Madonna – Rebel Heart

Madonna - Rebel Heart 2

This was the most confusing album I’ve ever listened to.

Just letting you know that there are 25 songs on the super deluxe edition of Rebel Heart. 25 SONGS PEOPLE! And I slugged my way through alllllll 25 of em. I had to pause several times though. Needed to walk around a bit, shake my legs and take my earphones out. I also made my sisters listen to it so I could confirm that my thoughts on it matched theirs…

“What the f am I listening to?”

I’m sorry Madonna! Your 80s tracks are so fun! But this. THIS. My face was screwing up throughout and it was honestly painful to listen to.

Rebel Heart is Madonna’s thirteenth studio album and was released a week ago. I haven’t bothered to listen to her previous albums MDNA (2012) and Hard Candy (2008). The general consensus is that Rebel Heart fares much better than them, so now I’m less than keen to make the effort. However I will vouch for her 2008 “4 Minutes” track with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. My brother did a primary school performance to the song (lol) so it’s got a special place in my heart. Obviously.

Rebel Heart received mainly positive reviews. WOT. I went in positive, but I didn’t know what to expect with Diplo, Avicii and Kanye West as co-producers. And Nicki Minaj, Nas, Chance the Rapper and Mike Tyson as featured artists? Oh boy.

It’s a confusing lineup for a confusing album with a confusing mishmash of genres. WAS THAT A CONFUSING SENTENCE?! Country, pop, techno, dance, trap, reggae, synth, electronic, house, gospel and acoustic. I’m not even joking guys. It has it all.

A Rolling Stone interview revealed that the album was thematically comprised of two parts—“listening to your heart and being a rebel.” If that’s what Madonna intended, it definitely fell flat. Rebel Heart lacks cohesion and her lyrics were muddled. I have no idea what she was even singing about.

I think this tends to happen when artists leverage other artists to make a hit. Hey, welcome to the Age of Collaborations! Collabs go down well. They pull fans from two places and it’s always interesting to see what two creative figures end up producing, especially when they’re from different poles of the industry. Unfortunately Madonna’s talent was swept away and replaced by heavy production, musical experimentation and basically all of the other artists.

The Avicii track “Devil Pray” has a country-house vibe, similar to “Hey Brother” and “Wake Me Up”. I’m not a fan of either of those songs or the genre pairing, so “Devil Pray” did not do it for me. I think it’s about drug abuse and asking for salvation, but I mostly remember awkward lyrics about Lucifer and sniffing glue.

The Kanye West tracks are special. In “Illuminati” Madonna rhymes “party” with “Illuminati” and in “Holy Water” she compares her vaginal fluids to holy water. HUH. It’s a poor attempt at pushing the boundaries, and ends up looking like an embarassing shock tactic.

Diplo’s production techniques are mismatched. The trap-reggae verses in “Unapologetic Bitch” don’t suit her voice, and she ends up sounding like M.I.A. or Santigold. “Bitch I’m Madonna” features Nicki Minaj and is a sped-up bubblegum pop track with a dubstep chorus. “Iconic” is a bizarre baroque-dubstep-haunted house number, and Chance the Rapper and Mike Tyson don’t really add value to this complicated track.

Nas is a standout on the track “Veni Vidi Vici” but Madonna’s lyrics sound clunky in comparison because she’s namedropping all of her previous hit singles.

To Madonna’s credit, her leading singles “Living for Love” and “Ghosttown” work well. Both songs aren’t busied by layers of electronic instrumentation. The production is simple and Madonna’s vocal talent is finally showcased. We get a glimpse of what Madonna may have intended for Rebel Heart—a tentative dip into electronic production but with all the strengths and vulnerabilities from the Madonna that we love.

Rebel Heart tries and flails. Madonna has talent but this is not an example of it. Fingers crossed for the next one.

THE BREAKDOWN:

Hometown: Bay City, Michigan, USA.
Latest album: Rebel Heart, released 10 March 2015.
Sounds like: Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera.
Say what? This album.

Ciao ciao, Arianna

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