Her 13th studio album follows 2012’s release MDNA, which proved she’s still capable of hitting No. 1 on the pop charts.
Rebel Heart looks like a repeat performance. It’s climbing the charts and is expected to hit No. 1 by the weekend.
But it’s no copycat album. Where MDNA was considered biographical and reflective of her career, Rebel Heart plumbs her emotions.
The album is also more than the usual cut these days. Instead of 10 or 12 songs, the album has 19 new tracks. Songs like “Devil Pray,” “Ghosttown” and “Joan of Arc” are ballads that explore human relationships, love and the meaning of life.
Added to those are tunes that reflect the rebellious side of her career. “Living for Love” and “Unapologetic Bitch,” a collaboration with Grammy-nominated American DJ Diplo, are hard driving, beat-influenced dance numbers.
“One side was going to be the more rebellious, provocative, envelope pushing part of me and the other side was going to be the more romantic, vulnerable side and they end up getting all mushed together,” Madonna told Reuters News Service.
Madonna also jumps on the recent trend of collaborating with other artists.
Kanye West is featured on four songs, and rappers Nas, Nicki Minaj and even boxer Mike Tyson make vocal appearances on the album. Who but Madonna would tap an ex-boxer?
As much as the album is new, some of the themes the Material Girl explores, such as sex and religion, are familiar territory for her.
“They are as important to people as they are misunderstood,” she said. “They both bring a lot of light into the world and a lot of darkness. For those reasons, I like to explore them.”
Critics, so far, are giving the album a thumbs up.
“It is a strong, welcome detour in the artist’s recent discography. Or just call it a return to form since the album is her most satisfying effort in a decade and nimbly connects the dots between Madonna’s various eras and guises,” wrote James Reed in The Boston Globe.
Randall Roberts was just as glowing in the Los Angeles Times.
“Rebel Heart, like its creator, pushes through the pain and, more often than not, lands solidly and with great grace on its feet,” he writes.
Madonna will hit the road to promote the album with a global tour, starting in late summer in Miami, Aug. 29.