It’s hard to believe that Madonna’s first album, “Madonna”, came out almost 32 years ago.
Just this week, she released her 13th studio album, “Rebel Heart”.
At 56, she still has a lot to say and she still brings relevance to pop music even though most radio stations in the United States and England are blatantly ageist and won’t play her new music. That’s the only reason that I mentioned her age. It appears that if you’re a woman of a certain age, it doesn’t matter if the music is good or not, you have no place on today’s Top 40 radio.
This isn’t my opinion, this is fact.
BBC Radio1 in the United Kingdom wouldn’t add Madonna’s new single, “Living For Love”, the first release from “Rebel Heart”. However, it was added to BBC Radio2 stations. That’s the U.S. equivalent of not being hip enough for MTV, but okay for VH1 — when they were music video stations.
Last year, BBC Radio1’s George Ergatoudis, who programs the station’s playlists, stated they were going for a younger audience, ages 15-30, “The vast majority of people who like Madonna, who like her music now, are over 30 and frankly, we’ve moved on from Madonna.”
So, is Rebel Heart” worthy of radio airplay in the U.K. or the U.S., two of most influential countries in the world of music? The first single, the Diplo-produced, “Living For Love” is incredible and it became Madonna’s 44th number one song on the Billboard Dance Club chart.
There are several versions of the album available. Here in the U.S., there’s the standard 14-song collection and a 19-song deluxe version, which I bought and I’m talking about today.
While I think that Madonna and Reba McEntire are two of the greatest entertainers in music and I’m huge fans of both, I’m not one of those people that think every song and every album they release is the best thing ever.
Madonna is putting that to the test this week and Reba’s first album in more than four years, “Love Somebody”, comes out on April 10th.
Back to “Rebel Heart” which is likely to debut at #1 in the U.K. becoming her 12th number one album.
In the U.S., it’s in a neck and neck race with the “Empire” television soundtrack to top the Billboard 200 chart. If “Rebel Heart” does top the U.S. chart, it’ll be Madonna’s ninth number one album and her sixth consecutive chart topper dating back to “Music” in 2000.
Of the 19 songs on the deluxe album, eight are absolutely flawless (“Living For Love”, “Devil Pray”, “Ghosttown”, “Bitch I’m Madonna”, “Joan of Arc”, Holy Water”, “Inside Out”, and “Rebel Heart”). Those all are A+ songs.
“Ghosttown” has already been picked as the second single from the album.
Religion still plays a big part in Madonna’s music and here’s a warning: “Holy Water” really isn’t about what you’d think is.
It’s a song about sex and it’s very graphic with lyrics that would make me blush! Oh, who am I kidding? It’s my favorite song on the album, but listen at your own risk!
“Holy Water” sounds like a continuation of her 1993 “Erotica” album and it’s fun and very sexual.
And, Madonna gets points for smoothly working in her 1990 hit “Vogue” into “Holy Water”.
Seven more songs are great and would still rate an “A” or “A-” (“Unapologetic Bitch”, “Illuminati”, “Iconic”, “HeartBreakCity”, “Wash All Over Me”, “Veni Vidi Vici”, and “Messiah”.
That leaves four songs that are just okay.
Honestly, there’s nothing really wrong with “Hold Tight”, “Body Shop”, and Best Night” because I love Madonna’s voice on them. However, for a woman who’s had more Top Ten songs on the Billboard Hot 100 than the Beatles, those three of the four weakest songs on “Rebel Heart”.
Obviously, Madge still loves sex and is not shy singing about it. I love it that Madonna is still a very sexual woman and that she still wears what she wants and loves showing off all of her amazing assets (if you know what I mean).
The final song that I haven’t mentioned, “S.E.X.” is the opposite of the sexy she exudes on “Holy Water”. It’s sounds very juvenile and unsexy. Maybe it’ll take more listens before it arouses my musical curiosity!
I want to feature a few of songs that I deemed “A+” and “absolutely flawless” before I share my final grade and some parting thoughts about “Rebel Heart”.
In the fun category and with a little help from her friend, Nicki Minaj, “Bitch I’m Madonna” took me back to the zaniness of “I’m Going Bananas” from “I’m Breathless”, music from and inspired by the movie “Dick Tracy”.
The fun doesn’t stop there on “Devil Pray”, the second song on the album. It sounds rooted in bluegrass and would compliment “Don’t Tell Me”, Madonna’s hit from the 2000 album “Music”. “Devil Pray” will likely play prominently in the fall “Rebel Heart Tour”.
While Madonna is known for her ability to fill dance floors, she excels at ballads and that is so clear on “Joan of Arc”. I could listen to that song all day!
If you buy the standard version instead of the deluxe version, you’ll miss out on the title track, which is one of the most autobiographical songs of Madonna’s career.
FINAL SNIPPETS ABOUT SOME OF THE SONGS
“Unapologetic Bitch” has a very reggae sound.
“Illuminati” name checks everyone from President Obama to Oprah Winfrey and from Justin Bieber to Lady Gaga. Is it the new “Vogue”?
“Iconic” opens with boxing legend Mike Tyson and features a very weak rap by Chance The Rapper.
“Wash All Over Me” is a beautiful, subtle ballad.
“Veni Vidi Vici” features many Madonna song titles as lyrics and a poignant and time sensitive rap by Nas about rioting in Ferguson. Too bad that Nas didn’t rap on “Ironic”, too!
Age should not be a factor when of the top-selling music artists of all time releases a new album.
“Rebel Heart” shows that Madonna is still relevant and that she still has her finger on the pulse of pop music. After all, she is and will always be the “Queen of Pop”.
Sadly, radio groups saturate their playlists with artists that appeal to teenagers and young adults.
It would be nice if these people could experience the music of in icon that has changed with the times and refused to act her age. After all, age is just a number and Madonna is a “Rebel Heart” and some things will never change.
To borrow a line from the best, she “ICONIC”.
“REBEL HEART” gets an…
After just the first few listens, I haven’t decided if “Rebel Heart” will be of my favorite Madonna albums of all time and replace “Like A Virgin” in the Top Five.
For right now (and in April 2012 when I first blogged this), Madonna’s self-titled debut is still my all-time favorite:
#5 “Like A Virgin” (1984)
#4 “MDNA” (2012)
#3 “True Blue” (1986)
#2 “Confessions on a Dance Floor” (2005)
#1 “Madonna” (1983)