Mixed or average reviews - based on 17 Critic Reviews

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 17
  2. Negative: 3 out of 17
  1. This album, if it came from a newcomer, could kill a career stone dead.
  2. Vibe
    This may be the first time Madonna hasn't pushed herself to explore new ground, but at least she's chosen a good place to rest. [June 2003, p.155]
  3. For once, Madonna has stumbled not because she reached too far, but because she didn't reach far enough.
  4. Unlike recent collections Music and Ray of Light, the lyrical content of American Life relies less on spiritual introspection and more on woman-in-the-mirror confrontation.
  5. Overall, American Life is better for what it promises than what it delivers, and it's better in theory than practice.
  6. Spin
    A suite of faux-folkie electro that fuses the introspection of Ray of Light with Music's fast-food dance licks. [Jun 2003, p.99]
  7. Mojo
    American Life is revealing and diverting -- no bad things in a record -- but in the end the brow-beating, finger-wagging and psycho-babbling take their toll. [May 2003, p.86]
  8. All perfectly good stuff, technically excellent. But 'American Life' also feels like an unnecessary sequel, a 'Men In Black II', made because hell, if it ain't broke...
  9. Blender
    That's both the best and the worst thing about this album: The music is much more eloquent than the lyrics. [May 2003, p.112]
  10. Making records, it seems, may not be her strong suit anymore.
  11. The title track's having-it-all exhaustion, underscored by its bipolar sonics and start-stop rhythms, will endear her to the Allison Pearson crowd; a few other tunes will reinforce her fan base among fellow whiny celebrities.
  12. Q Magazine
    It's a record about being Madonna. [Jun 2003, p.90]
  13. At its best, her new album offers blunt, questing, decisive music at a chaotic time. At its weakest, she sounds like a gal who's grown content with hubby and kids and the hard-earned privilege of hiring the help to keep herself at tip-top tautness.
  14. Even modest expectations can't salvage the clunky, ponderous American Life, which fares only slightly better than "Hanky Panky" and Swept Away on her list of offenses.
  15. Aside from the thumping groove of "Nobody Knows Me" and a few other bouncy beats, much of the electro style Madonna experimented with on 2000's Music has been replaced with warmer sounds and earthy touches, like acoustic guitars and a choir that comes from nowhere on "Nothing Fails."
  16. When she turns from fathoming everyone else's existence to her own, and stops frantically waving her style icon credentials, the genius of hers and Mirwais' partnership is overwhelming.
  17. Uncut
    It wouldn't be wildly inappropriate to identify American Life as an early 21st-century update of Love's Forever Changes, effecting as it does a similarly eerie ambivalence with its fusion of mind-altering sonics and mellow acoustics. [Jun 2003, p.94]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 483 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 28 out of 483
  1. Mar 26, 2012
    American Life is Madonna's most underrated album. You can tell from reviews all around the web that it's a love it or hate it album. It'sAmerican Life is Madonna's most underrated album. You can tell from reviews all around the web that it's a love it or hate it album. It's definitely not in-your-face pop, so I would avoid this one if you're just looking for radio-friendly material. On this album, we see Madonna at her most vulnerable. From the cynical American Life to the touching Mother and Father, Madonna takes us on a tour of her world. I applaud her guts, especially for the American Life video, which raised controversy like never before. Notable tracks: American Life, Love Profusion, Nothing Fails, X-Static Process. Full Review »
  2. Jul 21, 2012
    This album is a masterpiece. Really! I simply think that people really did not understand it. She criticizes a lot of aspect of the modernThis album is a masterpiece. Really! I simply think that people really did not understand it. She criticizes a lot of aspect of the modern american society.---
    The album opens with American Life, a song that reflects how people are satisfied with their lives with very insignificant thing (listen to the rap (my favorite part of it): I'm diggin' on the isotopes/This metaphysics **** is dope/And if all this can give me hope/You know I'm satisfied). ---
    Hollywood is a song expressing how everyone wants to be a star because of what they see in movies, in interviews, etc. And she says how everyone's opinion of Hollywood is wrong. And how shallow Hollywood is too.---
    I'm So Stupid declares how everyone who's comparing themselves to others, always trying to be someone else are stupid because there is nothing for you when you are not yourself.---
    Love Profusion, I think, is a very heavy song, but what I understood from it is that love is so important in people's mind (because we hear of it in every movies, songs, etc.), that they don't take the time to understand the whys and hows of the world. And when you get rid of the illusion that love is the most important thing, you start to make your own happiness and find the real answers (There are too many questions/There is not one solution /There is no resurrection /There is so much confusion [...] I have lost my illusions /What I want is an explanation )---
    Nobody Knows Me is probably the best song! The key word that makes it the most mindblowing song for me is "No one's telling you how to live your life/But it's a setup until you're fed up". She really explores how people think they are free and made their choices in life, but really, they have been pushed by the elites who controlled the TV channels, the radios, the journals, magazines; in the end you have been SOOO influenced that she says that even if nobody tells you how to life your life, you are not really free of doing what you want, and I would even say that people probably don't even know what they would have wanted if they have not been influenced all their lives by the media.---
    Nothing Fails, the way I see it, show how flawless religion is. Myself, I have been a believer all my life until recently and believe it or not, this song persuaded me to walk away from my religion. It shows that when you feel like you are losing Faith, you immediately makes you want to pray. When a dear one dies, instead of questionning God's existence, the first thing we do is pray. And it is true for every event that should make you question God (war, death,catastrophes, mass shootings, rapes, etc.)---
    The rest of the album is beauty. She leaves the strong messages to turn to very beautiful songs (Intervention, X-Static Process, Easy Ride) or more dancey (Mother And Father, Die Another Day) without loosing quality.Madonna is a complete artist. She is a very deep pop artist and very talented.
    Full Review »
  3. Jul 1, 2015
    It's a shame Madonna was commercially and critically punished for American Life because, even if it might not quite be her 'best' album, it isIt's a shame Madonna was commercially and critically punished for American Life because, even if it might not quite be her 'best' album, it is as personal and sincere as Bedtime Stories, as direct and confrontational as Erotica, as radically original as Ray of Light, and in many ways it marks the high point of her development as an artist and a musician. She has been in retreat ever since.
    As great as the Music single is, most of the rest of the Music album feels like Madonna and Mirawais are working separately as much as together. On American Life their collaboration is seemless, and the results are truly strange and pretty much perfect.
    The lead in, title song simultaneously condemns and relishes selfish materialism, and the inherent self-contradiction forms one of the album's main themes. This theme is deliciously manifested by having the album's second track, a sarcastic and disillusioned look at Hollywood, mirrored by the album's second-to-last track, Die Another Day, the theme from a film from one of Hollywood's most valuable franchises.
    Generally, the mood mellows and the arrangements move from abrasive synthesizers to acoustic guitars as the album progresses, and Madonna has never made anything more straightforwardly poignant as some of the almost folk-like tunes in the closing half of American Life.
    Her vocals throughout the album are as varied and strong and expressive as she has ever managed. I find the often repeated ridicule of her rapping to be absolutely incomprehensible, as her use of rhythmic spoken word here (call it rap if you want) is, in the song American Life, frightening and funny, and in Mother and Father, boldly strange and evocative.
    Full Review »