Madonna's 'American Life' didn't have a particularly welcome reception by the critics when it first came out, so I wasn't sure what to expect when I put the record on. After giving it numerous spins, however, I can safely say that it is one of most moving albums in the Madonna catalogue. If it is flawed in any way, for its moments of awkwardness or whatever, it seems that the whole is only strengthened by this fact. As masterful as albums like 'Like a Prayer' may be, they contain little barbed wire which actually tears at you and forces you to listen twice, as this record does. A moving, honest and vital record in the Madonalogue - dare I say essential?