We know, we know — Madonna’s 13th album Rebel Heart (officially out today, — though it leaked in full five weeks ago) feels like like it’s been in production for a decade. Coincidentally, Confessions On A Dance Floor is nearing its ten-year anniversary, and that was arguably the last time Madge delivered a project that was so sonically cohesive you knew exactly where her head was. Hard Candy and MDNA were glitches in the matrix, but now Madonna has created something more on-point, musically, than she has in ages.
It initially felt like producers were “auditioning” for their roles on Rebel Heart. Diplo kept popping up on Madge’s Instagram and he ultimately won the role, producing a handful of tracks — including the soulful disco opener “Living For Love” and the hashtag favorite “Unapologetic Bitch.” Avicii and Blood Diamonds become a divine pair for “Devil Pray” where you can hear both of their styles woven into the beat. Kanye West donates some blips and synths to “Illuminati” and then gets a unique shout out on “Holy Water” with the beef-bearing line “Yeezus loves my pussy best.” Of course Nicki Minaj comes correct on “Bitch I’m Madonna,” and the 14-song project gets a deluxe surge of 11 extra tracks, including the New New York anthem “Veni Vidi Vici,” with Nas and the guitar-heavy title track.
While much of Rebel Heart is awesome, it’s by no means perfect. Moments where Madonna attempts her American Life self fall short in part to weak vocals that become a stark contrast to the more club-ready cuts where her voice is so genetically modified you prefer the robot over the girl. Madge has finally found her footing in the hip hop realm, though, and that’s another high point on the project: You no longer feel like she’s rapping for cred; she’s just rapping.
With all of its sonic variations, Rebel Heart is an ideal project for Madonna to bring to us at this very moment in music. Sometimes, she’s right on time.
Idolator Score: 4/5
— Kathy Iandoli