip this one. On American Life, Madonna tries to squeeze personal song lyrics in between jerky techno beats and acoustic guitar. It is a jarring disappointment, especially after the variety and funk that she showed on her last album, Music. The album does have some highlights, however, in its ballads. "Intervention" is melancholic and a little cheesy, but hits your sweet tooth just right. Followed by "X-Static Process," a beautiful folk-type song, this is the strongest section of the album.

But then comes in "Mother and Father," an ode to the pain and pleasure of being a daughter -- and an absolute trainwreck. Madonna's strangely nasal voice kind of stings in your ears and that's before she starts rapping again. "My mother died, when I was five." The words just fall flatly, and you have to snicker. The best dance track on the album is by far "Die Another Day," but you have that downloaded already, don't you? Speaking of, it might be more interesting to download American Life just to here Madonna tisk-tisk, "What the [bleep] do you think you're doing?" Come on Madge, we've all seen your tits, the least you could do is fucking swear at us. Or, at the very least, why don't you give us an album that's worth buying, rather than some drivel about an aging pop star in a mid-life crisis?