Madonna’s ‘Rebel Heart’: Review Revue
Prior to the expected release of Madonna‘s 13th studio album, Rebel Heart, she was plagued with multiple demo leaks that rattled the Internet. A few months and one indictment later, the complete project is officially here today (March 10). Despite the musical fiasco surrounding it, Madge is still standing by her album — which is one of the better ones she has put out in recent years.
In our review, we stated: “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.”
But how do other music industry critics feel about Madonna’s new album? Read what they had to say down below!
:: A.V. Club gave it a B, stating “Despite these wince-inducing moments, Rebel Heart is a step back in the right direction. While her reputation as a bulletproof dance-floor queen still looms large, Madonna endures because she’s never been afraid to own her imperfections, and be emotionally forthright about, well, everything. Rebel Heart finds her doing both of those things, and the music is better for it.”
:: Rolling Stone was also tame: “The album is at its strongest when Madonna shoves everyone to the side and just tells it to us straight. So it’s fitting that she wraps up the deluxe edition with the title track, recalling how she went from weird kid to narcissist to spiritual thinker over Avicii’s bright, orchestrated production. Deep down, Madonna does have a rebel heart — and you can’t fault her for reminding us that pop music is all the better for it.”
:: While The Guardian notes the singer’s boldness: “Millennials will cringe, but Madonna just makes a far better basqued polemicist than she does a wise elder stateswoman. The indecorous segments of Rebel Heartlocate her sense of wickedness high in the mix. Rebel Heart’s key collaboration with Kanye West finds two of pop’s biggest egomaniacs starring in a wiggly club banger that doubles as a takedown of the internet’s most nutzoid meme – The Illuminati, a secret society that allegedly runs the world with the help of triangles in pop videos.”
:: Kyle Anderson of Entertainment Weekly shared his thoughts: “I have faith that she’ll reveal herself with repeated listens. (Weirdly, for an album mostly designed to move people in a club, it’s actually a pretty fascinating headphone trip.) This may be damning it with faint praise, but this is Madonna’s best outing since 2000’s Music, and that earns Rebel Heart a solid B.”
:: LA Times notes the album’s production: “Granted, there’s nothing rebellious about that per se. Most songs, brilliant and terrible alike, are similarly made. But ‘Rebel Heart’ stands sturdily because those foundations have been fortified by producers and as such are thick and modern, with heavy bass, lots of tweaky snare and high-hats and a midrange action that snakes through songs like locomotives winding through mountainous tracks.”
:: New York Times also pitched in: “In perhaps her most complex album, Madonna seems determined to plant a flag for her 30-plus year career, even giving a crash course in Madonna-ology on the self-referential “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” featuring Nas, during which she playfully incorporate phrases and titles from past hits. At its best, “Rebel Heart” pulsates with a vibrancy that reveals both the sour and the sweet in Madonna’s extremely complicated life and leaves no doubt that she still has a lot more to share.”
:: Boston Globe also enjoyed the record: “It works on many levels because it allows Madonna to be the most dynamic character of all, the one she repressed on her previous three studio albums of jittery dance-pop that felt desperate to be viable. Madonna gets to be herself on these new songs, exposing a vulnerability and sincerity we arguably haven’t heard from her since 1998’s ‘Ray of Light.’ Her softer side is underappreciated, and underexplored by Madonna herself. The most memorable moments on “Rebel Heart” don’t rely on throbbing dance beats or the digital savvy of her hotshot producers (Diplo, Avicii, Kanye West, and Blood Diamonds chief among them). They’re about Madonna’s candid reflections on soured love and what she has learned as she grows into her role of 56-year-old pop auteur.”
:: While TIME appreciates the vulnerability: “There are albums where it’s been difficult to remember that Madonna is a real person and not just a figurehead, a concept, a lightning rod. That’s not the case with Rebel Heart: it has surprising gravity, and doubles as a portrait of a lion approaching the winter of a career without precedent. It’s the realest, and the best, Madonna has sounded in quite some time.”
:: Billboard stated: “One of the strangest things about Rebel Heart is how subtle it seems by current standards. These songs unfold slowly, building through foreplay-like intros before hooks are displayed over a shifting series of textures, as if the tracks were being remixed while you’re listening to them. In a short-attention-span world of hits that relentlessly spotlight mini-hook after mini-hook for club DJs to drop in a few bars at a time, they seem positively luxurious and downright intellectual.”
:: Lastly, NME wasn’t so nice as their review was rooted in ageism: “Ultimately, ‘Rebel Heart’ feels like a wasted opportunity. Trite self-empowerment anthem ‘Iconic’ informs us that there’s only two letters difference between Icon and I Can’t. Sadly, there are also two letters between class and ass.”
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