From BostonHerald... Many pop acts, and most female pop artists, inextricably link themselves to youth. Stars exploit the beauty, rebelliousness and vogue of a fresh bloom, the connection with the obsessiveness of teen culture, to become icons.
The problem is people age. Even Madonna. Maybe especially Madonna, under the hot lights of three decades of scrutiny.
I wish Madonna didn’t carry the burden of being 56 in a world where Britney is ancient at 33, because Madge’s new album is her best this century. If we could forget how old she looks (she could barely pass for 45, gasp!) or how last month’s Grammy performance was less than awesome, we could focus on how great “Rebel Heart” is.
“Rebel Heart” rolls forward Madonna’s expanding, innovative approach of finding bridges between her classic ’80s and ’90s aesthetic and current sonic trends. Like 2012’s “MDNA,” a good record in itself, she continues her introspection on her 13th studio album, out Tuesday (to fit our maddening, modern age, there are two different deluxe editions with bonus tracks). But between the self-examination she doesn’t forget to have fun. Would Madonna ever forget fun?
Thwarting a leak, Madonna released six of the 14 tracks in December. “True Blue” fans got a hook and harmony reminiscent of old-school Top 40 in “Living for Love” — a joyful, fresh and nostalgia-inducing single to compare with her best. They also got choice album cuts that, with help from producers du jour Kanye West, Diplo, Avicii and Billboard, explored EDM tricks, lyrics obsessed with the divine (some things don’t change) and catchy choruses.
The other eight songs continue the delicious balance of Material Girl and modern Madge. “Iconic” begins with a sample of Mike Tyson ranting about his unparalleled skills before dropping down into a club-thumping beat with slippery, wicked verse from Chance the Rapper (who was born 10 years after Madonna debuted in ’83). Getting into her specialty, “Holy Water” blends sex with the sacred and includes a well-placed snippet of “Vogue.”
Not everything is great. Actually, not everything is good. This is a modern pop album, so there are songs that should be cut to make the music fit on two sides of vinyl — I nominate “HeartBreakCity,” “Inside Out” and “Wash All Over Me.”
Don’t expect another “Like a Prayer.” She’ll never equal that (nor will Katy Perry, Taylor Swift or Maroon 5). But ignore the eternal gossip around Madonna’s personal life, close your ears to suggestions she’s too old to be relevant, and embrace the mix of the exotic and familiar. Her still impressive blond ambition remains one of pop’s great voices.