Madonna’s 13th studio album, Rebel Heart has arrived. How does it stack up compared to the rest of her discography? Let’s take a look.
Living For Love – The opening number lays down the groundwork but doesn’t seem to lift the album up very high.
Devil Pray – Typical Madge, pulling in some expected Christian references. The sleek chorus is an instant highlight, but the energy gets sucked out by a lonely acoustic guitar.
Ghosttown – “You’re all that I can trust / Everyone ran away” Madonna croons on track No.3. Madonna sounds like she believes the song, to some extent. Like the first two songs, Ghosttown feels a bit factory pressed, with the stipulation that they’re all missing something production-wise.
Unapologetic Bitch – Madonna tosses out the sleek and lackluster pop production for some reggae influence. This sounds far more genuine than the preceding tracks, which for Madonna might be a blessing or curse being the most genuine as a “bitch.” Unfortunately, the song is still a bore.
Illuminati – “Everybody in this party’s shining like Illuminati,” along with the very direct name addressing – Beyoncé, Steve Jobs, Obama, and Gaga for starts – help construct the first truly effective Rebel Heart track. The production is dark, Madge’s delivery is stone cold, and Illuminati ultimately steals the show. Madonna actually sounds engaged.
Bitch I’m Madonna (feat. Nicki Minaj) – The second ‘bitchy’ track shows off more of what Madonna does best – sound current. The trap sounds and the cries of “go hard or go home” paired up with Nicki Minaj’s strong verse present Rebel Heart with a potential hit.
Hold Tight – The horns in the 2 previous tracks are scrapped for this pulsing drum track. It could be a bit bigger with the production, but Rebel Heart seems to feel more comfortable in minimalism.
Joan of Arc – Rebel Heart’s trap onslaught is halted by the guitar strumming Joan of Arc. The verses seem laughable at first but once Madonna sings “I don’t wanna talk about it right now,” you’re hit with a feeling of “oh shit, she’s serious.” The metaphor, production, and feelings are strong, but the lyrics and delivery simply aren’t. Joan of Arc finishes having accomplished most, but not all of its goals.
Iconic (feat. Chance the Rapper and Mike Tyson) – Rebel Heart has moved back to the party room. The gritty and pulsing synths of Iconic are addictive.
Heartbreak City – After going to the 3 AM night club Iconic, “Heartbreak City” is the last place someone would want to go. But here we are. This is simply the wrong place to put a ballad.
Body Shop -… What? Such a bizarre transition and sound compared to the rest of the album.
Holy Water – It’s pulsing and demanding, sexual and holy: a zeitgeist for the album. That being said, the production just isn’t strong enough to leave a lasting impression, besides the Vogue interjection.
Inside Out – The minimalist production actually works here, with the production and lyrics working together to create a dark and sleek deep cut.
Wash All Over Me – And the credits roll with “Wash All Over Me.” The chorus is at least nice, but the verses sound like a funeral procession. Not a good way to close an album.
Rebel Heart is indeed rebellious, it fights against ageism and the sexual boundaries of society, but this is something Madonna has been doing for years. 13 albums in, “Heart” fails to add something truly new to Madonna’s discography in its message. Its production is more trap and somewhat more minimalist than Madge’s previous works, but Rebel Heart can’t stand up against Madonna’s magnum opuses. That being said, Rebel Heart isn’t bad, it just isn’t great enough to compete against the precedent Madonna has set for herself, and the pop stars since her arrival. Rebel Heart has moments of strength but overall, it is just far too inconsistent to be any better than “decent.”