I was at a douchey bar in the East Village when Twitter started lighting up about a “new Madonna album” that dropped on iTunes. Rebel Heart is FINALLY HERE! Of course I started freaking out, but no one cared. Bros were busy hitting on chicks. The bartender was shaking her a** to Rage Against The Machine. I was completely alone. Even my friends were unimpressed, calling M out for being “unoriginal” and trying to “pull a Beyoncé“. I’m like—“Bitch, she’s Madonna!”
The six songs (including lead single, “Living For Love“) were taken from Madonna‘s forthcoming thirteenth studio album, entitled Rebel Heart, slated for release in March 2015 on Interscope Records. The album was recorded in both New York and Los Angeles, featuring a number of high-profile CONFIRMED producers/songwriters (not to mention a slew of rumored collaborations) including Avicii, Blood Diamonds, Carl Falk, Diplo, Kanye West, Ryan Tedder, Natalia Kills, Alicia Keys and more. While making the music available now is clearly a reaction to hackers leaking 13 unreleased demos late last week, the Queen of Pop is showing herself to be the bigger person by releasing the tunes legally just days later. According to Madonna:
“I was hoping to release my new single ‘Living For Love’ on Valentine’s Day with the rest of the album coming in the Spring. I would prefer my fans to hear completed versions of some of the songs instead of the incomplete tracks that are circulating. Please consider these six songs as an early Christmas gift.”
After just a handful of listens, Rebel Heart is already shaping up to be her best pop collection since 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor, with first single, “Living For Love” easily being one Madonna‘s best singles in recent years. Big statement, I know since we only have 6 finished tracks to go off of but I’m feeling pretty confident here. Rebel Heart feels like the kind of album I’ve been wanting her to release for years.
Ever since the release of (the decidedly more urban-sounding) Hard Candy in 2008, Madonna has been criticized for being a “conformist” and a “follower” of radio trends with many “fans” specifically calling attention to Madonna‘s age, accusing her of pandering to young club kids. Strange, considering how earlier albums—1998’s Ray Of Light for instance—were praised for being ahead of their time. I seem to remember Madonna being lauded by the press for her unique ability to morph her sound from album-to-album, all while sounding and looking fresh. While Hard Candy and even MDNA (2012) could hardly be considered “fresh,” they were in fact creative and critical disappointments, I don’t think they should be discounted entirely. In every artist’s evolution, there are bound to be a few missteps.
In reading criticisms of Madonna‘s new songs, it’s hard not to come out of it a bit frustrated. We’re hearing basically the same, tired arguments about her age and being a trend-follower. Come ON! While I respect a difference of opinion, we’ve been hearing the same SH*T (at least) since 2008. When I listen to these new songs, I hear Madonna sounding closer to her old 80’s-90’s self than she’s sounded in years! It’s classic Madonna, elevated to 2014’s standards. In addition to having sleek, modern production, there seems to be a focus on decent songwriting (at least as far as lead single, “Living For Love” is concerned)—something we haven’t been privy to on a Madonna song in a good long while. All of the elements of a good pop song are here—production, lyrics, vocals. Billboard‘s resident pop aficionado Jason Lipshutz sums up my feelings about the song nicely in his review;
“The confidence Madonna displays on the track recalls singular classics like ‘Express Yourself’ and ‘Like A Prayer,’… ‘Living For Love’ sounds like a giddy combination of Madonna’s past and present, and represents an encouraging sign for a 2015 project that was unexpectedly thrown into jeopardy at the end of 2014.”
Following Madonna‘s ‘Christmas gift,’ Queen M proceeded to top the charts in 36 countries around the world (like a BOSS). In just about every country blessed with Rebel Heart, the six released songs held six of the ten slots on the Top 10 iTunes chart. Rebel Heart also took over social media, topping the Billboard Trending 140 Chart, with #Madonna trending in the No. 1 spot on Facebook and trending all day (along with #RebelHeart) on Twitter.
While not every song is a winner (in truth I’m smitten with only about 50%) Rebel Heart is becoming one my most anticipated albums in 2015. Looks like Madonna is combating cyber terrorism the only way she really can—releasing quality pop music. Pre-order Rebel Heart now on iTunes and get the following tracks immediately:
- Living For Love (Writers: Madonna, Thomas Wesley Pentz, Alicia Keys, MoZella, Ariel Rechtshaid, Toby Gad, Nicke Rowe | Producers: Madonna, Diplo)
- Devil Pray (Writers: Madonna, Savan Kotecha, Carl Falk, Rami Yacoub, Avicii | Producers: Madonna, Avicii, Blood Diamonds, Dahi, Carl Falk)
- Ghosttown (Writers: Madonna, Jason Evigan, Evan Bogart, Sean Douglas | Producers: Madonna, Billboard)
- Unapologetic Bitch (Writers: Madonna, Wesley Pentz, Toby Gad, Onika Maraj | Producers: Madonna, Diplo)
- Illuminati (Writers: Madonna, Wesley Pentz, Toby Gad | Producers: Madonna, Kanye West, Mike Dean, Charlie Heat)
- Bitch I’m Madonna (feat. Nicki Minaj) (Writers: Madonna, Wesley Pentz, Toby Gad, Onika Maraj | Producers: Madonna, Diplo, SOPHIE)
Additional music will be released February 9th, followed by the full album’s release in March. Listen to the official audio stream of “Living For Love” below.