Christmas really has come early this year hasn't it kids? First D'Angelo finally releases his new album Black Messiah (which was well worth the wait), then Madonna blesses us with six tracks from her upcoming album Rebel Heart. True, Madge's hand was forced by the leak of her entire album to the 'net, but IMO, this is the best thing that could have happened, as it's done something for the new release that Hard Candy and MDNA sorely needed: genuine anticipation and interest.
Of course, what's going to keep everyone's attention is the music. So let's get into shall we? Here are my thoughts on Madge's new tracks:
1) "Living For Love"-- 10's across the board on this track, which features Alicia Keys on well, the keys. A seamless blend of house and soul, it combines the best of old school Madonna--think the "take me higher" vibe of "Like A Prayer" meets "Nothing Fails" from American Life--without sounding dated. Though it's produced by Diplo, clearly hanging with Disclosure has rubbed off on our girl. There are also other versions, including one featuring up-and-coming singer MNEK, which gets me all kinds of excited for the remixes coming down the pipe.
2) "Devil Pray" -- Another killer track, which tackles one of Madonna's favorite topics, religion, in a new and fresh way, mixing in drug references galore ("We can smoke weed and we can drink whisky/And we can sniff glue/And we can do E/And we can drop acid") with promises to "make the devil pray" to make a point about the false enlightenment certain substances provide. A superior sequel to MDNA's "I'm A Sinner."
3) "Ghosttown" -- While it definitely owes a debt to Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball," this ballad is strong enough in its own right to overcome any rip off criticisms. Madonna's vocals are on point, while the lyrics follow the theme of uplift started on "Living for Love." Definitely a song that could and should get some radio play.
4) "Unapologetic Bitch" -- The title had me deeply worried for what was in store for my ears--more waiting/hesitating/anticipating couplets came to mind--but fortunately, my fears were unfounded. Though I didn't instantly love it like the previous three songs, "Unapologetic Bitch"--a reggae-meets-trap kiss off--has grown on me with each listen. Madonna tries out a, shall we say 'Yonce inspired vocal cadence (in the sense its very percussive), and it largely works.
5) "Illuminati" -- I guess all those YouTube conspiracy videos must have gotten under Madge's craw, since she uses this track to dispel hysterical notions about, you guessed it, the Illuminati. Definitely could see a track like this coming out of Britney's camp--the heavy bass and electro feel reminds me of Blackout or Femme Fatale, but unlike Ms. Spears, Madonna has an artistic identity (though admittedly it hasn't shined as brightly on her recent music) and raises the quality of the track with the quirky subject matter and melodic hooks.
6) "Bitch I'm Madonna" -- My least favorite of the bunch. However tongue-in-cheek she may have intended them to be, the lyrics leave a bad taste in my mouth every time I hear them. When it comes to being alpha female queen biatches, I'd rather my pop divas be about it then talk about it, m'kay? Or least talk about it in more creative way than "We get freaky if you want/Na na na na na." That said, musically it's hella catchy and aggressive--I can't wait to play it on some big speakers--and while I'm surprised she went to the Minaj well for the third time, Nicki's verse slays.
All in all, I'm excited to hear the rest of Rebel Heart. What do you think?