Madonna gets down with Kanye, Avicii and more on a supercatchy, sexed-up album
Rebel Heart is a long, passionate, self-referential meditation on losing love and finding purpose in chilling times. It's also a chance for the Queen of Pop to floss a bit and reflect on how she painstakingly carved a path others have happily twerked down in the years since her 1983 debut. The über-fit 56-year-old star gleefully enunciates "bitch" on the refreshing, reggae-tinged "Unapologetic Bitch" and the frenetic, Nicki Minaj-assisted "Bitch I'm Madonna," both featuring Diplo's ear-tingling airhorn blasts. She quotes herself on three songs, calling back to iconic passages from "Vogue" and "Justify My Love" before whisper-rapping about her past hits in "Veni Vidi Vici."
Her co-pilots this time aren't the electro mavens who assisted on 2012's glossy MDNA nor the pop titans who lent a hand on 2008's dancier Hard Candy — they're trendier talents like Blood Diamonds and established hitmakers like Kanye West. Sometimes these collaborations gel perfectly, like on "Illuminati," West's grimy take on the Internet's favorite conspiracy theory, and "Devil Pray," where Avicii helps Madonna revive the strums-and-beats vibe of 2000's Music. And Minaj's verse on "Bitch I'm Madonna" is pure fire.
Unfortunately, cameos from Nas, Chance the Rapper and Mike Tyson don't elevate their respective songs. And Madonna lets her own appetite for over-the-top sex songs run wild on a handful of cringy tracks like "Holy Water" (an ode to oral sex featuring the unfortunate line "Yeezus loves my pussy best") and "S.E.X.," which spells out an unconventional list of bedroom aids including "chopsticks, underwear, bar of soap, dental chair."
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.