Release Date: Mar 10, 2015
Record label: Interscope
Rebel Heart was introduced to the world with an indiscipline uncharacteristic of Madonna. Blame it on hackers who rushed out a clutch of unfinished tracks at the end of 2014, a few months before the record's scheduled spring release. Madonna countered by putting six full tracks up on a digital service, a move that likely inflated the final Deluxe Edition of Rebel Heart up to a whopping 19 tracks weighing in at 75 minutes, but even that unveiling wasn't performed without a hitch: during an ornate performance of "Living for Love," she stumbled on-stage at the BRIT Awards.
Imagine a world where Madonna hates being photographed, where she considers quitting her career and admits to suffering haunting demands that she “act like the other girls.” It’s the same world where pigs fly and figure skaters crowd the deepest recesses of hell. Yet, somehow, that’s the world occupying significant parts of Madonna’s revelatory new album, “Rebel Heart.” More credibly than any previous work, Madonna’s latest pulls back the curtain on her life, letting us see her hurt and yearning. It also finds her licking her wounds over a breakup with a far less powerful boy toy — presumably the decades-her-junior dancer Brahim Zaibat, who she saw for three years, ending in 2013.
When the tracklist was posted for Madonna’s 13th record, with titles like “Unapologetic Bitch,” “Iconic” and “Bitch I’m Madonna,” it felt like we were in store for another round of songs trying to reclaim her pop supremacy. Even the album’s title, Rebel Heart, smacked of trying to remind listeners that Madonna can still push buttons and boundaries. Then again, the Iggy Azaleas and the Nicki Minajes weaned on Madonna engage in this sort of thing every day.
Thirty years after dancing around Venice dressed in a wedding dress with only a lion for company, Madonna is still making the headlines. For proof, you only need to look at Rebel Heart’s rather bumpy journey into the world: unfinished demos were leaked onto the internet last year, which Madonna rather unwisely compared to both rape and terrorism. Then there was the fuss over the album’s artwork and its resultant internet memes, which spawned accusations of racism and cultural appropriation.
When the entire history of the human race is written, the final week of February 2015 probably won't be deemed the absolute pinnacle of our species’ stupidity. But it'll surely warrant a mention, at least. I’m not talking about those good ol’ boys in Isis trashing 9,000 years of human history, though there is that. I’m talking about us infidels more or less living up to Islamist stereotypes of us by getting furious excited over (in reverse chronological order): a dress that looked funny; two llamas; and a lady falling over.
Perhaps more so than that of any other pop artist, living or dead, Madonna's career can be handily split into distinct eras, and further subdivided into periods or phases: her commercial peak in the '80s, her provocateur years in the early '90s, her electronic renaissance in the late '90s and early aughts, and so on. It's the evolution, or so-called reinventions, that these shifts represent that many wholly credit, erroneously, for the singer's unprecedented longevity. But when the final history is written on one Madonna Louise Ciccone, with the benefit of distance and hindsight, it's likely her career will be viewed in just two halves: the pair of decades leading up to and including 2003's American Life, a 20-year big bang of ubiquitous, propulsive forward momentum that culminated in the deconstruction and rejection of the material world that created the biggest female pop star of all time; and the years that followed, which have found the queen uncertain about how to maintain her throne, often looking back rather than toward the future.
Madonna ruled the 80’s with an effort that looked effortless. The Immaculate Collection, along with New Order’s Substance and Pet Shop Boys’ Discography, came from the New York discoteques, and they’re all essential chapters of Pop’s New Testament. Rebel Heart, Madonna’s 13th album, has been coming out for ages. A hacker infamously leaked it last year, but that’s less likely to hold Madonna back than a Giorgio Armani cape, and expectations were that this album couldn’t be as bad as the previous two.
For many years, Madonna avoided the Internet like gluten. But in December, the Internet decided to stop waiting for Madonna, and everything went wrong: Her music was stolen and leaked; her hasty, emotional responses on Instagram used terms like "rape" and "terrorism," provoking (you guessed it) Internet outrage. Her swift solution was to put six songs online immediately, with a promise that 13 more would follow in March.
The internet is a funny place – so full of porn and hate, but so often as obsessed with propriety as a Victorian maiden aunt. Recently, it decided that women of 56 can’t fall over; online wags reminding them that walking up stairs in capes is solely the preserve of youth. The ageism unleashed by Capegate makes you warm to much of Rebel Heart, Madonna’s 13th album.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” For a bunch of people who tried to illegally download Madonna’s 2003 album American Life, this was the exact phrase they heard, spoken by the Queen of Pop herself, followed by minutes of silence. Some context: as a way to try and counteract file-sharing in the immediate aftermath of Napster’s shutdown, Madonna and her team thought that by creating dummy files that mirrored the run times of the actual album tracks and uploading them to various P2P servers, Madge’s stern warning would help curb any sales losses and force digital thieves to reconsider their actions. The plan ended up backfiring, with one irritated hacker defacing Madonna’s website and posting the MP3s to every song on the album, adding the message “This is what the fuck I think I’m doing.
Its release has been plagued by controversy over piracy, the term “artistic rape”, claims of cultural appropriation and the vexing question of whether or not it’s all right to laugh at a 56-year-old woman falling on her arse midway through a dance routine. But the most immediately striking thing about Madonna’s 13th studio album is rather more prosaic: it’s extremely long. The deluxe version features 19 tracks and lasts for the best part of an hour and a half.
It’s difficult to take Madonna at face value. She is on her third generation of pop iconhood, after all, and her work comes freighted with decades of discussions about sexuality, appropriation, and whether what she is doing is "shocking" or "fake" or "appropriate." In the run-up to Rebel Heart, a series of bad-press flare-ups—myriad Instagram-based controversies, comparing her album leak to rape—suggested that maybe Madonna had slipped from our reality entirely. Yet, the surprise of Rebel Heart, her 13th album, is its groundedness, its centering of the Real Madonna in the mix.
Madonna never lost touch with the culture she once created. Even the weak points in her generation-spanning career throb with a love of pop music, its mass appeal and its potential for mass transcendence — what it can do to people. The singer and performer’s latest album, Rebel Heart, is her 13th in 32 years, and in some ways it carries the most of Madonna’s personality since 2000’s Music.
Three years after 2012’s EDM-driven ‘MDNA’ album, ‘Rebel Heart’ finds 56-year-old Madonna still trying to pass herself off as a teenager. It’s a disconnect that has become increasingly grating.Rather than the return to ’80s underground New York promised by lead single ‘Living For Love’, this 13th album is a scattergun attempt to hit all the bases of modern pop. Instead of having one producer at the helm, as ‘MNDA’ did with William Orbit, Madonna hired the biggest chart-humping names she could find.
Madonna was mad, and she had every right to be. But in hindsight, when unfinished demos from her new album, “Rebel Heart,” leaked online in December, it stoked the flames of what the pop star lives by: hype. The early consensus was that the six new songs she rushed to the market were . . . well ….
Madonna named her 13th studio album “Rebel Heart.” The title fits the Madge mold of past titles: adjectives, a noun or two, perhaps a preposition, combined to suggest a loose theme. “Like a Virgin,” “Ray of Light,” “Hard Candy,” “Bedtime Stories” and her relatively epic “Confessions on a Dance Floor” confirm her long-player branding technique, each connecting a concrete idea with the themes conveyed through the songs, more or less. The outlier, her forgettable last album, “MDNA,” was a coy reference to the drug MDMA (a.k.a.
The previous two Madonna studio albums, "MDNA" (2012) and "Hard Candy" (2008), have come off as transparent attempts at co-opting the latest waves of dance music. She used to be a step ahead of the mainstream, artfully cannibalizing underground danceclub moves and turning them into pop gold. Now she was playing catch-up. She sounds less desperate on her 13th studio album, "Rebel Heart" (Boy Toy/Live Nation/Interscope).
It’s a testament to Madonna’s star power that every new album she releases is an event. However, the promotional cycle for Rebel Heart was provocative even by her standards: A hacker leaked demos from the album back in December, prompting the early release of six full songs just before Christmas (and an arrest several weeks later). That still didn’t prevent another avalanche of demos and remixes from appearing online and infiltrating YouTube, however—ensuring that nobody was entirely quite sure what the final version of Rebel Heart would actually sound like.
Madonna is in a rare reflective mood on her 13th album. The Queen of Pop's last outing, MDNA, largely played it safe on the dance floor with nice enough songs about of love, heartache, religion and sex. On Rebel Heart, she revisits her go-to themes, but it's the songs that play around with Madonna's status as professional pop icon (Veni Vidi Vici, Joan Of Arc and Illuminati) that are the most ambitious and interesting lyrically.
opinion byPETER TABAKIS < @ptabakis > In the opening track to the criminally under-loved Bedtime Stories, Madonna sings, “Does your criticism have you caught up in what you cannot see?” The song is the graceful and sexy “Survival,” and the question seems directed at the pop star’s many critics, a defiant challenge posed as a tease. It was 1994, Madonna had her champions at that point, but it was only eleven years since her debut, and the rockist critical establishment still had plenty of scorn for the Material Girl. Cultural dominance was hardly a certainty.