Showing posts with label Madonna. Show all posts

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Rebel Heart | Madonna


Madonna has been in the music industry since the early 1980s, but she's definitely not above the digital problems of the twenty-first century. Portions of her thirteenth album, Rebel Heart, were prompted for digital release late last year after a full album's worth of demos were leaked online. After she claimed to be a victim of "artistic rape," (That's right, kids: A leaked album is almost the same thing as being raped.) she released six of the album's fourteen standard tracks for immediate download on iTunes. She started a total #RebelHeart takeover on Instagram and soon caused controversy by superimposing black wire into photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela to promote her album. Filling the album with track titles like "Illuminati," "Devil Pray," and "Unapologetic Bitch" certainly didn't hurt the gossip mill, either. While Madonna sure knows how to stir the pot of gossip, is there still any substance behind this Rebel Heart?

Madonna is a chameleon in pop music; each album shifts her in a new direction, but she retains a certain level of her own personality with each new turn. One of her most beloved albums, 2005's Confessions on a Dance Floor, was drenched in '80s-inspired pop. Her eleventh studio album, Hard Candy, was released in 2008 and was almost entirely produced by R&B production giants Timbaland and The Neptunes (a duo composed of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo). Finally, by the time MDNA dropped in 2012, Madonna kicked other influences to the curb in favor of rehashed synthpop. 

Fast forward to 2015, we now get Madonna featuring Diplo and Avicii as she transitions to clean-cut electronic dance. To much surprise, Madonna doesn't just offer cut-and-dried dance music this time around, either. She and her producers pack the hardest EMD punches on "Iconic," featuring Chance the Rapper and awkward spoken snippets from professional boxer Mike Tyson, and "Bitch I'm Madonna," an ode to herself in which she is ironically out-performed vocally by previous collaborator Nicki Minaj. On "Living for Love," we get gospel-inspired chants and vocal soars over Diplo's production, and elements of "Devil Pray" seem to be lifted straight from a western movie score before sliding into an impressive bass drop. Although it is without a proper bass drop, "Holy Water" also exudes great production handiwork and samples Madonna's own "Vogue."

While Madonna's production choices shine on Rebel Heart, she has regressed lyrically. She has not lost her try-hard attitude that really shined through on MDNA; if anything, her desire to achieve an untouchable, bad-ass status has intensified. After all, Madonna is now accepting of her role as an "Unapologetic Bitch" and isn't afraid to tell everyone how it is. "Holy Water" includes the demand of "Bitch, get off my pole" and blurred (and slightly alarming) exclamations of "Jesus loves my pussy best," while in "Devil Pray," she mindlessly rambles off a bunch of edgy activities: "And we can do drugs / And we can smoke weed / And we can drink whiskey / Yeah we can get high / And we can get stoned / And we can sniff glue / And we can do E / And we can drop acid." In other words, 56-year-old Madonna is not like a regular mom. She's a cool mom.

While Her Madgesty brings some spunky tracks to the table, the whole album doesn't dazzle with excellence. Perhaps instead of churning out ten extra tracks for deluxe and super deluxe pressings of Rebel Heart, Madonna should have weeded out the bland filler tracks on the standard edition like "Body Shop" and "HeartBreakCity." Moreover, she is not bringing anything extraordinarily new to the table; "Hold Tight," for example, is the stepsister to Gwen Stefani's "Baby Don't Lie." Inevitably, previous pieces of Madonna gold cannot be overshadowed by anything post-Confessions, but she's doing her best to extend her shelf-life. Let's all just be ecstatic that there is noticeable improvement from MDNA and enjoy Rebel Heart for what it is: a respectable stab at EDM and grittier synthpop.

Rebel Heart will be released on March 10, 2015 through Interscope Records, Boy Toy, and Live Nation Worldwide. Standard, deluxe, and super deluxe pressings will be available.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Most Anticipated Albums of 2015


Meghan Trainor caught the attention of radio listeners last year with "All About That Bass," a song that promotes positive body image and uniquely blends pop and doo-wop. She dropped a four-track extended play with more doo-wop style tracks before unleashing "Lips Are Movin'" and definite plans for her debut album, Title. Her extended play tanked commercially but contained four quality tracks, including "Bass." With two huge singles and two Grammy nominations under her belt now, can Trainor use this album as a way to prove herself as much more than '2014's Carly Rae Jepsen'? Hopefully so.


Eighteen year old Ella Henderson released her debut album in the middle of last year at home in the United Kingdom, but this year will see the proper release of Chapter One in the United States. The lead single "Ghost" tested Henderson's waters for American radio airplay last year before retailers quietly slipped out an album release date. Despite the ability to plug Henderson as the next big voice of the music industry's younger population and flaunt her success on the United Kingdom version of The X Factor, her record labels have failed to plug her with much promotion Stateside. It unfortunately won't be the first time a talented artist has been gypped out of guaranteed success in America recently (Foxes, Kiesza), but at least some of us will have a major pop album to look forward to.


Before our eyes, Fifth Harmony has transformed from the headlining act of a Justice clothing store soundtrack to a wholehearted attempt to become America's new favorite girl group. The young women underwent a image change with last summer's female-empowerment hip-hop track, "BO$$," before announcing plans to release their debut album, Reflection. Fans were also later treated to the synthpop anthem "Sledgehammer," which was penned by "All About That Bass" singer Meghan Trainor and is now wiggling its way up the Billboard Hot 100. If the group's single choices represent the album as a whole, Reflection is sure to be a mixed bag of influences but also an enjoyable listen.


Madonna tried to keep her album plans under lock and key as she planned not-so-secret studio sessions with English singer-songwriter Natalia Kills and posted cryptic messages via Instagram hinting at new music, but it didn't work. Last month, a full album's worth of demos spilled on the Internet and Madonna geared to counteract her "artistic rape" by rush-releasing an announcement and dropping a third of her upcoming album, Rebel Heart, on iTunes. The six songs that have already been released from the 19-track set make it clear that Madonna wants to follow the electronic dance trend with help from Diplo and Avicii, expanding on the electronic undertones of 2012's MDNA


The gay Tumblr community may have broken the Internet when Marina Diamandis formally killed off her Electra Heart alter ego in 2014, but they surely tried to do it again when she dropped "Froot," the title track to her upcoming third studio album. Taking a creative approach to this album cycle, Diamandis decided to treat fans who pre-ordered the album with a new "froot," or new track from the album, every month. Using this system, we will have heard half of the album's material by the time it is released in full. The real concern here is if the dropped "froots" can withstand the test of time and remain completely fresh by the time we hear the album as a whole bushel.


Just when we thought Gwen Stefani was only going to be a permanent member of pop-rock band No Doubt from this point on, we were wrong. After a push from previous collaborator Pharrell Williams, Stefani unexpectedly jumped back into the solo pop life with "Baby Don't Lie" and "Spark the Fire." Everybody lovingly remembers Love. Angel. Music. Baby. and The Sweet Escape, but has Stefani aged as well sonically as she has visually? "Baby Don't Lie" puts her back in the book as a force to be reckoned with, while "Spark the Fire" is a confusing nod back to "Hollaback Girl." Her upcoming album could be a toss-up based on her single choices thus far.


Doesn't everyone remember when Fergie took over the pop music industry with one solo album before receding back to her Black Eyed Peas territory? Much like Gwen Stefani, she's back with an attempt to regain control of the charts and public eye. Sadly, "L.A.Love (la la)" didn't live up to its high expectations. However, a full length album with collaborators other than DJ Mustard might bring something magical to the table. Despite her lead single's lackluster performance, keep an eye out for Fergie: she may have a few new tricks up her sleeve for this next album.


Ellie Goulding hasn't released a full body of work since 2012's Halcyon, which was re-released in 2013 with its companion piece titled Halcyon Days, but she still managed to keep busy in 2014. She played a key role in the score and soundtrack to the film adaptation of Divergent, ended her monstrous tour to promote Halcyon, and wrote and performed features on tracks with Iggy Azalea, Calvin Harris, Seven Lions, and DJ Fresh. She also declared plans for her next full length album, tentatively planned for this year. She hinted the album would draw from her "affinity with electronic music, classical music and folk music," much like Halcyon successfully did.

*tentative title

Somebody sound an alarm: we've officially hit a Rihanna drought. From 2007 to 2012, the Barbados native systematically released a new body of work annually, whether it was a full length album or a reissue with new material. After that, the singer went silent as "Stay" and "Right Now" slowly began to recede from the charts and radio airwaves. While her yearly albums filled with disposable pop delicacies seemed like nuisances at the time, two years without Rihanna's voice on the radio has been slightly depressing for pop music fans. If her previous album are any indicator to what R8 may sound like, expect a blur of catchy pop bits and songs aimed towards Rihanna's urban and R&B fans.

ADELE // 25*
*tentative title

Adele's 2011 check-list: Release the biggest album in well over a decade, sweep the Grammy Awards, and then go silent for a few years. She hasn't released anything since her Diamond-status 21 and subsequent live set from Royal Albert Hall, which has left music fans worldwide on the edges of their seats as to when she will drop her next full length. Pop singer Taylor Swift has the key to album sales in the palm of her hand as she now holds three albums that debuted with over one million sales each, but Adele has a much more daunting task: managing to match the success of 21 as the public eye watches closely. It is doubtful that she will stray from her soulful pop power-ballad format, but it will be interesting to see what a committed relationship and motherhood will bring to her lyrical content.
© Aural Fixation
Maira Gall