Madonna, “Rebel Heart” (Boy Toy/Live Nation/Interscope)
Madonna’s 13th studio album, “Rebel Heart,” beats with romance and rebellion. At 19 tracks, it’s an overstuffed triptych through the iconic performer’s life, careening between uplifting dance tracks, like the percolating “Living for Love” — her 44th No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart — and corrosively bitter tunes such as the Avicii-produced “HeartBreakCity.”
Songs such as the largely acoustic “Devil Pray,” which will stylistically remind many of “Don’t Tell Me”; the achingly vulnerable “Joan of Arc”; and the deceptively double entendre-filled, lilting “Body Shop” course with vitality and showcase some of Madonna’s best singing in years.
While the majority of the material falls solidly in the positive, some of the tunes undoubtedly meant to sound fierce and liberating just feel tired, like the electro-clash braggadocio of “Bitch I’m Madonna,” featuring Nicki Minaj, and the tedious X-rated bump-and-grind of the Kanye West-produced “Holy Water.”
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.
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