It’s time for my full review of the first batch of songs released from Madonna’s new album Rebel Heart.
First let’s discuss the marketing package behind the new endeavor… Just last week the Queen of Pop sprung a major leak and very early versions of some of the new material (as well as a few demos that won’t make the final cut) spread across the Internet like a wild fire! There are always the conspiracy theorists out there that believe Madonna leaked half her album in very low quality/barely produced form (because that would be how I would want to introduce my music for the first time *eye roll*) but I can guarantee you that this was not a planned marketing ploy! The leak and the drama behind the scenes are very real! So in response to her music being put out there in mediocre form for the world to hear, Madonna decided to “pull a Beyonce” so to speak but also one up her! She bundled together 6 songs that were in the can & ready for world-wide exposure (all of which had leaked except one) and released them to the world so that we can hear how she intended for us to hear them! The result so far has been an overwhelmingly positive response in which many online media outlets are hailing the tracks as some of her best in decades… And for the record, I concur! Although M intended to release a single in Feb and the entire album in March, she will now release the album in three parts! We got the first batch of songs, we’ll get the next batch on Feb 9th and then the rest in March! It’s a new age in the way music is released and Madonna has just trailblazed a new trend for others to follow as usual!
Onto the music…
“Living For Love”
“Living For Love” is the lead single from “Rebel Heart” and while I don’t think it’s the strongest choice for a first single, it is definitely a nice introduction to the new three part era! After all, she does have two more opportunities to release a “first single” thanks to the genius multi-release structure. Don’t get me wrong… I LOVE this song!! Especially the finished version that we can compare to the earlier incarnation which was a little on the boring side. “Living for Love” is a lush, uplifting, deep-house meets gospel meets EDM. A lot like all the material on this release, ‘LFL‘ is a throwback with a new-school edge! Vocally and lyrically Madonna is on-point with her inspirational message of pushing through the tough times with love on your side. What a nice way to kick off your new release, right? I give this one 8 1/2 out of 10 stars. (With room to grow of course)
I’m reviewing this one next because I think as much as Madonna #hashtagged this title, her fans have been in a frenzy to hear the actual music for such an ambitious, attention catching title! Did it live up to the hype?? I say HELL YES!! This is one of my favorites from the album and would have been my choice for first single. No it’s not the typical gay dance-party type of single that most people would have expected from M, but I think her venture into the Diplo produced reggae/dancehall territory is the unexpected curveball that Madonna has been know to throw at us to keeps us on our toes and keep her on her thrown! I give this one 8 out of 10.
I LOVE THIS SONG! Lyrically Madonna delves head-on into the world of drugs, self-reflection and religious guilt! This is another example where we can hear how the leaks were definitely pre-mature version of what Madonna intended for us to hear. While the leaked version was a pretty straight-forward folk-pop song with the trademark Avicii imprint, the new version (which still retains a little of the folk feel) has been reworked to takes us on more of an electronic house journey. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard an Avicii production mesh these two genres together, but the delivery this time around sounds nothing like some of his more well known folk-dance fusions such as “Wake Me Up” or “Hey Brother“. (Thank God!) This has to be one of the strongest tracks out of this release, so I give it a 10 out of 10.
“Ghosttown” is the only ‘new’ track in the sense that it’s the only one that didn’t leak ahead of time from this first round of releases. This Ryan Tedder produced mid-tempo ballad is beautiful and really highlights Madonna’s vocals, but I have to admit that I find this track to be a bit on the bland side and is probably my least favorite track from round one. For a filler track, the melody does have some standout moments and it’s still better than a lot of the tracks from M’s previous album MDNA! With that said, I’m gonna give this one a 7 out of 10.
I think most people cringe when they think of Madonna rapping on a track (“American Life” anyone?!) but a lot of us where pleasently surprised when we heard M spitting rhymes that actually didn’t bother us at all… As a matter of fact, she pulls it off quite nicely on this one! Lyrically “Illuminate” is probably the most interesting track that we’ve heard on the album so far, delivering a clever tongue-in-cheek play on all of the Satan worshiping secret society rumors that have followed the pop icon for years! Lady Gaga will be happy to know that Madonna makes a neutral reference to her in this track that doesn’t involve the world “reductive”. Production-wise, this Kanye West produced track (Yes, Mr. Kardashian produced this one) is a bit more on the dark and edgy side which is a beautiful contrast to all of the upbeat pop numbers! I give this one an 8 1/2 out of 10.
“Bitch, I’m Madonna”
When it comes to Madonna, you either love her or you hate her and I think that’s going to be the case with this song as well. Personally, Diplo x’s Madonna = A perfect blend of pop and edginess. Add Madonna’s collaboration bestie Nicki Minaj to the mix and you have the formula for a massive club hit! Although this song doesn’t have anything really important to say other than ‘she’s Madonna bitches,‘ it’s hard to deny the catchy melody and Diplo’s heavy-hitting sythns and beats! I’m going to give this one an 8 out of 10.
Madonna is back! She’s living for love, she’s unapologetic, she’s a rebel and she’s back on top of her game! The Queen is back!! I already can’t wait to review part 2 of the album!!