REBEL HEART // MADONNA
"Rebel Heart," Madonna's 13th studio album is great, let's get that out of the way now. Those able to listen with open ears and rebel hearts, will be rewarded with an album full of some of Madonna's best work in years. It's time we move past it's vessels age and the public's obsession with counting Madonna out. The album could've been titled "Fighter" , the Rebel in Madonna is filled with pure fiery passion.You can feel it throughout the album and Madonna hasn't sounded this present and passionate in a decade. Rebel Heart is filled with songs that blend genres so fearlessly that you take it for granted how fucking good the album is. Seamlessly blending folk, pop, R&B, EDM, and hip-hop together into one classic album filled with should be hits.
A large part of my enjoyment and excitement about Rebel Heart is just how damn good Madonna sounds vocally. On "Devil Pray", a mostly acoustic production allows Madonna to sing her folk/house tale to the tune of addiction, repentance, and redemption. She sounds amazing and the song sounds a thousand years old and modern at once, in the best way. Madonna and Religion (Catholicism, in particular) have long been a love affair, flirting with the temptations (sex, drugs, men) and repercussions (guilt, addiction, loss of self) of being a sexual powerful woman while holding on to your spirit. Rebel Heart sounds like the fearless, unbreakable Madonna we met in the 80's but with the wisdom of a woman that has seen it all, done it all, re-invented it all, through heartbreak, success or failure. Madonna is back to delivering music that bleeds and has a heartbeat. Listen now, thank her later.
"Ghosttown" is a stand-out track and has been chosen as the second single. This is Madonna's best single since "Hung Up." If there is any justice in this world, it will be a huge hit for her. It's part Karen Carpenter part Beyonce's "Halo". The song is haunting and uplifting at once. Epic and vulnerable, at the same damn time. I've been obsessed for a couple months and I still can't get enough. She sounds so good; it's exciting for me as a fan.
The Kanye produced "Illuminati" is a play on the social media conspiracy theories that both Madonna and Kanye have both been linked to. The song is a checklist of celebrities, "It’s not Jay-Z and Beyoncé; It’s not Nicki or Lil Wayne; It’s not Oprah and Obama, the Pope and Rihanna; Queen Elizabeth, or Kanye."
To me, both the Rebel and the Heart the title suggests actually exists not on the pure dance songs but on the songs that allow Madonna to sing and really play the modern folk singer that she is becoming. "Joan of Arc" on the verses sounds like a country song that bursts into a pop melody reminiscent of Fergie's "Big Girl's Don't Cry." Madonna lays it bare in the vivid "HeartBreak City," angry, and hurt part Kate Bush part Alanis, all Madonna. Opening with "Cut me down the middle, Fucked me up a little." Her tone matches the mood of the song so perfectly, a classic song that sits at the top of her best tracks. Built from banjo and hollow drums, "Body Shop" is the sweetest love song Madonna has released since "Cherish." It should be on the radio soon. Lovely as songs come and a big reason I love this album. She isn't trend hoping, she is making good music that will sound fresh years from now. There is something about Madonna's music, like Prince and Michael, it's mostly timeless and is such a part of why radio sounds like it does today. By pushing boundaries for years, she was ahead of her peers, but with her last couple albums became desperate and left people counting the Queen out and then they started calling Beyonce' queen (Don't even get me started.)
My other favorite part of any Madonna record is the sexual perspective. Madonna has always offered a raw honest take on sexuality, whether provoking or prowling, she owns it and no one has inhabited that space in music better. She is a pro, not a poser. Everyone that followed that path since is merely imitating Madonna. She was being herself and realizing her sexual power they are just going though the motions with half the power. On the pulsating "Holy Water", she updates her Erotica persona in an ode to pussy juice. You will be saying "Bitch get off my pole" in your head all day. "S.E.X." allows Madonna to glide over a dark R&B beat (think TheWeeknd.) Erotica 2015 with a Madonna rap verse that actually works and is perfectly nasty with references from "strap-ons" to "raw meat." These are songs that 90's Madonna would have had on radio. Lady GaGa and Beyonce wish they thought of "Holy Water" first.
At 19 tracks (23 on super deluxe edition), Rebel Heart could have been tiresome, yet it stands near the top with her best albums. At it's core brilliant and courageous with melodies that are some of Madonna's finest. Vocally Rebel Heart is impressive, she's found the sweet spot in her voice and it's a thrill to hear. She has a hunger for her story to be heard, for us to remember why she has been on top for 3 decades. Truly herself, daring us to be ourselves. We thank you and accept the challenge.