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Nobody releases anything of value this week. Maybe a dirty politician tries to get ahead of a scandal by dropping details of an affair or embezzlement. But artists and entertainers won’t compete with “All I Want for Christmas is You” spins or “It’s a Wonderful Life” showings.
As you’d expect, Madonna had big plans for her 13th album in 2015: “Rebel Heart” would be teased with a Valentine’s Day single, a video and loads of hype. Then hackers leaked demos of the album last week and Madonna and team had to think fast.
So the week of nothing new now features the release of six fresh songs.
Over the weekend Madonna tweeted, “Happy early X-Mas!” with an iTunes link. And in typical Madonna fashion, the icon turned controversy into gold — the music hit No. 1 on iTunes charts in 36 countries.
More than buzz made the songs succeed. The work continues Madonna’s increasingly interesting, innovative approach to blending current styles with her classic aesthetic. It improves on 2012’s “MDNA” self-examination, which was a ruminative dance record for Ciroc-sippers in a Parisian discotheque.
“True Blue” fans will hear a joy and nostalgia in “Living for Love.” The beat pulses with today’s energy, but the hook and harmonies recall old school Top 40 — check out how Madonna and producer Diplo pair the drop with a bright, buoyant gospel refrain.
Producers Avicii and Billboard help “Devil Pray” and “Ghost Town” find their own balance of Material Girl and modern Madge. Both use trending (or formerly trending) EDM tricks and a lyrical introspection absent from most of Madonna’s early stuff, but her obsession with the divine and a catchy chorus remain.
Fans of “Cherish” won’t find much to relate to on the other three tracks.
Her collaboration with Kanye (as a producer, not an artist), “Illuminati,” has little that’s organic to grab onto. It buzzes and clicks and shakes with layers of electronic drone. Her team-up with Nicki Minaj, “(expletive) I’m Madonna,” and “Unapologetic (expletive),” come off like Miley Cyrus cuts — actually they sound like someone with a more defined aesthetic and deep understanding of youth culture’s constant evolution putting her own stamp on Cyrus’ pop-gone-wild thing.
Some of it’s strange, some of it’s familiar, all of it’s ambitious in a way the blonde has never been.