Drama precedes the release of Madonna’s 13th studio album Rebel Heart when a number of songs were leaked on the Internet without her prior permission. She compared the unfortunate event as an “artistic rape” and ultimately decided to drop the remaining tracks earlier than scheduled. Despite the commotion, Rebel Heart is undoubtedly a stronger output than her previous album, the forgettable MDNA.
For decades, Madonna’s work has been associated with sexuality and shock factor. She retained her unconventional ways in Rebel Heart, although unlike MDNA’s unconvincing attempts at catering to the younger crowd, the album revealed more of her vulnerability and insecurities as a person. The opener ‘Living For Love’ and mid-tempo electro number ‘Ghosttown’ rumble in dejection as she speaks about a failed relationship. ‘HeartBreakCity’ and ‘Unapologetic Bitch’ are built on the same scenario – the latter celebrates the idea of kicking a toy boy back to his underprivileged days, probably a reflection of the end of her three-year romance with dancer Brahim Zaibat.
As much as Rebel Heart showcases a more personal and polished side of Madonna’s song-writing, the lengthy 19-track album does contain a cocktail of bold pieces that are more in tuned with the current music trend. ‘Illuminati’ is a refreshing dark number co-produced by Kanye West (whom she recently called a black version of herself) and features some kickass rapping by the 56-year-old icon. ‘Bitch I'm Madonna’ brings in Nicki Minaj and Diplo while she lets everyone in on her wild days with sexualised tracks ‘Holy Water’ and ‘S.E.X’ (chopsticks and dental chair, anyone?). Madonna also discusses her career on ‘Veni Vidi Vici’ and ‘Joan of Arc’, giving listeners a hint of the self-doubt that gave rise to the provocative Queen of pop we are familiar with.
Recommended tracks: ‘Living For Love’, ‘Unapologetic Bitch’ and ‘Illuminati’