Tue. Sep 29th, 2020

Talking Madonna with Erik and Abdi: Episode 13 – ‘REBEL HEART’ (2015)

“Never look back, it’s a waste of time” is a major theme of Rebel Heart, both the 13th album by Madonna and the title track itself. Yet, paradoxically, the 19 songs on the ungainly deluxe edition of the album (which is the album we talk about in this round because the standard version doesn’t even have the title song), is absolutely packed to the gills with self-reference. Some are sly, just a “You can’t mess with this lucky star” type of line here and there. Some are more blatant, like the interlude to “Vogue” in “Holy Water.” Then there’s “Veni Vidi Vici,” which namechecks virtually every hit single of her 30+ year career in one song.

In talking about the album, Madonna herself says, “There’s a looking back here, a missing the beginning of my career when I was surrounded by other artists… like Keith Haring and Basquiat and Warhol. It was a time when pop music was more naive and free. I was missing that feeling and that mixture of so many different worlds in New York.” Basquiat and Haring, both personal friends of Madonna in the 80s, are featured in the super deluxe edition of the album on the song “Graffiti Heart.”

Thematically, along with that healthy dose of nostalgia, Rebel Heart finds a lot of room for Madonna’s two most consistent topics: sex and religion. Always a rebel when it comes to her sexuality, the album holds a wide range of sexually driven songs that range from demure and playful (“Body Shop”) to what her pussy tastes like (“Holy Water”). She worked with Nicki Minaj once again after MDNA, brought Kanye West back from Hard Candy as a producer and co-songwriter, and made room for Mike Tyson, Nas and Chance The Rapper as featured artists.

Rebel Heart also contains the most songwriter and producer credits of any of Madonna’s albums, including the late Avicii, and it makes the album (all versions of it) so unwieldy that it denies us one her greatest attributes as an artist and that’s arranging a perfectly curated album of theme, rhythm and song order. The album was also plagued with massive leaks, first of just a few songs and early demos to the complete record before its release.  A police investigation led to an Israeli man being arrested and charged with hacking into Madonna’s computer and leaking the songs.

The album gave Madonna, still the most successful female music artist of all time, her last Billboard Hot 100 charter but also her most viewed music video of all time (both “Bitch I’m Madonna) and yet another massively prosperous tour.

Sit back and enjoy our 19-song (and three-hour conversation!) look back at Rebel Heart in all of its messy glory.

LIVING FOR LOVE

EA: Rebel Heart is going to be an interesting album conversation. When I reviewed it in 2015 I was pretty high on it and high on songs that I really dislike now. What’s been fascinating about revisiting Madonna’s albums chronologically is certainly looking at them from the vantage point of history, impact, and meaning at the time. We’re doing the Deluxe version of this album because, strangely, the title track is not on the Standard version. That gives us 19 songs (the Super Deluxe is 25!) to get through and one of my biggest complaints about this album is the constant repetition of the phrase ‘in the dark’ or ‘out of the darkness’ and every iteration of that possible. I think I counted 14 uses of it on Rebel Heart and considering how many songwriters on it you’d think you’d get a little more variance on themes. This album was also wrapped up in so much DRAMA with songs beginning to leak – demos, actually – and then the whole album leaking. She called it “artistic rape” and “terrorism” which was hyperbolic in an actual sense but understandable from an artist’s perspective as their work was stolen from them in such a brazen way. What I found interesting was listening to the demos (yes, I did) and then the full album when it came out and working through my thoughts of the artistic choices that she and her over a dozen producers made, many of which I disagreed with. One thing I think is great about this album is that it feels like it’s the last time Madonna really cared about critical reaction and radio play. I think she finally got to the point where she was not going to make any singles or songs for radio when they weren’t going to play them anyway. It’s ironic because some of the songs on here are so incredibly radio friendly and one them stands as her biggest video hit of all time on YouTube. But let’s dig into the first track: “Living For Love.” Brilliant lead single and song and should have been a massive radio hit. It’s an exuberant, anthem-ready monster of a song that I listen to multiple times a week still. It plays with a lot of Madonna nostalgia and harks back to everything from “Like a Prayer” to the True Blue era but in this case does it without a giant, obvious nod. It’s a past, present and future song and like many on this album, speaks to her where she’s at in her career, how she chooses to reflect and, of course, always on her own terms.

AN: Ah, the Rebel Heart era. Maybe one of the most fraught era for Madonna fans. The songs leaking before the fact started things off in such a terrible way. It put Madonna in a defensive mode before things even got started. And it made many fans unfairly compare the finished product to the demos, just like you did, ha!! (for the record, with one title track exception, I prefer the album versions). All the DRAMA aside, this is a major return to what Madonna does best, creating simple and brilliant pop music. A lot of these songs could fit on her classic albums, from True Blue to Like a Prayer to Ray of Light. The album finds Madonna looking back way more than she ever has, referencing herself constantly, and writing about her early days in New York. “Living For Love,” a song that clearly references “Like a Prayer” with its gospel-pop sound, felt like a fantastic single to me when it came out. I remember a whole group of friends coming over to watch the Grammys the night she premiered it. Everyone was cheering. It felt triumphant. Then came the infamous fall while performing the song at the Brits. So many people, as always, seemed to have it out for her. The whole era felt tainted by the people who wanted her to fail. And yet, when she fell at the Brits, she got back up and finished the song. And that to me is a CLASSIC Madonna moment. She gets back up. And despite being hacked, she delivered a consistently good album and a phenomenal tour in this era. So yeah, she’s gonna carry on. Anyway, I love this song and I love this album. It’s also an emotional one for me because my kids were four when it came out and we listened to it NON-STOP, so I associate a lot of the songs (including this one) with a really special moment in their childhood. It’s hard for me to listen to this without getting a little weepy about the power that comes from sharing music you love with your kids… and having them love it too.

DEVIL PRAY

AN: I remember hearing the song for the first time and being really shocked by the lyrics. Madonna singing about smoking weed, drinking whiskey and sniffing glue felt profoundly… strange. But it makes sense as a response to the MDNA era. That was an album where the title was a drug pun, and where the album’s best single saw Madonna singing about drinking Tanqueray. Here, she’s pushing back against all of that. She sings about substances leaving us forever lost, with no way home, and it creates a really beautiful song that brings her back to themes she’s close to. And it feels really personal. Also, the effect on some of the background vocals sound just like Cher, so I choose to believe this is the Madonna / Cher duet we’ll never get.

EA: Musically I think this is a great song, with its country-tinged vibe not unlike “Don’t Tell Me” in some ways. The drug references though, to me, are really silly. She names them off like your mom would do if she found a pipe in your room; it’s inauthentic to me. Especially since Madonna, for so long, was a non-drinker and didn’t do any drugs of any kind (as she has said in the past). She changed her tune a bit after this album came out saying that it is partly about her own experiences so I’m not really sure what to think there. I do like that this is a different take on spirituality and religion than she’s done before and I love that she can find new ways to talk about themes that have been a part of her career for 30 years.

GHOSTTOWN

EA: I know how much you love this song and where it stands in her discography and I’m here to tell you…I totally agree. I think it might be her best ballad since “Bad Girl” and even though the theme is apocalyptic it’s much more intimate than it is grandiose. I think that’s why it’s so successful; the concept is high stakes but she gives it the intimacy and gravitas to make it work. It gives us her most haunting vocals since Ray of Light and Evita, to be sure, and her lower register and depth is weirdly reminiscent of Karen Carpenter’s signature style. It deserved to be a multi-week #1 hit like her ballads used to be but at least it was the song that broke the all time Billboard record for most #1s on a single chart (Dance Club Songs, of course).

AN: Maybe this song is too much, too much for a man to take. Seriously though, hands down one of the best songs Madonna has released in the latter part of her career, if not ever. The fact that it didn’t even chart is so wrong. If this were released in her imperial phase, it would’ve been another “Take a Bow.” I wish it had been performed regularly on the tour, but perhaps my favorite live moment this song received (and I love the Taylor Swift performance, obviously) is when Madonna performed it in the Place de la Republique in Paris following the terrorist attacks there. The videos of her performing this stunning song as a nation grieved were so gorgeous. And the fact that she did that speaks to her willingness to put herself out there and be vulnerable and present, even when emotions are running high. What other star of her magnitude would perform in a public square? Or attend as many protests as she has recently? One frustrating part about the last few eras in Madonna’s career is the way people only seem to focus on her when she does something they don’t like, and ignore her when she does inspiring, beautiful things, which is the majority of the time. Anyway, this song is gorgeous and unbearably prescient. Did she predict 2020? I think she did (and no this is not a QAnon conspiracy theory, it’s just proof that Madonna is an artist who pays attention to the world around her and writes about it).

EA: I dunno, that sounds a little more like Illuminati…

UNAPOLOGETIC BITCH

AN: I really love this song. It’s fun. It’s catchy. It’s both a kiss-off and a statement about who she is at her core. It’s also nice to see Madonna flirting with a completely new sound and vocal delivery here, but making it her own as she always does. It was nice to see the song featured so prominently on tour, where it really shined.

EA: I like that she has two ‘Bitch’ songs on this record and definitely how she uses both of them with such confidence and strength. I remember this title being one that people thought was going to be the album name when everything was leaking. Lyrically it’s fun (but six writers…why) but I’m admittedly not a big fan of reggae and that’s mostly about tempo as I’ve mentioned with some of Madge’s mid-tempo songs that I’m not head over heels for. I like the impact of Santigold and M.I.A. here and it actually would have been a fun collaboration for her to reunite with M.I.A. on this track.

ILLUMINATI

EA: Not going to sugarcoat it, I really don’t like this song at all. I wish she had left Kanye West back in Hard Candy because this doesn’t feel like Madonna. It’s lyrically juvenile (EIGHT writers) and feels like just another excuse to namecheck people in a song. I know she’s said it’s a response to people saying she’s a part of the Illuminati but she never goes into what it actually was, which might have been fun.

AN: Oh, I mean, I’ll disagree on this one. This was one of kids’ favorites when the album came out, and I have very fond memories of bouncing around the house dancing to it with them. And the fact that she includes Gaga in the list when people want so desperately to pit them against each other put a smile on my face. More power to her for taking people’s absurdity and turning it into art, even if it took eight writers. As for Kanye, more on that later when Yeezus is name checked…

EA: I still have PTSD about that…

BITCH I’M MADONNA (feat. Nicki Minaj)

AN: I was a little afraid of this song from the title, but I absolutely love it. Madonna loves referencing herself, and one of my favorite instances of her doing this is in this song when she sings, “You can’t mess with this lucky star.” While the song is clearly going for an of-the-moment sound, the energy of it is pure early-New-York first-album Madonna, so the reference makes so much sense. I think we’ve already discussed why I think Nicki is one of Madonna’s best collaborators, and her verse here is fantastic. The video is also an instant classic. It’s playful and fun (sock puppets!), but there’s something resonant about it too. By having a variety of people mouth the words, “Bitch I’m Madonna,” she plays with the way in which she’s been a stand-in for so many of us through the years. It’s what I love about Nicki singing, “I’m Madonna.” The song is less about Madonna the person than it is about Madonna the concept. It’s a song about how, we can all, with the right sock puppets, be Madonna. I do wish a couple of the artists who “showed up” for the video stuck around for a proper collaboration, especially Beyoncé, who I’ve always felt is the artist who best carried on Madonna’s tradition of expertly merging pop and politics.

EA: I love, love, love this song. Like you, I was worried at first when I saw the title, even cringed a bit! But it’s so relentlessly fun and makes you immediately get up and dance. While this album is drenched in self-references (some of which are ehh) I love every single bit of this one. Madonna has talked so much about fame and repercussions of it, regrets and things she loves but this is the real unapologetic bitch. She celebrates herself, her career, her single name moniker in a way that is impossible to not love. The hand-clapping beat just makes you want to raise your arms and close your eyes. The high pitch, the “who do you think you are?” guttural scream, Nicki Minaj’s rap breakdown, it’s a total ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ song but with the kitchen sink. We didn’t mention the music videos from “Living For Love” and “Ghosttown” like we should have so we’ve got to talk about this one. From the little girl “Like a Virgin” opening to some of the biggest names in music lauding the Queen of Pop (although I lovvvve Beyoncé being the only one to not look directly into the camera while saying “Bitch, I’m Madonna”) speaks to her influence, her career and who she is in the realm of history and pop culture. She’s the world’s truest musical icon. It’s crazy that this was her last Billboard Hot 100 charted song (for now) and only hit that because of the massive YouTube numbers the video tallied up. 321M, her biggest music video to date by a significant margin.

HOLD TIGHT

EA: This song is….fine. It’s one of more filler tracks on the album. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just there. I feel bad for not liking it more as it’s the only song on the album that is solely produced by her so there’s something special about it to her. It just hits a lot of familiar beats: military drums, middle of the road tempo but I really like the chorus and the opening musical arrangement.

AN: Madonna really seems to love this song, doesn’t she? She posts it on her Instagram a lot. I like it a lot. It’s got a beautiful melody and her vocals are so warm. I want to take this opportunity to shout out one of the song’s songwriters, MNEK, who is a phenomenal artist in his own right. His debut album Language is a fantastic pop album that deserved a whole lot more attention than it got. He’s a natural Madonna collaborator, and I hope all the Madonna fans out there go listen to his music. I bet they could create some real magic together if they collaborated more closely on an album in the future.

EA: A deserved shoutout. Check him out, folks!

JOAN OF ARC

AN: One of my favorites on the album. You know I love an aching Madonna ballad, so this song is made for me. On a side note, it always bothers me when people say Madonna doesn’t do the kind of personal songwriting she did in the Like a Prayer or Ray of Light days. Who could hear this song and not read it as one of her most confessional? “This is the part where I detach” is a lyric that really wrecks me because it feels so real. I’m very happy we got a live performance of this on Ellen. I dream of an intimate tour where she does nothing but sing us her best ballads.

EA: This is one of the album’s absolute very best songs. It’s deeply personal! So much of this album is. If you remove some of the filler you have an album that is largely about her from her perspective (multiple writers aside). One of the things I especially love about this song is how clever it is. By invoking an icon like Joan of Arc she’s deliberately inviting criticism, yet the song’s refrain of “I’m not Joan of Arc…not yet” is just so genius. Something else extraordinary is that the leaked version of this was a much more somber ballad and almost sounded like she was feeling sorry for herself and full of self pity. Turning it into an upbeat song, but maintaining the lament of fame, was a legend move. It’s wild too that almost every lyric from “each time they take a photograph…” and “anything they did to me, said to me…” speak even louder as the album was literally taken from her. What I really love though is that I feel like she’s also found the middle ground of dealing with the pitfalls of fame. It feels like it exists right in between the sadness of “Drowned World/Substitute for Love” and the intense anger of “Human Nature.”

ICONIC (feat. Chance The Rapper & Mike Tyson)

EA: Oh God do I not like this song. I don’t like Mike Tyson’s marble-mouthed speech. I don’t like the overly simplistic lyrics of empowerment. I don’t like “I can’t, Icon, two letters apart.” It all just feels so lazy and slap-dashed. Plus, do we really need two songs about being an icon when “Bitch, I’m Madonna” already nails that? I like Chance the Rapper here although eke at him now after his Kanye/Biden nonsense on Twitter this weekend.

AN: This is a tough song. There are things I love about it, and things I don’t, Mike Tyson chief among them. I dream of a version where Mike Tyson’s intro was delivered by Serena Williams, a champion whose mission aligns more closely with Madonna’s. But there’s a lot I love about this song, and it felt like an appropriate tour opener. It’s hard to imagine anyone but her singing this song. Born to be a superstar indeed.

EA: Yeah, that’s one thing that I think we’ve seen in this era of her career and that’s tour songs over radio songs. She knows radio has stopped playing her and she’s creating a lot more anthem bangers that are going to get 50K people going.

HEARTBREAK CITY

AN: For me personally, it’s not an album standout, but then, it was a major standout on tour (i love your point about creating tour songs, you’re so right). I was SO close to her when she sang this, and it was vulnerable and gorgeous. But as we get to the middle section of this very, very, very long album, it feels like the right time to mention that for Madonna fans, the real “Heartbreak City” is the vast number of songs that didn’t even make the cut, and that we’ll never hear properly mastered. I know each fan has their favorite. Mine is “Never Let You Go,” a song I would put in the top tier of Madonna songs, and one I can’t believe didn’t make the album. It’s a stunning song. I also love a lot of the songs on the Super Deluxe edition more than this, especially “Beautiful Scars” and “Addicted.”

EA: Oh god, when all versions of the album came out I made my own Rebel Heart playlist that had things like “Beautiful Scars” (which is just brilliant) on it. I really love “Heartbreak City.” It feels like a prequel or sister song to “Ghosttown” to me. I love the piano. I love the “fucked me up a little” since she’s so selective about when and how she curses. Here’s a funny thing; I complained a bit ago about the military drums on “Hold Tight” (there’s a lot on this record) but I really love them here. I love the backing vocals so much, too (“best of me!” “Rest of me!”). I’m really curious about the decision to leave the last line off this song that was on the leaked version (“and I still feel shitty”) but what I think it does it just hold back on Madonna presenting a persona in the song that hasn’t gotten over her heartbreak yet.

BODY SHOP

EA: Ok this is a song that has greatly improved for me since 2015. At first I rolled my eyes at the dopey sex metaphors but over the years I’ve really grown to love it. It’s slight but it’s shockingly cute and harmless. Does it need to be here? Maybe not. It feels a bit like leftover MDNA but that little ukulele opening, the claps, it’s just too damn fun and I adore it now.

AN: I feel the exact same way. There’s a playfulness to Rebel Heart that I love. She really lets down her guard on a song like “Body Shop,” and lets herself sing in a style that feels totally new for her. The song doesn’t evoke strong emotions for me, but like you, I find it a hard song to resist.

HOLY WATER

AN: When are we getting a Lip Sync For Your Life to this song, ‘cause I need to watch two queens battle it out as they sing “Bitch Get Off My Pole” and “Bless Yourself And Genuflect.” That said, there’s something hard to, uh, swallow about the Yeezus lyrics, especially in light of Kanye’s recent politics. Thankfully, Madonna has posted against his supposed run for President, but sadly, we’ll all have to live with this lyric forever. I also understand why she brought him along for the ride of this album. His hard-to-take recent politics aside, I think he’s one of the musical geniuses of his time. He’s released so many daring, flawless albums, Yeezus chief among them. On and on and on the beat goes, I guess… just don’t bring those beats to politics please. Also, what is it with Madonna’s collaborators turning out to be anti-vaxxers? Justin, M.I.A., Kanye… it’s just too much.

EA: Oh god, I would love to see this as a LSFYL song. It’s so crazy this song comes right after the demureness of “Body Shop.” This exists on the other end of the spectrum from “Where Life Begins” and merges Madonna’s two favorite subjects: sex and religion. But this is a little less concerned about metaphor and is more of a tutorial. I do love that when she talks about sex it’s always from a standpoint of empowerment and control and “Holy Water” is certainly a tutorial. The “Vogue” breakdown, while musically fits beautifully, doesn’t make much sense otherwise…except live. This is SUCH a live song, if for that reason alone.

INSIDE OUT

EA: I like this song. It covers some similar ground to “Beautiful Scars” on the Super Deluxe version, which is maybe why there’s only one of them on the standard edition. They’re a good juxtaposition with each other as “Inside Out” is about her accepting her lovers flaws while “Beautiful Scars” is about hers. I really love “Let’s cross the line, so far we won’t come back” and that section (although, don’t take off your mask, please) and I like the hard close on the lyric.

AN: Rebel Heart is so full of perfect pop hooks that a song like this gets kind of buried in the latter half of the album. People rarely talk about this one, but it’s one of my favorites. I love the melody. I love the vocal delivery. The fact that she sings the lyric “Truth or Dare.” I mean, that’s a gift to her fans right there. It’s funny ‘cause this is another one my kids loved when the album came out, and at the time there were two Madonna songs that shared titles with their favorite Disney movies. This one, and Frozen obviously. I’m waiting for Madonna to release her next epic, Zootopia.

EA: HA HA, yes, as a duet with Shakira.

WASH ALL OVER ME

AN: Another one of my favorite songs on the album. Along with the title track, this may have my favorite lyrics. Because I’m heard the demo for this one mentioned often, I want to go on the record in saying that I think the album version is leagues better. An interesting thing about fans hearing so many demos is that it felt like an education in the importance of music production. I think Rebel Heart is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to songwriting. Fans keep asking for Madonna to link back up with Patrick Leonard. But seriously, I bet if we were told that she wrote Living for Love and “Ghosttown” and “Wash All Over Me” and “Messiah” and “Rebel Heart” with Patrick, we all would’ve believed it. These songs are all versions of what they did best, wrapping personal themes around pop structures. Anyway, back to the production of this song, I’m so glad they honored the song with the sweeping production it deserves. And I love, love, love that the standard album ends with water imagery that takes me back to Ray of Light. The Mer Girl is still in there.

EA: Well…I’m not in the same boat there. I love the demo version of this so much (it’s a full on New York pier dance banger during Wigstock) that I find the final album version to be like a funeral dirge. That’s my own fault for listening to the demo in the first place. That baroque piano opening is so ominous (and honestly makes me think of “Dark Ballet” on Madame X and where her mind was going) and that ripple effect is kind of cool. We do get yet another military drums backbeat which I suppose does bring a lot of cohesion to an album with so many writers and producers. It’s a shrewd album closer, that’s for sure. But, for how much we have talked about the importance of song order there is nothing about Rebel Heart that makes any sense there except for this as the end of the standard version.

BEST NIGHT

EA: I mean, kind of a throwaway. The snake charmer pungi is a cool new instrument in her repertoire, the inflection of “Justify My Love,” the one-night stand lyrics…I like them all. I’m just not especially motivated to always listen to it when I put this album on.

AN: Wanting. Waiting. For You. To justify the decision to relegate this song to the deluxe edition. I love this one. It’s moody and playful and the most genuinely S.E.X.y moment on the record.

EA: Talking about song order, I would have made this, “Inside Out” and “Hold Tight” a trifecta right in the middle of the album.

AN: Oh I love that. Yes, song order isn’t this album’s strong point. It almost feels designed to be listened to on shuffle. I wish we could’ve gotten the double album as she intended.

EA: I miss double albums! That’s always been such a better way to manage this many songs.

VENI VIDI VICI (featuring Nas)

AN: No one deserves a victory lap more than Madonna, but she already took a couple of those on this album, and of all the songs here, this is the one that moves me the least.

EA: I haaaate this song. So much. It’s too much. There’s nothing clever. She does so much self-referencing on this album (while also lamenting not wanting to look back) that this just feels like a Mad Libs version of a song. Nas doesn’t make much sense to a Madonna nostalgia track at all and his “trapters, rappers, politicians, beauticians, musicians” lyric is sooo bad.

S.E.X.

EA: Sigh. With “Body Shop” and “Holy Water” doing so much in the horny department, and better, this feels, well, reductive (look it up). It’s not as naughty as she thinks it is and is another song, like we just heard, that simply namechecks a bunch of things and calls them lyrics. Although the emphasis on ‘RAW MEAT’ is a fun little Gaga dig. The vocals are one thing that I think elevate the song. Having her sound like she’s being gagged or like the album cover ropes are in her mouth is an aggressively fascinating choice. Also, why isn’t this right after “Body Shop” and “Holy Water?!”

AN: I do think the vocal choice is fun. But I have to believe this song is meant to be camp. Her lesson in sexology is just hilarious. Chopsticks! Bar of soap! Raw meat! (yup, another Gaga reference, though I’m not sure it’s a dig) What exactly is Madonna doing in bed? This is definitely another song I’d like to see a masterful drag queen perform. I can only imagine how they would interpret this madness.

EA: Yeah this is begging for a Peaches Christ number.

MESSIAH

AN: Okay, the final two songs of the deluxe edition are two of my absolute favorites. This is glorious to me. Orchestral, emotional, witchy. Just magic. I could use a whole album of Messiahs.

EA: This song gets dragged a lot but I think it’s another track that hints at where she was going to go with Madame X and be further outside of any box she’s been in. I know it was just an interlude on the Rebel Heart tour but it’s very live-friendly. Orchestral Madonna is often my favorite Madonna. I love sweeping arrangements and she has so many good ones, including this. I also like that ends with a heartbeat as we close the album with its namesake…

REBEL HEART

EA: This is another song that was drastically different than it’s demo version (which I do like better, or at least wish was released as a remix) but it’s still such a good anthem. It’s very much about her but so many people can use. I like that she keeps it mostly acoustic, I love her pronunciation of “NARcissist.” Incredible live. You want to be a part of it. It’s surprisingly short but it’s because there’s no fat to it. It’s lyrically so tight and it’s message so clear, there isn’t a need for bells and whistles as one would expect from a producer like Avicii (RIP). The thing I love the most about it though is hearing how happy she is with where she is. She’s been on a very long road, one that ended for many of her peers a long time ago but she’s still here. Right where she’s supposed to be.

AN: That’s such a great way to encapsulate the power of this song. While I do prefer the demo of this one and cannot believe it wasn’t released as a remix, it’s just a stellar song. It could be produced in a variety of styles and still work. The hooks, the lyrics, the emotion as she looks back and takes stock of who she was and who she is. Just wow. It’s also a great album title, and a truly bizarre decision not to have this on the standard edition of the album. Should’ve opened the whole album. Probably should’ve been a single. I love it a lot, and I really wonder if this song would’ve had a different fate if it hadn’t been leaked. I think it would have. I’m really grateful for this song, and for the chance to be a part of hearing her sing it live on tour.

Rebel Heart by the numbers

  • Released on March 6, 2015
  • Peaked at #2 on Billboard 200 album chart March 28, 2015
  • Length: 74:15
  • 238K / 1M worldwide
  • Billboard Hot 100 hits: “Bitch I’m Madonna’” (#84)

Talking Madonna with Erik and Abdi: Episode 1 – ‘MADONNA’ (1983)

Talking Madonna with Erik and Abdi: Episode 2 – ‘LIKE A VIRGIN’ (1984)

Talking Madonna with Erik and Abdi: Episode 3 – ‘TRUE BLUE’ (1986)

Talking Madonna with Erik and Abdi: Episode 4 – ‘LIKE A PRAYER’ (1989)

Talking Madonna with Erik and Abdi: Episode 5 – ‘EROTICA’ (1992)

Talking Madonna with Erik and Abdi: Episode 6 – ‘BEDTIME STORIES’ (1994)

Talking Madonna with Erik and Abdi: Episode 7 – ‘RAY OF LIGHT’ (1998)

Talking Madonna with Erik and Abdi: Episode 8 – ‘MUSIC’ (2000)

Talking Madonna with Erik and Abdi: Episode 9 – ‘AMERICAN LIFE’ (2003)

Talking Madonna with Erik and Abdi: Episode 10 – ‘CONFESSIONS ON A DANCE FLOOR’ (2005)

Talking Madonna with Erik and Abdi: Episode 11 – ‘HARD CANDY’ (2008)

Talking Madonna with Erik and Abdi: Episode 12 – ‘MDNA’ (2012)

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