#SRCZ Music Review // Madonna – Rebel Heart

With every new album from Madonna the expectation rises. Is it another classic destined to live a longer life or a well-intentioned but ultimately failed experiment? The truth is it really doesn’t matter as there is always at least one instant-like of a song on any album she has released and rarely is there a bad album from the artist. What is Rebel Heart then? For sure, it’s nothing to sniff at dubiously. For certain, there is much to love about an album that contains as audacious a track as Bitch I’m Madonna, even if that exact track is not a highlight. 

The truth is that Rebel Heart exudes an aura that could be summarised using that exact phrase. Bitch, it’s Madonna and melding songs that could be from any number of different projects into a package that makes sense in scattershot kind of way is her raisin d’etre on recent albums. It’s a methodology that throws up the occasional ounce of filler but largely rewards the listener. 

Taking as electronic an angle as ever she has in selecting her collaborators the result is a sprawling album of anthems that, if you put your pretensions aside, is a very good listen. If MDNA, her last album, was often criticised for its occasionally odd mixture of styles then the haters gonna hate on Rebel Heart for sure. To be exact, it’s far from a perfect listen but there’s enough goodness to outweigh the less instant material. On songs such as Illuminati, produced by a certain Kanye West, the envelope is pushed admirably with little in the way of ego. On the rather addictive Iconic, featuring Mike Tyson and Chance The Rapper, the message is a clear one. Anyone can be iconic and the tag line ‘Icon I Can/ Two letters apart’ is a genuinely inspiring and clever moment of lyrical phrasing.

Even īn quieter moments we’re treated to the kind of song writing we should see more often on an M album. Ghosttown is perfectly pitched, it’s message and imagery easy to get lost in. Heartbreak City is another such song, simple but effective. Add in the sure be live favourite Joan of Arc and it’s a nice confessional streak that characterises Rebel Heart. Keeping the Bitch, it’s Madonna angle in place there is certain sense of humour throughout that keeps listening an interesting experience. Body Shop is a playful yet tender innuendo fest that turns out to be much sweeter than you might assume. 

Holy Water is a more literal innuendo fest, imbued with references to what some might refer to as their ‘pussy cat’ and when the words Jesus lives my…’ are heard it’s true gold. Plus, THAT reference to Vogue.  Bless yourself and genuflect, to quote the song. As the album winds down the innuendo gets more obvious and it’s kind of a pity when the album has much of a return to form aura about it. If you’ve purchased the deluxe edition there’s another ten songs to listen to but if you’re listening to the standard edition of Rebel Heart the closing duo of Inside Out and Wash All Over Me are your conclusion. 

On this basis alone Rebel Heart doesn’t quite live up to it’s name but it is certainly by no means a bad album. There is enough heart and energy in it to satisfy even the most hard to win over of listeners. 

(Sebastian Gahan)

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