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Rebel Heart Album Review: Madonna Tries Too Hard To Be Cool

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Madonna is a pop music icon. Without Madonna, there is no Britney Spears, no Lady Gaga and you can make the argument there is no Rihanna either.

Madonna is known for her brash and unapologetic ways.  She has never been shy about her sexuality or her vulnerabilities – and has made hit records while being notoriously blasphemous.

Madonna has been fearless her whole career and now with “Rebel Heart” she test the waters of being “timeless.”

Madonna kicks off the thirteenth album of her career with the club-friendly “Living For Love.”  This is Madonna where she is at her most comfortable – giving people an infectious dance record and the production by Diplo gives it that house feel which makes this one of those catchy piano and bass line beats.

On “Bitch I’m Madonna” she keeps the club feel going and even has a feature by Nicki Minaj – which seems fitting because the track has beat breaks and energy similar to Minaj’s hit “Starships.”

Things get a little head-scratching with Madonna during the album though.  She seems to be in her “remember it’s me who paved the way for you little girls” mode at times – and even recites some of her own lyrics from past songs.

She recites lyrics from her hit record “Vogue” during the track “Holy Water” where she revisits her comfortability in making others uncomfortable as she refers to her feminine liquids  as holy water: “I can let you in heaven’s door / I promise you it’s not a sin / Find salvation deep within / We can do it here on the floor.”  

On “S.E.X,” the song title is pretty self-telling on what the topic at hand is and she still has a knack for being blunt : “When you read my mind, get down and discover me / I’m an open book, let you cum inside of me. . . let me clean your room, I can be your nurse / Got the antidote, please show me where it hurts.”  

She pushes the sexual innuendo game on “Body Shop” which is a juvenile play on words, equating sex to working on a car.  Songs like this are way below icon status, and so much in-your-face sex talk coming from a 56-year-old woman isn’t really a turn on . . . after a while.

The Kanye West produced “Illuminati” is a confusing song, where one minute you think she’s mocking those who live off the media-infused Illuminati craze and the next minute she sounds as if she knows something about it and won’t say. . .  The song “Iconic” is anything but.  . . the corny spoken word intro by Mike Tyson and a feature from a guy who feels the need to remind us of his profession within his name, Chance the Rapper make an appearance on a track that’s just a sloppy mess.

“Iconic” is not alone when it comes to being a track with bad lyrics and confusing production, “Devil Pray” is another attempt by Madonna to use the religious angle again.  At least this time around she seems to be asking for help from above as one who has fallen prey to the Devil’s temptations.

Madonna sings in two tones throughout the whole album so the high points or beat escalations on each record are usually met with the same energy and enthusiasm. “HeartBreakCity” could’ve been a gem but instead of feeling the heartbreak of the song, Madonna sounds more like she’s just going through the emotions of it all.

The production on “Wash All Over Me” is magnificent, the use of strings and piano never loses it’s sad tones even during the drop of the beat which brings in marching band like drums. “Wash All Over Me” is kind of what the intro to “Like A Prayer” would sound like if it lasted four minutes long.

The best song on the album is the most unlikely of collaborations as Nas joins Madonna on the track “Veni Vidi Vici.”  Madonna once again gives herself credit for being herself but does so effectively “I justified my love, I made you say a little prayer / they had me crucified, you know I had to take it there / I opened up my heart, I learned the power of good-bye / I saw a Ray of Light, music saved my life.”   

Nas lets his presence be known on the record, working against horns and a jumping bass drum: “My life cannot be compared to anybody / Any trapsters or rappers, any politicians, beauticians / A musician, anybody. / Saw many bodies / many coffins, heads or tails / Penny tosses, we either dead or in jail.”

“Rebel Heart” doesn’t tell us anything about Madonna that we don’t already know. She likes sex, she likes to curse and she doesn’t care what you think. There is just something lacking in this project that shouldn’t be missing from the talents of a pop icon.

Madonna at times comes off as a mother who tries too hard to be liked by her daughter’s friends like “I’m a cool mom, you can drink and smoke at my house.”  Fans of Madonna will still sell out around the world to see her, but mostly for her resume, not her most recent accomplishments.

Rating: 5 out of 10

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio


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