Rebel Heart is the thirteenth studio album by American singer Madonna, and was released on March 6, 2015 by Interscope Records. Following the completion of the MDNA era, Madonna worked on the album throughout 2014, co-writing and co-producing it with various musicians, including Diplo, Avicii, and Kanye West. She teased by uploading pictures of her recording sessions on herInstagram account. Working with a number of collaborators on the album, Madonna faced problem in keeping a cohesive sound and direction for Rebel Heart, since her previous efforts have been only with a core group of people.
Thematically Rebel Heart represents the two different facades of the singer, listening to one’s heart and being a rebel; the themes grew organically during the writing and recording sessions. Musically, it is a pop record which merges an array of genres such as 1990s house, trap and reggae, as well as the usage of acoustic guitars and gospel choir. Some of the songs are autobiographical in nature while others talk about love, personal reflections, as well as introspection of Madonna’s career. Rebel Heart features guest appearances from boxer Mike Tyson and rappers Nicki Minaj, Nas, and Chance the Rapper.
The record had been set for a March 2015 release, with the first single to be released on Valentine’s Day. But after a flurry of unexpected album content leaks, the singer released the album for pre-order on iTunes Store on December 20, 2014, with six songs being available for download. Police investigation led to an Israeli man being arrested, who was charged for hacking into Madonna’s computer and leaking the songs. The cover art for the deluxe edition of the album became popular, leading to numerous memes being created on Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. To promote the album, Madonna made several television appearances and performances, including the 57th Annual Grammy Awards and the 2015 Brit Awards. Further promotion for the album would come from the Rebel Heart Tour, which is set to kick off on August 29, 2015. “Living for Love” and “Ghosttown” were released as singles from the album.
Rebel Heart received predominantly positive reviews from music critics, who called it her best effort in a decade. They found that unlike her last two studio efforts Hard Candy (2008) and MDNA (2012), the album was progressive in its sound. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States and the UK Album Chart. It peaked at number one in various countries across the world, including major music markets such as Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland, while reaching the top-ten of the charts in France, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, and Sweden.
Living For Love—-The lead-off single from this release is pretty classic Madonna…..the instrumentation…the backdrop choir of voices are very familiar, The sing-a-long chorus is just classic….even bringing forth a strong backdrop vocal that takes you to church. Th instrumentation is perfect dance floor fodder…this is what we have come to expect and it makes me smile…not bad for an old broad!!!
Devil Pray—-With a gentle acoustic intro, Madonna displays a wonderfully seductive and discreet vocal that reminds me of some of my favorite songs from the superstar. I like her when she is much quieter….the chorus of the song does open up a bit….giving you more drug references in one song than in the entire Madonna catalog put together. I like this…it has a gentleness…but with a nice instrumental track that slides easily between acoustic and house….really nice.
Ghosttown—-From the very first listen to this track, I knew that it had single written all over it….surprise…the video was released this week. This has all of the elements of a Madonna tear jerk er….this is full of emotion and a huge chorus that flows like the high tide that rolls in every evening. This is lush, quiet and full of textures and layers of feeling. Thus far, my favorite track on this release.
Unapologetic Bitch—-The instrumentation at the onset of this track gives way to a reggae inspired flow that s again…classic Madonna. Madonna is unapologetic….and at this point in her career she can be. The lyrics are geared to the haters that continue to speak ill of her career….the words glow very rapidly from her…which is a surprise….the chorus is a nice catchy refrain that manages to stick in your head….this is nice…but not my #1 favorite….this track does have a rather personal feel to it…..Guy Ritchie…..
Illuminati—-The track is deep and murky in its musical delivery….Madonna continues to push the envelope with references to devil worship, occult and pentagrams. She delivers a very nice rap refrain that you strain to catch as the words flow rather quickly The murky sound can be a bit distracting as it comes and goes rather quickly and interrupts the flow that is set down…but this is nice…production magic…with vocoder and all..
Bitch, I’m Madonna—-Takes a cue from the Britney songbook…..even sounds familiar to me. This is a bit to bubble gum for her age, but the song still plays well. I don’t like the jerky feel to the music….Madonna sometimes tries to hard to stay relevant. I would have preferred something more genuine in the place of this song….Nicki Minaj is a nice addition to the song….again….begging for relevance!
Hold Tight—-This is the Madonna I love the most. Songs that have some substance and lyrics that actually mean something. This reminds you that regardless of superstar status…everyone needs love, people who care and a place in another’s life. The backdrop music is brilliant…a downbeat sound that is comfortable and somehow familiar….another favorite.
Joan Of Arc—-Even more sedate than the previous track, this song is directly aimed at the cruel life that the paparazzi and tabloids cast on those in the public eye. This is the most sincere I have heard Madonna sound in years…it reminds me again that this woman has feelings and is as human as you and I…..she begs for acceptance also….from everyone. It makes me a bit sad…
Iconic—-How odd that Madonna would feature Mike Tyson on a song….it’s kind of funny….but it really does fit in with the theme of the song I suppose. This is nice…it is another slight downturn track…but the chorus is huge and addicting…you can’t help but have it stuck in your head. This has many musical moods to it…I rather like the bipolar feel to the whole thing. Just brilliant!
Hearbreak City—-Again, I am treated to a revealing Madonna that makes me break out in goosebumps all over my body. This is full of emotion and hurt feelings….a tale of another lost relationship that I’m sure is a true story. This has a huge chorus…another of those songs that plays in my head so loud I wake in the middle of the night….I just adore this!
Body Shop—-With a jaunty fun intro, Madonna is back i a full on pop diva mode. This is fun…but kind of old sounding to me…perhaps this has been around a bit. I like the wordplay that makes up the refrains…but this is really nothing new or groundbreaking….it settles in nice with the rest of the release though…I won’t complain to loudly.
Holy Water—-This is a bit juvenile for such a seasoned performer….I mean really…stripper poles at 56? The chorus is the thing though…it grabs you and settles into your cerebellum for days at a time. This sounds a bit to familiar….Madonna continues to tread ground that she has swam through already…..The sacrilegious reference to Jesus and pussy seems rather unnecessary…..I’m just sayin’…..the references and lines from glories of the past make me wonder whether this was all necessary…..give me something genuine and new please.
Inside Out—-This is nice…another track that instantly sticks to my sensory glands. I love the almost begging refrain for love and acceptance. I am reminded when I hear tracks like this that even the most famous person lives a life that can be quite empty without love or care from another person. This is another track that is a huge favorite of mine….I think this is single material also!
Wash All Over Me—-Resplendent with gentle piano and a lush arrangement, the vocal is deep and luxurious….this is just about perfect from the first note…making me both smile and feel a sadness at the same time. There is a nice marching sound to the track that makes me feel comfortable and lonely at the same time. This is wonderful!
Best Night—- This first bonus track is a perfect fit with the rest of the release…fitting right in with the rest of the CD. The chorus is catchy and sounds like throwback classic Madonna…there are few missteps on this release…and the bonus tracks that are included keep the party going just as well as it was at the onset….I like this track a lot…it could have replaced some of the less than wonderful attempts that were included on this release seeking relevance. I always like it when Madonna delivers a spoken word interlude…it usually means something…this is no exception.
Veni Vidi Vici—-This is a fun track…rapper Nas delivers a great vocal that gives huge credence to the song…but this sounds like something right off the Empire Soundtrack….hmmm…that is an interesting thought! I like the spirally feel of the music….the backdrop sounds are hyper kinetic and there are numerous references to songs of the past….no surprise. The break on the track is nu=ice as it becomes almost silent and then picks right back up again…this is a nice trip….
S.E.X.—-Again….a slight misdirected attempt to seem relevant in the world of sex and stardom. Madonna is a talented songwriter that should not have to depend on sex and filth to make herself sell records….I must admit though…it’s a pretty damn catchy song…despite the lyrics!
Messiah—-This is brilliant….lush and rich with musical textures…I just love this track…the deluxe edition was worth it just for this song. The chorus is a huge emotional fanfare that makes you almost ache with pain….I am in love all over again with the Queen who is Madonna! I just love this song!!!
Rebel Heart—-With a nice guitar base that makes up the foundation of the song, this tells tales that we have been subjected to before…but it still sounds new and fresh in this delivery. I love the chorus…it is so damn catchy…this needs to be a huge single…the tone of the song is magnificent. Truly a favorite track of mine…just because of the delivery…subtle…but it manages to play huge. This is incredible.
****3/4 out of 5