Madonna – Rebel Heart (so far)

Madonna - Rebel HeartFollowing the leak of demos from her then-yet-to-be-announced album Rebel Heart last month, Madonna took a proactive stance by immediately releasing the finished songs to digital outlets and a release date for the album.

The six tracks that make up slightly less than one-third of the record – 19 tracks! – offer a sample of her upcoming 13th album and judging by their sound, there’s a lot of ground covered.

The one thing that’s consistent across the tracks is the solid production. It ranges from fun and adventurous to crisp and clean and, in some cases, is the highlight of a particular track.

Some of the big-name producers on these songs include Diplo, Avicii, Billboard and Kanye West, who extends his Yeezus-like production to the hard-hitting Illuminati.

But there’s something to be said when the weakest quality of an artist’s song is the artist themselves and that’s the case with some of Rebel Heart’s advanced tracks.

The terrible lyrics don’t help either.

Madonna does have kind of a reputation for bad or awkward lyrics, and she’s been forgiven when they’ve essentially served as filler to a great beat, but they’re hard to ignore when they’re embarrassingly juvenile or redundant.

In Devil Pray, she returns to (once again!) using religion as a theme that pairs the use of drugs with one’s attempt at getting closer to God. Only the lyrics are lazily written.

She continues to rely all-too-heavily on current trends and fixations, and uses her own legacy as leverage to hold up music that is ironically weakening that same legacy. Bitch, I’m Madonna is a song about nothing other than an excuse to remind people that she used to be a force in pop culture.

Basically, if it were still true, the reminder wouldn’t be unnecessary.

Illuminati, meanwhile, takes advantage of the Internet age’s obsession with celebrities ruling the world as members of the illuminati – a train that Madonna is late to jump aboard.

She’s at her best when she isn’t trying to make a statement, ironically.

First single Living For Love doesn’t try to grab ahold of anything trendy or convey a message or point and it’s easily her best single since Hung Up came out a decade ago. It lives to make you move. Generic, perhaps, but when you’ve already accomplished most anything a pop singer can, what else is left to cover?

Madonna’s issue continues to be that she’s trying too hard to appeal to a crowd that will never care, and in doing so, alienating those who used to. Targeting Katy or Nicki fans comes off as try-hard for someone who used to rule pop music with such ease.

That’s not to say she has to start recording soft ballads or traditional pop a la Barbra Streisand in order to “act her age”, but there are certain expectations based on who she is as legendary performer and an icon. It’s not even a question of her age as much as it is time served and singing lines like “we can sniff glue and we can do E and we can drop acid” do nothing but diminish the stature of her own position as a legend.

Everyone deserves better.

Two Stars

Tracklisting (so far)
1. Living For Love
2. Devil Pray
3. Ghosttown
4. Unapologetic Bitch
5. Illuminati
6. Bitch, I’m Madonna [featuring Nicki Minaj]

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