Anyone who knows me knows that I often profess my enduring love for the queen of pop. She has not only molded me into a devoted enthusiast, but she has given me so much strength and courage throughout my life to just be myself and not give a shit what anyone thinks about me. For that, I owe an honest and earnest review of the latest chapter in Madonna’s musical career.
Making history with her latest studio release, which becomes lucky number 13 in her career, Madonna releases the incomparable Rebel Heart. Described as half rebel (the provocative side) and half heart (the romantic side), this collection of songs is so unique in sound and meaning that it easily becomes one of my favorite Madonna albums of all time. Having listened to every track more than several times already, I have established top favorites along with those that feel artistically riveting enough to be a part of her legacy forever.
Opening track and first official single, “Living For Love,” is a gentle dance break-up track produced by American EDM guru Diplo. Although it failed to impact radio stations in favor of a younger generation of musicians, the embellishment of her unmistakable voice over some heavy beats is a gift of pure perfection in a dancehall daydream. This should have been a much more successful track on pop charts across the globe. For now, we will have to settle for an additional #1 on the Billboard Dance Club Play chart, bringing her total to 44 there, more than any other artist on that chart.
Another standout hit on the album is the now-confirmed second single “Ghosttown.” It is already making an impact on the Adult Contemporary charts, so perhaps this is a good sign for more Hot 100 potential contenders. It falls more into a mid-tempo ballad category, with which Madonna can do no wrong. In fact, I would say this entire album has more ballads and mid-tempo tracks than any other album since Something To Remember, which of course was an entire collection of ballads.
Other personal favorites on the album include “Holy Water,” “Joan Of Arc,” “Inside Out,” and the title track. The title track is very much single-worthy. Although, I must admit that I prefer the “leaked demo” version of “Rebel Heart” over the final album cut. Honestly, as hard as it was not to listen to any of the leaked demo tracks, I respected her majesty enough to avoid listening to them in their unfinished form. The only reason I even heard the demo for the title track was because it was being played in constant rotation on an internet radio station back in December. So if this becomes a single, I hope they integrate the sound of the demo into it’s radio release. The demo has a sleek 80’s vibe to it that just draws you in and takes you back.
Although Rebel Heart is less energy infused than some of her previous albums, it is entirely well-crafted and masterful. She collaborated with many different talented names in the music industry for this one, including Diplo, Avicii, Natalia Kills, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, NAS, Chance the Rapper, and even her longtime pal Mike Tyson. Each one of them contributed something special to create some of her strongest melodies and best written lyrics of her career. In fact, every track on this album is so different from the others that they all feel like they are from a different era. None of them sound anything alike, allowing them to all stand on their own. Kudos to a fantastic team of rebel hearts!
Watch the video to the first single “Living For Love” below.