Saturday, December 20, 2014

Madonna - are those new tracks any cop?

Madonna wasn't supposed to put out any new music this year. But that was before a "helpful" associate decided to share demo tracks for her entire new album with the internet.

The star had been plagued by leaks anyway. Earlier this month, she posted a photo of a smashed iPod on Instagram as a reaction to the appearance of the title track, Rebel Heart. "This broken ipod is a symbol of my broken heart!" she wrote. "I have been violated as a human and an artist! #fuckedupshit."

If I was the source of the leaks, I'd wouldn't like to be around when Madonna finds out my name. But at the same time, she pretty much has herself to blame - her 13th album has been gestating longer than an elephant and the more people get involved, the more likely it is that something will tunnel it's way onto the internet.

But, being Madonna, she responded in style: Tackling the leaker head on by depositing five tracks on iTunes, and another onto YouTube this morning.

"I was hoping to release my new single 'Living For Love' on Valentine's Day with the rest of the album coming in the Spring," she said in an official statement. "I would prefer my fans to hear completed versions of some of the songs instead of the incomplete tracks that are circulating. Please consider these six songs as an early Christmas gift".

Living For Love, sadly, is the YouTube-only track but it's the most interesting, because it was supposed to (and basically still does) set the tone for the album. It sounds like this:

Madonna - Living For Love

So what's all this new material like? It's quite simple: If you like Living For Love, you're going to like everything else. Diplo, the album's main producer, has his fingerprints everywhere - dirty synth hooks, pitch-shifted vocals and, on Unapologetic Bitch, a cod-reggae backing track. The only exception is Ghosttown, a stately ballad that sounds like a future single.

Personally, though, I'm not a huge fan of Madonna's late-period vocals - she's still doing that half-sung, half-spoken trick that became her stock sound on the Hard Candy album. It's a style that makes good use of her limited range, but it has the tendency to sound harsh and bitter, even when the lyrics are sentimental.

That's not always a problem here - as the song titles suggest ("Bitch, I'm Madonna", "Unapologetic Bitch", "Illuminati") she's in street-fighting mode right now, and Diplo usually has the good sense to dress her up in club sounds (all over, all over) that make a virtue of her demanding delivery (from her head down to her toes).

After my first few listens, the Madge album it compares to the most is Confessions On A Dancefloor - aka her last decent record - so the auspices are good. A solid 6/10.

You can get the tracks for yourself by pre-orderding Madonna's album, Rebel Heart on iTunes.

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