Madonna: Rebel Heart

Posted March 12, 2015 by in Electronica



3.5/ 5


Genre: ,
Producer: ,
Label: , ,
Genre: Pop, dance
Producer: Diplo, Avicii, Blood Diamonds, Billboard, DJ Dahi, Toby Gad, Madonna, Ariel Rechtshaid, Sophie, Ryan Tedder, Kanye West
Label: Boy Toy, Live Nation, Interscope
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 55:06
Release Date: 10 March 2015
Spin This: "Illuminati," "Joan of Arc," "Living for Love"


A step in creative design, crafty genre-bending. The Kanye West-produced "Illuminati" is certain to get attention, even substantial airplay


Dance tracks are hardly accessible on this round — not really good news for the dancing queen

Madonna finds new normal in well-crafted, experimental Diplo/Kanye collection

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Madonna finds new normal in well-crafted, experimental Diplo/Kanye collection

Trying to prove she’s no old news while showing ageism that she has no fucks to give, Madonna is officially jumping out into the recording universe pool with Rebel Heart. The move comes as a surprise to some, since the pop goddess was literally on hiatus throughout much of 2014. But after word leaked concerning alleged demo leaks on most of the material back in December – around the time the Sony Pictures email hack was abuzz, the yearning to complete Madonna’s thirteenth solo album proved to be all too real. Her last album, the LiveNation-sponsored MDNA, was a patchwork quilt of futuristic synthpop and EDM madness and even smartly turned her own career name into a worship reference to the club drub Molly. Very little came from the disc, except for a few dance chart entries and a Nicki Minaj duet.

This time around, Madonna is powering up her creative juices for something a little more bolder. She puts her hands in those of EDM producer Diplo for much of the ride. “Living for Love,” just one of the creations of his, opens the set using shades of Madonna’s own past. There’s the Britney Spears talk-sing formula on the verses and bits of “Express Yourself” hidden in its gospel-powered chorus (“Love’s gonna lift me up”). The big piano chords are also gospel inspired. Close your eyes and you might think she’s toying with Vernessa Mitchell’s “Higher,” minus the killer house beats. An interesting load of reggae beats highlight “Unapologetic Bitch” before Diplo’s trap sounds take over. Probably the worst of the Diplo tunes is her Nicki Minaj reunion on “Bitch I’m Madonna.” Once again, like 2012’s “Give Me All You Luvin,” Minaj’s swift and stellar rap skills outshine anything Madonna does on this track. It’s also Auto-tune heavy, full of those cheap keyboard claps and musically disabled from Madonna’s best.

Avicii, who bent all the rules on his True disc, puts Madonna to the test on “Devil Pray.” The midtempo song, with opens with light country vibes, leaves her sounding like a young Dolly Parton imitation. Like “Wake Me Up,” the song suddenly morphs to its true state after each time the chorus ends, turning into a strobelight teaser. The idea of pushing into the realm of country, while once again putting her love for Clint Eastwood-vexed religious stories on the frontline, shows Madonna is trying to reach new territories, even at her delicate age of 56.

The Kanye West-produced “Illuminati,” possibly the album’s shining star, finds a headstrong Madonna confronting the popular commentary about the alleged demonic forces prevailing pop culture. And for a good second, the Queen of Pop gives a rap-like shoutout to all the superpowers of culture, even Gaga, before blasting “it’s like everybody in this party, shining like Illuminati.” Percussion claps and trance dub cloud up the catchy, yet eerie chorus like a Beyonce’ club track.

As if Rebel Heart was meant to magnify her feelings, Madonna opens up about vulnerabilities on “Joan of Arc.” “I can’t be a superhero right now/Even hearts made out of steel can break down,” she sings on the pleasantly melodic pop offering. If radio was sincerely just, this would be the track to put a finger on. It’s not a game changer nor is it one of the album’s loudest knockouts, but the subtleness of its musical movements atop Madonna’s heartfelt vocals proves to be a peaceful blend. She continues in that stream of heartbreak vestiges on “HeartBreakCity,” where she plays to the lovelorn audiences of Adele and Sam Smith. As the closing minutes of the original album version plays, she falls into baptism-akin references to create some kind of epitah for the rebellious sins. “Inside Out” and the adult contemporary pace of “Wash All Over Again” isn’t exactly interesting to the ear, but aren’t rubbish tracks either. The weakest of them all, “Holy Water,” might capture someone’s attention just for sneaking in a subtle tribute to “Vogue” (“Strike a pose/there’s nothing to it”).

Don’t let the PR-primed press or those cranky stans who try to put Madonna at war with virtually every newcomer fool you; this isn’t totally a piece of artistic rebellion. She makes a few new strides here and there, works her curvaceous lyricism upon the brilliance of Kanye and pulls off some interesting genre-bending pop with Diplo, but Rebel Heart is still missing killer dance tracks and the kind of ballads that once put her on top of the world. But if one was to judge the merits of this disc with her most recent work of the new millennium, Madonna has just pulled of one of her better easy-listening projects. Without a doubt, it’s more even and accessible than MDNA.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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