Madonna may claim that Rebel Heart represented her dark and romantic side, of some rot like that, but this album resembles more of an introspective look at her old catalog. Unlike her last few efforts, she collaborated with what seems like a cruise ship full of people from Ryan Tedder to Toby Gad if only to create songs that bring to mind echoes of her better songs in the past.
It’s not like the songs here are exact carbon copies of some older songs. There are just vibes here that seem familiar. Devil Pray is a pretty good track, but it also reminds me of her Bedtime Stories era for some reason. Ghosttown is a typical Madonna’s big ballad track, again a solid and even heartfelt track in its own right, but the biggest reaction it elicits in me is that, hey, this sounds almost like Madonna in the old days, when she serves up lovely ballads like Live to Tell and Spanish Eyes. And so forth: there are many songs here, and while not every one is great, there are enough solid songs to make me think fondly of the days when Madonna was musically at her peak. But when is this a bad thing?
There is a bigger problem here, though.
I like Body Shop, which has a beautiful melody, but the lyrics, which compares the act of foreplay to car repair at the workshop, makes me cringe a little. The bridge is gorgeous, though. Likewise, Messiah is a beautiful song, but the lyrics make me wince due to how juvenile the whole thing is. Bitch I’m Madonna, which once again features Nicki Minaj, is silly, irreverent, but suffers from unimaginative lyrics that fail to match the tongue-in-cheek nature of the production. See a pattern here? The many, many, many people who share songwriting credits here seem to be borrowing catchphrases from greeting cards and bad stand-up comedy acts.
Anyway, Rebel Heart is a pretty good album, and it is easily the best offering from Madonna in this decade. At least she’s not trying too hard here, unlike in those debacles, and tracks such as Joan of Arc can bring a smile to my face. There is enough of that old Madonna magic here to give me a rather melancholic good time. It’s like reuniting with an old boyfriend, I guess, only to realize that those old feelings may never be coming back again – we’ve both changed too much to relive those days, that kind of thing. But if she keeps this up, there’s nothing to stop me from starting on a clean slate. It may not be so embarrassing to call myself a fan again, heh.