How to make Madonna Queen of pop again
Radio 1 declined to playlist the first single off the album, Give Me All Your Luvin', and despite featuring star cameos by Nicki Minaj and M.I.A and previewing at half-time at the recent Super Bowl, the song stalled in the UK singles chart at a distinctly underwhelming number 37.
Watch Give Me All Your Luvin by Madonna
So how can Madonna get her pop crown back? She may want to take one or two leads from the acolytes who have usurped her as the Queen of Pop. The problem is that she is easy to admire but hard to love. Ms Ciccone is frequently sniffy about Lady Gaga but unlike Madonna, who cuts an aloof, autocratic figure, Gaga passionately cares for and connects with her fans, the so-called Little Monsters, who return her love in spades. Let's face it: you don't get 20 million Twitter followers from nowhere.
Watch Born This Way by Lady Gaga
Maybe Madonna needs to find a message her fans can relate to again. Give Me All Your Luvin' is little more than a few barked phrases, an empty self-celebration, over which she preens and struts while Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. shout her name adoringly. Compare and contrast with Beyoncé, whose songs deal in real, recognisable issues that matter to people: relationship strains, the battles of the sexes and the joys of loving commitment.
Watch Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) by Beyonce
The problem runs deeper: it is one of authenticity. As she gets older, Madonna is desperate to impress on us how cutting-edge and fresh she remains (there are apparently plenty of dubstep breaks on MDNA) but consequently her albums have become one long, knowing, calculated sneer: she has stopped singing from the heart. "Every record sounds the same," she trills on Give Me All Your Luvin' and it's hard not to nod in agreement. Ms Ciccone has little in common with the more homely charms of Adele but she could learn a lot from her about keeping it real.
Watch Someone Like You by Adele
Asked what the main theme of a US election would be, Bill Clinton once famously replied, "It's the economy, stupid." You can apply the same devastating simplicity to the question of what makes a great pop star: "It's the songs, stupid." Madonna invariably invests in state-of-the-art sonic trickery and the cream of dance-music producers (this time around, it's hotshot Italian techno wizard Benny Benassi) but it's all in vain if the tunes are not there. She might like to take note of Katy Perry, who has far less of a world-domination agenda going on than Madonna but writes melodies that effortlessly sear into your brain.
Watch Last Friday Night by Katy Perry
Yet the biggest challenge facing Madonna is the one that she may find insurmountable: she has to seize the zeitgeist again. Back in the 1980s, pop appeared to revolve around Madonna. In recent years, she has sounded more and more behind the curve and chasing the game: the chirpy but relatively formulaic Give Me All Your Luvin' could be any number of female artists. By contrast, R&B's woman of the moment, Rihanna, never sounds like anybody but Rihanna.
Watch We Found Love by Rihanna
Yet Madonna remains the most successful female pop star of all time and it's hugely to her credit that, close on 30 years into her career, we are desperate to hear MDNA. A new Madonna album is still a major event. So, can she re-invent herself yet again and have the world eating out of her hand once more? The odd thing is that, for all of our misgivings, we wouldn't bet against her…
What do you think Madonna needs to do to do get back to the top of the charts? Let us know on Twitter @MusicOnVM