There is a theory that apps are the new hit singles. You can’t make money from releasing a song any more, so you might as well try and make money from something people are still willing to pay for, like apps.
And you might not even need to charge them for the app, either. You can give the app away for free, and pad it out with extras that cost money. It’s bound to pull in a few paying customers, right? Right?
That seems to be the thinking behind Madonna’s new free app for iPad and iPhone, simply titled Madonna, released in conjunction with her latest album, MDNA.
So is it an avant-garde interactive reconstruction of her songs, in the style of Bjork’s Biophilia app? No. Is it an amusing music-making box of tricks like I Am T-Pain? No. Is it basically just an advertisement and a store? Yes.
Flicking through Maddy’s app feels like walking into her very own shop. Like an Apple Store, but purely for buying iMadonna.
Over on this table you can see her photos. Look! She’s pulled some sexy poses in her time, hasn’t she? And now, over on this table, look, her videos! Great! And on this one, some news about her. We could include news about this very same app that you’re already looking at, yeah. That’d be cool. No-one will notice.
And here, on this table: we can sell stuff. Old songs, new songs, clothes, calendars, books, home decor…
“Home decor”? Since when did pop stars sell home decor?
Playing with this app doesn’t feel like you’re engaging with anything. It feels like you’re flipping through a catalog of billboard ads. Sure, there’s a social element – sign in with your Twitter or Facebook account, and you can add comments and raves about Madonna’s every move. But the whole thing feels forced, one-sided, soulless. More about marketing the Material Girl than music.
You can do better than this, Madge. Don’t you remember singing “Don’t go for second best, baby?”
Pro: There’s a slim Ray of Light: true Madonna fans will probably like it.
Con: Not really something to Cherish. Madonna, find a better way to Express Yourself.