madonna’s rebel heart reviewed
We look at the six tracks she was forced to release by the recent album hack
Last week unfinished demos of 13 tracks earmarked for Madonna's new album appeared online, and the Queen of Pop branded the leak "artistic rape" and "a form of terrorism". The 56-year-old singer has regrouped swiftly, though, by releasing six fully-polished new songs onto iTunes and various streaming services over the weekend. "I was hoping to release my new single Living for Love on Valentine's Day with the rest of the album coming in the spring," she explained in a statement. "[But] I would prefer my fans to hear completed versions of some of the songs instead of the incomplete tracks that are circulating. Please consider these six songs as an early Christmas gift."
Living for Love is one of the new songs made available early, alongside Unapologetic Bitch, Illuminati, Devil Pray, Ghosttown and Bitch I'm Madonna, featuring Nicki Minaj. Madonna has also shared the artwork for her new album, Rebel Heart, which is still set for release in March. The striking black-and-white cover shot by fashion photographers Mert & Marcus shows the singer's face wrapped in thick black wires - and has already spawned thousands of fan recreations on Instagram, some more tongue-in-cheek than others.
But is her new music up to scratch? Here's our track-by-track review.
Living for Love
This uplifting dance tune is a perfectly-pitched comeback single: rather than returning with a cheap EDM banger, Madonna hitches herself to the 90s house revival, a sound she helped to spearhead first time around with hits like Vogue and Deeper and Deeper. When she sings "I picked up my crown, put it back on my head," it feels like a statement of intent.
Co-produced by DJ Dahi and Blood Diamonds, this semi-acoustic mid-tempo track has echoes of the underrated American Life album. Initially lines like "we can sniff glue and we can do E and we can drop acid" sound awkward and clunky, but after a few listens Devil Pray blossoms into a decent anti-drugs lament.
An affecting electro-ballad with a sweet message about the importance of sticking together when everything around you turns to shit, Ghosttown is made special by a glorious stealth bomb of a chorus.
Madonna has used the #unapologeticbitch Instagram hashtag so much that this track had to be good - and luckily it is. The loping reggae rhythms bring to mind Santigold and recent Rihanna, but the irresistible chorus and spunky lyrics are classic Madge. Check out this V-sign flicked at a hopeless ex: "I"m popping bottles that you can't even afford / I'm throwin' parties and you won't get in the door."
A smart idea, stylishly executed. Here Madonna taps into society's obsession with the idea of an all-seeing secret organisation by telling us what she thinks it isn't - and that includes "Jay-Z and Beyoncé… Queen Elizabeth or Kanye". Talking of Mr West, he co-produced this grinding jam, which has some terrific vocal hooks and Madge rapping, pretty well actually.
Bitch I'm Madonna (featuring Nicki Minaj)
This Diplo-produced party anthem is as childish as its title, with a heavily-vocodered Madge singing: "The neighbour's pissed and says he's gonna call the Five-O." In 2014, does Madonna really party so hard that her neighbours call the police? Obviously not, but with the added bonus of an equally silly Nicki rap, this is a must-have addition to your next pre-drinks playlist.