She’s back. After a series of so-so albums for the past decade, Madonna has released another piece of evidence in testimony of her status as the Queen of Pop.
“Rebel Heart,” her 13th studio album, makes a case for pop album of the year with an energetic and creative set of 14 new tracks (19 in the deluxe edition) that mix elements of what we’ve come to love from Madonna through the years with modern sounds that update her music for a new generation.
The first single, “Living For Love,” could easily be an early ‘90s Madonna track until the beat drops and the track jumps forward in time to a more modern sound. Still, the classic vibe works well for Madge here.
“Hold Tight” and “Inside Out” are also among the tracks that mix nostalgia with progression. They would sound perfectly at place on a modern Top 40 radio station but there are also those traditionally distinctive Madonna elements, from the melodies to the tone of her voice.
She also incorporates a variety of musical genres into her own sound, from the reggae rhythms of “Unapologetic B----” to hip hop, which reveals itself on a number of tracks. Among them is “Iconic.” It’s a fascinating song with a shimmering verse, a heavily synthesized chorus, Chance the Rapper’s smooth flow and a bizarrely intriguing intro by Mike Tyson (Yes, that Mike Tyson).
On “B---- I’m Madonna” she has some help from another hip hop luminary as Nicki Minaj drops by to drop a few verses. Yet it’s the chorus with that mad hook that proves irresistible. Pop and hip hop don’t always mix well but Madonna pulls it off here on multiple tracks.
On the Kanye West-produced “Illuminati” Madonna actually raps the verses herself though it’s her auto-tuned voice on the melodies that truly shines. Still it’s fun to hear her flow as she tries to educate the masses about what the Illuminati is and what it is not: “It’s not Bieber or LeBron, Clinton or Obama / Or anyone you love to hate.”
Other tracks revisit familiar lyrical territory, like “Devil Pray.” Although the chorus about substance addiction falls flat, the lyrics confront religious views of sin, a Madonna signature: “Mother Mary, can’t you help me? / ‘Cause I’ve gone astray / All the angels that were around me / Have all flown away.”
There is also a nice helping of ballads here. Joan of Arc has proved to be quite the inspirational muse for many songwriters through the years and Madonna’s song named for her here is one of the best. It’s among the prettiest choruses Madonna has vocalized in more than three decades of making music.
“Ghosttown” and “Wash All Over Me” are up there with “Rain” and the other great Madonna power ballads. The verses can be kind of slow but the choruses are majestic, especially on “Ghosttown.” Then there’s “Heartbreak City,” which is a bit melodramatic but thanks to Madonna’s golden touch it’s still something of a stunner.
The soft and tender “Body Shop” is probably the sweetest song ever written about auto mechanics. There are a few clichés here but they are easily overshadowed by the often-brilliant technical metaphors, which are quite entertaining, though a bit randy.
On “Holy Water,” however, the sexuality is more straightforward. This time the metaphors take on religious terminology but not all of the language is hidden in turns of phrase. Even the language on the edited version of the album is somewhat vulgar, complete with sound effects in case you’re not quite sure what she’s singing about.
For the most part, the deluxe edition is worth the extra cash, especially since that’s the only way to get the fantastic, acoustic guitar-driven title track. Why “Rebel Heart” was not included in the standard edition of the album bearing its name is a head-scratcher, but just another reason to pick up the deluxe edition.
Most of the other tracks are worth it as well. “Veni Vidi Vici” mixes a sultry slow jam with a pretty acoustic ballad and Nas’ hip hop verses about Ferguson, yet it all somehow works. Meanwhile, “Messiah” is full of swelling strings and emotive vocals. And how is it that Madonna has not recorded a song called “S.E.X.” before this? Only “Best Night” disappoints with its annoyingly repetitive lyrics.
- Bron: The Spectrum