Rebel Heart is the thirteenth studio album by American singer Madonna. It was released on March 6, 2015 by Interscope Records. Following the completion of the MDNA era, Madonna worked on the album throughout 2014, co-writing and co-producing it with various musicians, including Diplo, Avicii, and Kanye West. She teased by uploading pictures of her recording sessions on herInstagram account. Working with a number of collaborators on the album, Madonna faced problem in keeping a cohesive sound and direction for Rebel Heart, since her previous efforts have been only with a core group of people.
Thematically Rebel Heart represents the two different sides of the singer; listening to one's heart and being a rebel; the themes grew organically during the writing and recording sessions. Musically, it is a pop record which merges an array of genres such as 1990shouse, trap and reggae, as well as the usage of acoustic guitars and gospel choir. Some of the songs are autobiographical in nature while others talk about love, personal reflections, as well as introspection of Madonna's career. Rebel Heart features guest appearances from boxer Mike Tyson and rappers Nicki Minaj, Nas, and Chance the Rapper.
The record had been set for a March 2015 release, with the first single to be released on Valentine's Day. But after a flurry of unexpected album content leaks, the singer released the album for pre-order on iTunes Store on December 20, 2014, with six songs being available for download. Police investigation led to an Israeli man being arrested, who was charged for hacking into Madonna's computer and leaking the songs. The cover art for the deluxe edition of the album became popular, leading to numerous memes being created on Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. To promote the album, Madonna made several television appearances and performances, including the 57th Annual Grammy Awards and the 2015 Brit Awards. Further promotion for the album would come from the Rebel Heart Tour, which will start from September 2015 and continue till March 2016 through North America, Europe, Asia and Oceania. "Living for Love", "Ghosttown" and "Bitch I'm Madonna" were released as singles from the album.
Rebel Heart received predominantly positive reviews from music critics; multiple reviewers called it her best effort in a decade. They found that unlike her last two studio efforts Hard Candy (2008) and MDNA (2012), the album was progressive in its sound. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States and the UK Albums Chart. It peaked at number one in various countries across the world, including major music markets such as Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland, while reaching the top ten of the charts in France, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, and Sweden.
Background and development
Following the release of her twelfth studio album, MDNA (2012), Madonna embarked on The MDNA Tour to promote it. The tour courted many controversial subjects such as violence, firearms, human rights, nudity and politics. Lawsuits were created against Madonna from the concerts. She was enraged by many of these incidents, which she claimed was "injustice" against human beings. In September 2013, she released secretprojectrevolution, a short film directed by her and Steven Klein, dealing with artistic freedom and human rights. The film also launched a global initiative called Art for Freedom to promote freedom of expression. She clarified on L'Uomo Vogue that her next album would be connected with Art for Freedom, saying that she "had" to be committed to the initiative and use her voice as an artist.
By December 2013, Madonna's manager Guy Oseary commented that the singer was "eager to get started" on her next album. However, she had another project in mind, developing the screenplay for the Andrew Sean Greer novel, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells. Madonna decided to split her time between writing the screenplay and writing songs for the new album. In February 2014, Madonna confirmed that she had already begun working on her thirteenth studio album, saying "I'm right now in the process of talking to various co-writers and producers and talking about where I want to go with my music". Working with a number of collaborators on the album, Madonna faced problem in keeping a cohesive sound and direction for Rebel Heart, since her previous efforts have been with only a core group of people developing the music. She observed that a lot of the people she enlisted would not stay in one city at a time due to their different projects, resulting in Madonna not finishing her songs. "So, I was just the person standing there with a clipboard in the headlights, going 'Ok!' A little bit like a school teacher," she admitted.
Writing and recording sessions
By March 2014, Madonna started posting a number of images on social media website Instagram, where she hinted at possible songwriters and collaborators with hashtagcaptions. First she posted about going into the recording studio with Swedish DJ and producer Avicii, followed by another image of them a few days later, with the caption "The End of a long week with Viking Leader AKA DJ Virgo AKA Avicii! So many great songs!". Record producer Carl Falk talked to newspaper Dagens Nyheter in April 2014 about the sessions with Madonna and Avicii. He recalled that eleven demos were recorded within a week at Henson Recording Studios in Hollywood, with acoustic guitars and piano. A total of six personnel were selected by Avicii's manager Arash "Ash" Pour Nouri. They were divided into two groups, the first one consisting of Falk, Rami Yacoub, and Savan Kotecha and the second group consisting of Salem Al Fakir, Vincent Pontare, and Magnus Lidehäll. Avicii worked with both the groups in creating the demo songs, while Madonna arrived at the studio in the afternoon and stayed till 7 am. She worked closely with both teams while writing and changing melodies, and was in charge of the process.
A few days later Madonna posted the image of a sunset with the words "Rebel Heart" on them, and a caption which the media interpreted as lyrics of a new song. The lines posted were: "Day turns into night. I won't give up the fight. Don't want to get to the end of my days... saying I wasn't amazed." Further images showed Madonna with singer Natalia Kills in front of a microphone, and Martin Kierszenbaum, the founder and chairman of Cherrytree Records and senior executive of A&R forInterscope Records, Madonna's label. By mid-April 2014, she also revealed the names of songwriters Toby Gad and Mozellaand record producer Symbolyc One on Instagram with images of the group working in studio. The list of personnel extended to include producer Ariel Rechtshaid and sound engineer Nick Rowe. In an interview with Sirius XM Radio, Kierszenbaum described the recording process:
In May 2014, Madonna posted a selfie where she talked about working with American DJ Diplo. Madonna had invited him for her annual Oscar party, but he could not make it. They eventually started talking about music through texts and decided to collaborate on the album. In an interview with Idolator, Diplo explained that Madonna had asked him to provide his "craziest record" for the album. Together they wrote and recorded seven songs and Diplo added that "Those records are gonna be crazy-sounding. We really pushed the envelope with some of the stuff we were doing... [S]he was up for anything. I love when an artist gives a producer the confidence he needs to work with them, and Madonna was very open-minded to my ideas." One song was composed out of a hook Madonna had sung while drinking in the studio, and Diplo described it as "super weird". Another one (later confirmed as "Living for Love") had almost 20 versions ranging from a piano ballad to an EDM composition, ultimately Madonna and Diplo compromising on a middle level. Rechtshaid and British singer MNEK also joined for writing sessions with them, improving the verse of the song. Diplo also confirmed another track, known as "Bitch I'm Madonna", which he believed would push lyrical boundary for a pop song. Both Alicia Keys and Ryan Tedder confirmed working on the album, saying that they contributed to the songwriting with Keys playing piano on "Living for Love". Two other songs, "Messiah" and "Devil Pray", were confirmed by Madonna in different interviews.
Titling and themes
Thematically, Caryn Ganz from Rolling Stone felt that the album focused on two subjects: listening to one's heart and being a rebel. Madonna explained that these concepts were not the initial inspiration, but emerged during the sessions with Avicii. One group of musicians explored an upbeat approach to songwriting, while the other team chose darker chords. Madonna observed two distinct themes emerging organically, and felt the need to express that. So the record was titled as Rebel Heart, since it dealt with two different facades of the singer—her rebellious and renegade side, and her romantic side. She wanted it to be a dual album with each part representing these facades. With French radioNRJ, she explained that Rebel Heart could be both autobiographical as well as fiction, since while writing songs she mixed both her own experiences as well as imaginary narratives. The title also stemmed from Madonna's belief that contemporary music artists are not encouraged or inspired to be rebellious, take risks or speak-up and she wanted to highlight it. However, she understood the importance of having love in the rebellious nature, so added the word Heart along with Rebel.
Introspection was also listed as one of the foundational themes prevalent in the album, with genuine statements of careerist and personal reflections of the artist and her "obsessive self-regard". Madonna explained to Jon Pareles of The New York Timesthat although she has never looked back at her past endeavors, reminiscing about it felt correct for Rebel Heart. "And it's bittersweet for me to think about that. It just seemed like a time where I wanted to stop and look back. It's kind of like survivor guilt. How did I make it and they didn't?" she added. During the development phase of the album, she became comfortable to express her ideas in front of a few people, comparing it to "writing your diary in front of somebody and reading it out loud... It was almost like an acting exercise, you know, just putting myself in a room and letting ideas flow even if I didn't feel so connected to the people."
Further inspirations for the album came from Madonna's exploration of other cultures and art, literature and music, referencing them in the songs. She believed that the tracks should stand on their own, and could be broken down to minimalist production, so that one could sing them with just a guitar.Madonna also enlisted the help of her daughter Lourdes and son Rocco, calling them her A&R. They frequently visited night clubs and were able to bring news about upcoming music and artists to her, which helped create the sounds she gravitated towards for the album.
A generally pop record, Rebel Heart was different from Madonna's releases in the last decade according to Bradley Stern from MuuMuse. He called it an "eclectic record" merging an array of musical genres like 1990s house, to trap, to reggae to usage of acoustic guitars. Stern felt that unlike chasing the current musical trends—like those of Hard Candy (2008) and MDNA—the album was progressive in its sound. Adding to this, Mitchell Sunderland from Vice felt that Rebel Heart was a "lesson learned" from the critique Madonna had received for the last two albums. Jed Gottlieb from Boston Herald found the album to continue Madonna's "increasingly interesting, innovative approach" by combining contemporary musical styles with her previous tastes. He found Rebel Heart to be an improvement from the generic dance tunes in MDNA. For Jon Pareles fromThe New York Times, Rebel Heart was like a sequel to MDNA in its composition, but while the later was marred with its cold mechanized vocals and cliché songwriting, the former was able to portray Madonna's musical abilities as someone "who ponders sin along with romance and fame". Jay Lustig from The Record believed that Madonna had always lacked a thematic coherence with her previous endeavors. However, with the songs from Rebel Heart she was able to create potentially successful singles despite the different styles of the tracks, thereby maintaining consistency in the record.
Music and lyrical interpretation
'Living for Love'
A 21-second sample of the opening track "Living for Love" featuring Madonna singing over "regal" piano sounds, accompanied by a gospel choir.
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Rebel Heart opens with the song "Living for Love". Composed in the house genre it begins with Madonna singing over a "regal" piano line, eventually joined by percussion. Although a breakup song, "Living for Love" talks about being triumphant and hopeful. According to Dean Piper from The Daily Telegraph, the song has "some classic Madonna traits: religious references, a gospel choir, 90s piano beats and a whirling bass". It was compared to her 1989 singles, "Like a Prayer" and "Express Yourself" by Jason Lipshutz from Billboard. The second track, "Devil Pray", was inspired about how one would be enticed to partake of narcotics to achieve a higher level of consciousness and connect to God. Lyrically it asks for salvation from a variety of drug abuses, making allusions to Saint Mary and Lucifer, as well as the pain of healing from drug abuse. Produced by Madonna with Falk, Avicii, DJ Dahi and Blood Diamonds, "Devil Pray" starts with gentle guitar sounds which builds up to an electropop production, accompanied with a house beat. "Ghosttown" talks about civilizations ending and the world encountering an armageddon, but human beings seeing hope among the destruction. Written with Jason Evigan, Evan Bogart and Sean Douglas, it is a power ballad song, where Madonna sings in "piercing" and "warm" vocals like those of Karen Carpenter's, and the production comparable to her 1986 single, "Live to Tell". According to Douglas, "Ghosttown" was written in three days, after Madonna personally requested studio time with him and the other songwriters. Fourth track "Unapologetic Bitch" has reggae, dancehall and dubstep influences, and is a ska song where Madonna speaks negatively about a break-up and her lover, in lyrics like, "It might sound like I'm an Unapologetic Bitch but sometimes you have to call it like it is." Madonna explained that the song was about having fun irrespective of the situation one is.
The fifth song, "Illuminati", was inspired after Madonna came to know that people alluded to her with the eponymous term. So she researched about the real Illuminati and wrote the song. Lyrically it refers to the Illuminati conspiracy theory, the Egyptian pyramids, the Phoenix, the Age of Enlightenment, and the Eye of Providence among others, with the chorus lyrics: "It's like everybody in this party is shining like Illuminati". According to Madonna, Kanye West who produced the track had loved the melody and changed the composition as he found best suited. Minaj appears on the sixth track, "Bitch I'm Madonna", where she raps, asking everybody to "go hard or go home", while Madonna shouts lyrics like, "I just want to have fun tonight, I wanna blow up this house tonight". Produced by Diplo and Sophie, the track has a tearing sound alongside the "bleepy electro" and "churning dubstep" composition. During the writing sessions Minaj had to rewrite the lyrics until she could get the correct sentiment per Madonna. "Hold Tight" consists of an "arresting" chorus and a drum beat sound, described by Sam C. Mac of Slant Magazine as "innocuous, lyrically platitudinous pop that briefly works itself up into something exciting when it threatens to become a gospelized stomp." Track eight, "Joan of Arc", is a ballad where Madonna talks about the media scrutiny of her life, singing "Each time they take a photograph, I lose a part of me I can't get back". It also references the Roman Catholic saint of the same name. Madonna's hushed, vibrato-tinged vocals and confessional lyrics in "Joan of Arc" are enhanced by a new beat and utilizes strings in the bridge and acoustics.
"Iconic" features Chance the Rapper and boxer Mike Tyson. The latter had a spoken word introduction to the song, similar to his addition on Canibus' debut single, "Second Round K.O." (1998). Tyson was invited to the recording studio by Madonna, where he talked about his life and recorded it in one take. Consisting of a "weird" beat, "Iconic" finds Madonna embracing herself as an icon through the lyrics. "HeartBreakCity" follows "Iconic", and is a piano ballad talking about lost love with Madonna singing in deeper vocal register, inspired by baroque pop. Containing synths, banjo sounds and hollow drums, "Body Shop" describes love as a damaged car on the highway, requiring a body repairing to be alive. West also produced the next track, "Holy Water", where the singer compares her bodily fluids to the title. With hedonistic sound effects, the song is reminiscent of Madonna's 1990 single, "Justify My Love" and contains a lyrical excerpt from "Vogue". A bassline accompanies the chorus, consisting of moaning sounds, arcade game music and synths. "Inside Out" is produced by Mike Dean, and features Madonna's vocals withreverb, accompanied by piano sounds and restrained chords. "Wash All Over Me" follows, and is the last track on the standard version. Baroque piano sounds and a steady military beat approaches the chorus as Madonna sings about the world changing, heartbreaks and accepting it. A gospel choir and minimum synths backs the song's composition.
The deluxe version of Rebel Heart begins with the track "Best Night", an 80s electro composition reminiscent of Sade's songs with drums and Indian flute instrumentation. Madonna begins the song with the line, "You can call me M tonight" but her voice is not discernible on the chorus, only on the harmonies. There is reference to her previous single "Justify My Love" (1990) at one point in the intermediate bridge. "Veni Vidi Vici" appears next, and is rap "origin story song" with its lyrics built around memorable moments off her career like, "I expressed myself, came like a virgin down the aisle / Exposed my naked ass, and I did it with a smile / And when it came to sex, I knew I walked the Borderline / and when I struck a pose, all the gay boys lost their minds". Madonna sings the chorus over simple guitar beats, uttering "I came, I saw, I conquered", the English translation of the song's title. Nas appears for a guest verse talking about is own life as Diplo backs it with shotgun and crunching horn sounds. "S.E.X." is the next track where Madonna asks "Tell me what you know about sex" sarcastically over sounds of bass, synths and string arpeggio. Near the end she enlists a number of bondage items like "Twisted rope, handcuffs, blindfold, string of pearls". Described as both an embodiment and critique of act, "S.E.X." talks about the lack of intimacy with Madonna rapping in a "dispassionate" voice; she purposely made it sound like she had a lisp in her articulation of the words. One of the first tracks confirmed, "Messiah" is a dramatic pop ballad with an orchestra backing and violins reminiscent of Madonna's 1986 single "Papa Don't Preach". Madonna employs a "deeper velvety" tone in her voice, with the lyrics talking about lighting candles and necromancy as well as casting spells of love. The title track finishes off the album and was changed completely from its leaked demo version. It consists of an acoustic guitar and violins, while the song itself is autobiographical. As Amy Pettifer of The Quietus noted, "'Rebel Heart' quietly [acknowledges Madonna's] part in building the scene and popularising stylistics that are the foundation of current trends... A bit of pop magic dug, nonetheless, from the depths of her rebel heart."
Release, leaks, and artwork
In May 2014, photographer Mert Alas posted on his Instagram that he was listening to the album, but Billboard clarified that Madonna was still in the process of recording it in Los Angeles. They later posted a 50-second snippet of an instrumental which media claimed to be from Madonna, but the sample was traced back to Dutch DJ Sander Kleinenberg and his song "We Are Superstars". Oseary confirmed that Madonna looked forward to a 2015 release date for the album. However on November 28, 2014, two songs leaked into the internet, titled "Rebel Heart" and "Wash All Over Me"; the songs were immediately taken down, with Oseary tweeting and asking assistance in finding the leaks. On December 17, 2014, a total of 13 songs were leaked, including artwork suggesting the album to be named Iconic. An aggravated Madonna clarified that the songs were demo versions from earlier recordings; she compared the leak to that of "artistic rape". She was subsequently criticized for referring to the hack as "terrorism" in the wake of the Peshawar school attack and Sydney hostage crisis. Madonna said in an interview with Billboard that after the leak, she and her team tried to trace it back to the source, but ultimately decided to release the finished songs. Referring to the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack, she criticized the internet and explained that the incident led to securing her laptop and hard drives, while disabling the Wi-Fi. "I wanted to plan everything in advance. Release the single, shoot a video, start talking about my record. And you know, prepare for the release of the entire album and have everything set up just so... But we sort of were left with no choice," she added.
On December 20, 2014, the album became available for pre-order on iTunes Store. When ordered, six tracks (five in the United Kingdom) were automatically downloaded. Madonna stated that the songs were meant to be "an early Christmas gift" with the final release on March 10, 2015. Originally, "Living for Love" was intended to serve as the lead single from the album. It was to be released on Valentine's Day, with the rest of the record slated for the spring. However, due to the leak the release date had to be pushed up. Oseary recalled that they did not receive a confirmation until Friday night whether the pre-release could be executed, since iTunes was closing for the Christmas weekend. After much discussion on the pros and cons of the release, and with the aid of Interscope vice-chairman Steve Berman, and Apple Inc.'s Robert Kondrk, they were able to go live slowly. The six songs Madonna chose had to be polished, and since the producers of the tracks were unavailable, Madonna mastered and mixed them on her own. The album's release was compared to Beyoncé's self-titled surprise release in 2013, with The Guardian calling it a "partial Beyoncé". Still the leaks continued with 14 new demos being revealed from December 23–27. Three new tracks—"Hold Tight", "Joan of Arc" and "Iconic" featuring Tyson and Chance the Rapper—became available following Madonna's Grammy performance.
The final track list of Rebel Heart was revealed on January 20, 2015, with the standard and deluxe version song names. A day later Israel Police arrested a man, suspecting him of hacking into Madonna, as well as other musician's computers, stealing and leaking content. Lahav 433, a crime-fighting umbrella organization from Israel had led a month-long investigation since the leaks happened, working closely with the FBI. Although Israel Police denied to name the suspect, media identified him as former reality show contestant Adi Lederman, who had participated in Israeli singing competition, Kokhav Nolad, season ten. As the deluxe edition leaked in full, Lederman was charged by Israel's Magistrate court on four counts: Computer trespassing, prohibited secret monitoring and additional computer trespassing, copyright Infringement and obstructing investigation. The investigation also revealed that Lederman was the one who had leaked the demo of Madonna's lead single from MDNA, "Give Me All Your Luvin'". Copies of songs including rehearsal recordings of upcoming performances of Madonna were sold for more than $1,000 to various clients. He was ultimately sentenced to 14 months in prison at Tel Aviv.
The cover art, featuring Madonna's face inter-crossed with black wires, became popular in social media resulting in numerous memes being created on Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter. Fans wound black wires across their face to look like the cover, and even created memes with the faces of other celebrities, including Britney Spears, Michael Jackson,Homer Simpson, Jim Carrey, Marlon Brando, and the Grinch. Madonna herself forwarded many of the images on her social media accounts. However, three of the images—those of Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Bob Marley with the same wires around their face—was heavily criticized for being "disrespectful and racist". The singer explained the photos the next day, saying that she was flattered for the comparison to the said people and relegated herself as a "freedom fighter".
Madonna confirmed her appearance at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards on February 8, 2015; Oseary clarified that the singer would also perform at the ceremony. The singer performed "Living for Love" wearing a one-piece outfit in matador red, surrounded by male dancers as Minotaurs similar to the song's music video. Forbes reported that Madonna's performance was the most-watched moment of the night. Her effort to sing live without Auto-Tune during the choreographed performance was also heavily praised. She also performed the song at the 2015 Brit Awards, on February 25, 2015. However, in the early stages of the performance, a wardrobe malfunction caused her to be pulled down a flight of stairs that made up part of the stage. She later took to Instagram to confirm that she was well, posting "Thanks for the good wishes! I'm fine". It was later revealed that her cape was tied too tight when her dancers attempted to remove it from her neck, causing her to crash to the floor and leaving the audience in shock. After several seconds, she continued the performance as planned.
Madonna partnered with the gay dating app, Grindr, where a contest was held for five users of the app to be selected for an exclusive interview with the artist as promotion forRebel Heart. The contest included re-creating the artwork for Rebel Heart and post it as the Grindr profile picture. Other winners would receive signed copies of the album. Joe Stone from The Guardian considered this to be a "savvy" promotional method, by directly connecting with the singer's gay audience. On March 2 she appeared on France's Le Grand Journal show, performing an edited version of "Living for Love", as well as "Ghosttown" for the first time. Following this, she travelled to Italy for an appearance on the television show Che tempo che fa, where she performed "Devil Pray" and "Ghosttown" while talking with host Fabio Fazio on numerous topics including the album's development process. Another interview aired on The Today Show on March 9 and 10, 2015, where she spoke about the Rebel Heart leaks to host Carson Daly. Madonna appeared for the first time at The Howard Stern Show on March 11, 2015, scheduled at a special time for the singer. She discussed about her life, and personal relationships, as well as confirmed "Ghosttown" as the second single from Rebel Heart. She also appeared for her first UK television interview in three years, The Jonathan Ross Show on March 16, 2015, where she performed "Living for Love" and "Ghosttown".
Madonna appeared and performed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in US, for the entire week of March 16 to 20. Songs performed included "Living for Love" where DeGeneres herself joined the singer onstage, a stripped down version of "Joan of Arc" and "Ghosttown", and finally her 1985 single "Dress You Up", during the bathroom concert sequence with DeGeneres. On March 29, 2015, Madonna performed "Ghosttown" at the 2nd iHeartRadio Music Awards at Los Angeles, where she was joined by singerTaylor Swift onstage playing guitar. Two days later BBC's Jo Whiley interviewed her for Radio 2, the singer's first radio interview in the UK. Madonna appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on April 9, 2015, singing "Bitch, I'm Madonna" and her 1983 single, "Holiday".
Rebel Heart Tour
Numerous news outlets started reporting about the supporting concert tour for Rebel Heart. Italian newspaper Torino Today reported Madonna planning on returning to Turin on November 20 and 21, 2015, with the tour. Canadian newspapers, La Presse and Le Journal de Montréal reported that Madonna's tour dates in Quebec City and Montreal had been decided. According to them, Madonna would be inaugurating a new arena in Quebec City, while the shows in Montreal would happen at the Bell Center. The tour was titled as the Rebel Heart Tour, and is scheduled to take place in North America, Europe and Oceania, starting from September 9, 2015. According to Billboard, Rebel Heart Tour would be an all-arena one, and would visit cities where Madonna has not performed before. Initial itinerary had 25–30 shows in North America and 20–25 shows in Europe, with additional dates being revealed later on. The tour will visit Australia and New Zealand in early 2016, and will be the singer's first visit to Australia in more than 20 years, having last toured there with The Girlie Show World Tour in 1993, and her first time in New Zealand and Philippines.
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Upon its release, Rebel Heart received positive reviews from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from music critics, the album received an average score of 68, which indicates "generally favorable reviews", based on 29 critics. The Daily Telegraph writer Neil McCormick, Andy Gill of The Independent, AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine, and Lauren Murphy from The Irish Times all gave the album 4 out of 5 stars. McCormick felt that "For the first time in years, [Madonna] doesn't sound desperate", praising it in comparison to Hard Candy and MDNA. Saeed called it "a fine collection of sturdy pop tunes in which Madonna finally allows herself to look back and sometimes pilfer from her peak periods of the late 80s and early 2000s". Murphy wrote "the indisputable pop icon is back with a tentative bang" after MDNA had "few memorable pop hits". For Gill, the most impressive factor about Rebel Heart was Madonna's vocals, while Erlewine found Rebel Heart to be a revival of Madonna's defiant side and her confessional mood.
Writing for The Quietus, Amy Pettifer praised the album, describing it as "a darker return to the club culture roots [for Madonna], and it seems – on some level – to face up to the missteps of her more recent releases." Giving it 3.5 out of 4 stars, USA Today writer Elysa Gardner described the album's sound and lyrics as "piercingly direct". Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot and Randall Roberts from Los Angeles Times awarded it 3 out of 4 stars. Kot believed that the album would have been better without the sexuality referencing songs, but still considered it to be a "fascinating" while Roberts believed that the Rebel Heart stood out "sturdily" because of the production. Writing for The Boston Globe, James Reed opined that Rebel Heart was a "welcome detour in the artist's recent discography... her most satisfying effort in a decade and nimbly connects the dots between Madonna's various eras and guises." Critic Joey Guerra described Rebel Heart in Houston Chronicle positively as "a complex, consistently strong album".
Slant Magazine editor Sal Cinquemani, Joe Levy from Billboard, and Caryn Ganz of Rolling Stone all awarded the album 3.5 out of 5 stars. Cinquemani wrote the album was "all over the map", yet felt it was "a surprisingly coherent one". Levy wrote that the album was "subtle" compared to "current standards", adding that "These songs unfold slowly, building through foreplay-like intros before hooks are displayed over a shifting series of textures." Ganz felt that Rebel Heart "is at its strongest when Madonna shoves everyone to the side and just tells it to us straight", and added "Deep down, Madonna does have a rebel heart – and you can't fault her for reminding us that pop music is all the better for it". Jamieson Cox from Time commended the album for being consistent in its production and sound, Madonna's vocals and songwriting. Giving it a rating of B, Kyle Anderson and Adam Markovitz from Entertainment Weekly called Rebel Heart as "Madonna's best outing since 2000's Music". Alexis Petridis of The Guardian and Time Out writer Nick Levine gave the album 3 out of 5 stars. Petridis felt that the two contrasting sides of the album did not "quite gel", reasoning that "the former might represent the music Madonna wants to make, while the latter is the music she feels obliged to make". Levine wrote "'Rebel Heart' may lack cohesion, but she's definitely not down for the count: this contains some of the best music Madonna's made in a decade".
Annie Zalesky from The A.V. Club said the album had its "fair share of those head scratching moments", but found it to be a move in the right direction musically. Spin writer Andrew Unterberger gave the album a 6 out of 10 ranking. While describing the record as "clunky", Unterberger also wrote that it "contains a number of Madonna's best songs in years". Writing for The New Zealand Herald, Lydia Jenkin gave a mixed review, deeming the album a bit of a mess" and "confused". Lindsay Zoladz from New York was disappointed, feeling that Madonna sounded "safe" in the songs. She added that "The Madonna of Rebel Heart [has] succeeded once again in the increasingly empty goal of sounding current." Gavin Haynes of NME panned the album, saying that the album "feels like a wasted opportunity. Trite self-empowerment anthem 'Iconic' informs us that there's only two letters difference between Icon and I Can't. Sadly, there are also two letters between class and ass."
According to Andrew Hampp from Billboard, the pre-order received warm response commercially after its release to iTunes Stores around the world. In the United States, three of the six released tracks debuted on Billboard 's Dance/Electronic Songs chart dated January 3, 2015—"Living for Love", "Bitch I'm Madonna", and "Unapologetic Bitch"—despite being available for two days. The six songs have sold a combined 146,000 digital downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The album's pre-orders were estimated at around 50,000 to 60,000 copies, according to industry prognosticators. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart with 121,000 equivalent album units, behind the soundtrack of the TV series Empire. Although Rebel Heart was the best-selling album of the week with pure album sales of 116,000 copies (96% of overall units), it fell behind the soundtrack when it came to streaming and track equivalent album units, with just over 1,000 and 4,000 respectively. It became Madonna's 21st top-ten album, but was her first studio release not to debut atop the chart since 1998's Ray of Light. Rebel Heart 's concert tour bundle amounted to less than 10,000 copies compared to the 180,000 copies sold for previous album, MDNA. The release also prompted Madonna to debut at number 7 on the Billboard Artist 100 chart, moving up by 2,919% in overall Artist 100 points and gaining by 31% in social media activity. In Canada, Rebel Heart debuted at number one on the Canadian Albums Chart with 18,000 copies sold in the first week, making it her seventh number-one there during the SoundScan era. The next week, the album dropped 19 places on the Billboard 200, while in Canada it dropped only one position. Billboard reported that the sales dropped down by 78% to 26,000 units, due to the high pre-orders during first week. The album gradually dropped down the next two weeks. On the fifth week it received a boost in sales from Madonna's appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, jumping from number 57 to 41 on theBillboard 200.
In the United Kingdom, the Official Charts Company reported that Rebel Heart outsold its nearest competitors by a ratio of nearly 3:1, after just 24 hours on sale. However,Sam Smith's In the Lonely Hour pushed ahead at the last minute, and Rebel Heart debuted at number two with difference of 12,000 copies. It became Madonna's first studio album to miss the top spot since Bedtime Stories, which also debuted at number two in 1994. The album sold 37,245 copies including 416 from streaming, becoming the lowest first week sales for a studio album by Madonna. However, she extended her lead as the biggest selling female artist of the 21st century in UK, with cumulative sales of 7.65 million copies. Next week, the album dropped to number 7, with sales declining by 67.46% to 11,983 copies. The album was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for selling over 60,000 copies and has sold 76,490 copies as of June 2015. Rebel Heart debuted at the top of the German Albums Chart, becoming her twelfth chart-topping record there. Madonna surpassed The Beatles and Robbie Williams as the foreign act with the most number-one albums in German chart history, and equalled Herbert Grönemeyer for the third rank overall, behind only Peter Maffay and James Last with 16 and 13 chart-toppers respectively. In France, the album debuted at number three on the SNEP Albums chart, with three-day sales of 17,000 copies. Rebel Heart also debuted at number one on the record charts in Austria, Belgium (Flanders), Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland, as well as the top ten in the rest of European countries.
In Australia, Rebel Heart debuted at the top of the ARIA Albums Chart with sales of 6,962 copies, becoming Madonna's eleventh number-one album in the country and tying her with U2, as the act with most number-one albums since the establishment of ARIA in 1983. It became Madonna's 19th week atop the chart, ranking her at number 24 on the list of artists with most accumulated weeks at the top. The album had a sharp drop the next week, selling 1,312 copies and climbing down to number 18 on the album chart. In New Zealand, it debuted at number seven on the Official New Zealand Music Chart. In Japan, Rebel Heart debuted at number eight on the Oricon Albums Chartwith first-week sales of 7,548 physical units, becoming her 23rd top-ten album there. It also entered the Oricon International Albums Chart at number one, staying there for a second week. In South Korea, Rebel Heart gave Madonna two top-ten entries simultaneously on the Gaon International Albums Chart, with the deluxe edition at number one and the standard edition at number seven. As of May 2015, the album has sold an estimated 650,000 copies worldwide.
|Rebel Heart – Standard edition|
|1.||"Living for Love"||3:38|
|6.||"Bitch I'm Madonna" (featuring Nicki Minaj)||3:47|
|8.||"Joan of Arc"||4:01|
|9.||"Iconic" (featuring Chance the Rapper and Mike Tyson)||4:33|
|14.||"Wash All Over Me"||4:00|
|[show]Rebel Heart – Media Markt standard edition (bonus track)|
|[show]Rebel Heart – Deluxe edition|
|[show]Rebel Heart – Media Markt deluxe edition (bonus track)|
|[show]Rebel Heart – Japanese deluxe edition (bonus track)|
|[show]Rebel Heart – Fnac deluxe edition (Disc 2)|
|[show]Rebel Heart – Super deluxe edition (Disc 2) / Digital EP|
- ^[a] signifies a co-producer
Credits and personnel
Credits adapted from Madonna official website.
- Madonna – vocals
- Nicki Minaj – vocals
- Chance the Rapper – vocals
- Mike Tyson – vocals
- Nas – vocals
- DJ Dahi – additional vocals (outro)
- MNEK – background vocals
- Santell – background vocals
- London Community Gospel Choir – background vocals
- Jason Evigan – background vocals
- Salem Al Fakir – background vocals
- Vincent Pontare – background vocals, additional background vocals
- Toby Gad – additional background vocals
- MoZella – additional background vocals
- Alicia Keys – piano
- Toby Gad – musician, guitars, programming, instruments, additional programming
- Carl Falk – guitars, keyboards, programming
- Avicii – keyboards, programming
- Shelco Garcia & Teenwolf – musician
- Diplo – musician
- Salem Al Fakir – marching drums, keys, guitars
- Mike Dean – guitar, keyboards and drum programming, key bass, additional programming
- Abel Korzeniowski – electric cello
- L.A. Orchestra – musician
- Joacim Ottebjork – bass
- AFSHeeN – musician, programming, instruments
- Josh Cumbee – musician, programming, instruments
- Stephen Kozmeniuk – musician, programming, instruments
- Dan Warner – programming, instruments (guitar)
- Lee Levin – programming, instruments
- DJ Dahi – programming
- Michael Diamonds – programming
- Magnus Lidehäll – programming
- Demacio "Demo" Castellon – additional programming
- Technical personnel
- Madonna – production
- Diplo – production
- Ariel Rechtshaid – production
- Avicii – production
- DJ Dahi – production, additional production
- Blood Diamonds – production, additional production
- Billboard – production
- Jason Evigan – production
- Shelco Garcia & Teenwolf – production
- Kanye West – production
- Mike Dean – production, mixing, engineering
- Charlie Heat – production, co-production
- Toby Gad – production, mixing
- AFSHeeN – production
- Josh Cumbee – production
- Salem Al Fakir – production, orchestra editing
- Magnus Lidehäll – production
- Vincent Pontare – production, vocal editing
- Astma & Rocwell – production
- Carl Falk – production
- Travis Scott – additional production
- Demacio "Demo" Castellon – engineering, mixing
- Nick Rowe – engineering
- Angie Teo – mixing, additional recording, additional mixing
- Ann Mincieli – additional recording
- Ron Taylor – additional Pro Tools editing
- Noah Goldstein – engineering, mixing
- Aubry "Big Juice" Delaine – engineering
- Zeke Mishanec – additional recording
- Rob Suchecki – additional recording
|Argentine Monthly Albums (CAPIF)||9|
|Australian Albums (ARIA)||1|
|Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)||1|
|Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)||1|
|Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)||2|
|Brazilian Albums (ABPD)||4|
|Canadian Albums (Billboard)||1|
|Croatian Albums (HDU)||3|
|Czech Albums (ČNS IFPI)||1|
|Danish Albums (Hitlisten)||2|
|Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)||1|
|Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)||2|
|French Albums (SNEP)||3|
|German Albums (Official Top 100)||1|
|Greek Albums (IFPI)||3|
|Hungarian Albums (MAHASZ)||1|
|Irish Albums (IRMA)||5|
|Italian Albums (FIMI)||1|
|Japanese Albums (Oricon)||8|
|Japanese International Albums (Oricon)||1|
|Korean International Albums (Gaon)|
|New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)||7|
|Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)||2|
|Polish Albums (ZPAV)||5|
|Portuguese Albums (AFP)||1|
|Russian Albums (2M)||2|
|Scottish Albums (OCC)||3|
|Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)||1|
|Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)||10|
|Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)||1|
|UK Albums (OCC)||2|
|US Billboard 200||2|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||76,490|
*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone
|Australia||March 6, 2015||CD||Deluxe||Universal Music|||
|France||March 9, 2015||Polydor|||
|New Zealand||Universal Music|||
|Canada||March 10, 2015||Universal Music|||
|Japan||March 11, 2015||CD||Deluxe||Universal Music|||
|March 18, 2015||Super deluxe|||
|Germany||March 27, 2015||LP||Deluxe|||
|France||March 30, 2015||Polydor|||
- List of number-one albums of 2015 (Australia)
- List of number-one hits of 2015 (Austria)
- List of number-one albums of 2015 (Canada)
- List of number-one hits of 2015 (Germany)
- List of number-one hits of 2015 (Italy)
- List of number-one albums of 2015 (South Korea)
- List of number-one albums of 2015 (Spain)
- List of number-one hits of 2015 (Switzerland)
- List of Download Chart number-one albums of 2010s (UK)