American Life was the rare stumble in Madonna's career, an album that garnered neither sales nor critical acclaim and failed to generate a hit single. Disarmed by its lack of success, Madonna scrambled to revive the success, first appearing in a Gap commercial with Missy Elliott, then causing a commotion at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards by French kissing Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera as a prelude to a performance of her failed single "Hollywood," which did more for Britney than Madge, and then finally offering Remixed & Revisited for the 2003 holiday season. This contained four remixes of songs from American Life, the VMA performance of "Like a Virgin/Hollywood" with Britney, Xtina, and Missy, the Gap ad "Into the Groove"/"Hollywood" fusion "Into the Hollywood Groove," and finally and inexplicably, the Bedtime Stories outtake "Your Honesty." Even if the beats are a little dated, this latter track is the best song here, since it has both a strong hook and a strong sense of fun, something that was entirely missing from the somber American Life. It's missing from Remixed & Revisited too, since no amount of rejiggering can bring these moribund songs to life, particularly when the approaches of the remixers are as subtle as a jackhammer, whether it's on the metallic-flaked "American Life" by Headcleanr or the '90s-retro Nevins mix of "Nothing Fails." On all these mixes, Madonna sounds as if she's out of step with the music of 2003, and that's also true on the weird VMA performance, where she's overshadowed by Britney sounding exactly like early Madonna and Christina sounding exactly like Cher, before all of them are streamrollered by the rampaging Missy Elliott on the "Hollywood" segment of the medley. And matching the iconic "Like a Virgin" with the anemic "Hollywood" not only does the newer song no favors, it points out how lacking the American Life material is -- a situation that is only amplified by its inclusion on this EP, where "Like a Virgin" and the Bedtime Stories leftover both prove that the newer material is substandard. Madonna will likely bounce back from this bad year, but no matter what she does, she can't salvage American Life.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Missy Elliott