Photo by G. “I Won The Internet!” art by Troy Gua.
Hello! Remember me? Since we last spoke, I released my third book, “I Won The Internet!” which is available now on sites like Amazon.com. I took a break after the release of the book to do some promotion and also to get my nervous system back. For 5 years, I’ve been going out pretty much 7 nights a week in search of letting you all know the best art and music you should focus your energies on. To this day, there is not another website on the internet that has ever done the things I have done – experiencing, photographing and writing about all the content that appears on their site. It’s really sad to me that the world isn’t any the wiser as they continue to read sites written by people who rip off and re purpose content off the web and try pass it off as their own, but that is not my problem – it’s yours for supporting it! Readers have kindly been nudging me to return to this site for a few months and the love has been overwhelming. I thank you kindly for your love and support. You shouldn’t consider this my full return to According2g.com, but I will try pop in from time to time and let you know what’s up. You can also follow me on Instagram or Twitter @according2g for updates.
What better way to kick things off than with one of my favorite love-to-hate subjects – Madonna. I’ve been a fan of her since the beginning of her career and to her death, I will probably always be interested in what she’s up to. What I despise about her is that she has never lived a “practice what you preach existence,” and pretty much anyone that has been around her that has not signed a non-disclosure agreement rarely has a nice thing to say about her. It’s a shame since she is always singing about love and peace, but it fascinates me that people (myself included) continue to be captivated by someone whose only care for you is how she can carefully take your money. If you think that sentence is egregious in any way, you are in serious denial and you need help.
Regardless, I go into all of her albums with an open mind, because I will not lie, when her music ‘does it’ for me, it makes my world a happier place and I will always be grateful for that, and this new album has those moments from time to time, although fleeting. Her 13th studio album “Rebel Heart” has been a disaster since before the album even had a title. In December 2014, before the record even had a release date or a title, 13 songs in perfect quality, but in demo form, leaked to the internet in full. To try and do some damage control, Madonna oh so kindly, finished up 6 tracks and let people who pre-ordered the album have those songs instantly. She called it her Christmas present to fans. Insulting since her real fans (the people still interested in supporting her career) downloaded the songs for free days before (deny it all you want, but you and I both know that is the truth – not just for her but for any veteran act), but I digress…. In the interim, she announced the full album would be 19 songs long (except for a 26 song deluxe edition) and would be released in March of 2015. Before the end of 2014, an additional 19 songs leaked in full, so the grand total of songs that were “out there for free” at this point was 32. Madonna’s PR team went on a manhunt to find the person that hacked into her computer and released these songs into the wild and a person was captured. Leaks over, right? Not! A few days later, the finished version of the deluxe edition (25 songs) leaked onto the internet in perfect quality. And before the official release of the album, an additional few songs leaked, bringing the grand total number of tracks (including multiple different versions of certain tracks) to over 50! Makes you wonder – was the leak a publicity stunt? Is she having trouble with her mega-deal and she wants out? Rarely any information “officially released” these days is the truth, and so many of her fans are sheep that actually believe she’s a kind hearted person, so we may never know the truth.
It’s a good time to be a fan because there is certainly a lot of material to choose from and some of it is her best work in over a decade. Whoever sequenced the album and chose certain producers did a really crappy job as many of the demos were great and subsequently ruined by over (or under) production. Also many great songs were scrapped from the official release in favor of much worse songs. She’s been pulling the ageism card in interviews to try and gain sympathy and attention for the album, and to some extent she is right – the world caters to the youth and that sucks – but awesomeness always rises to the top. Frankly I think, Madonna looks amazing “for her age” (since she went there). Her plastic surgery doesn’t look as scary as it used to and she works out so much, she has a really great body. I am not really sure if I enjoy seeing her put her tits and pussy on display anymore, but sex sells and that’s always been part of the winning formula for Madonna, so why stop now?
After the jump, see my brief track by track review, as I try and make some sense out of this mess.
1. “Living For Love” – This song could definitely be considered a “classic-era” Madonna track. It has gospel tinges that are reminiscent of “Like A Prayer.” It also is one of the reasons I dislike her so much now – she claims to be living for love, and when it comes to showing generosity towards her fans, she certainly is not. If you can ignore that, the track has a pretty good beat and the club mixes will have you twerking for love.
2. “Devil Pray” – This track is nothing special except for the chorus, which lists a slew of drugs that will make you succumb to the devil. It’s such an unexpected lyric, I appreciate the cleverness and I can listen to the whole track even if I am just waiting for the chorus.
3. “Ghosttown” – Medium speed power ballad. It’s not offensive, but it doesn’t break new ground.
4.”Unapologetic Bitch” – Though the lyrics irk me as Madge is reminding her 20something ex-boyfriend all the things he’ll not be getting from his rich sugar mama anymore, she does something she has not done before, she goes reggae. And it works.
5.”Illuminati” – A track that was a cute little dance track in demo form and then ruined by Kanye West by stripping away the catchy parts for a drum and bass type beat that lists a ton of things that the secret society the Illuminati is not. That’s an argument for a different day (despite me disagreeing with her definition), and she tries to white wash this organization by rhyming “party” and “Illuminati.” BAD!!!!
6. “Bitch, I’m Madonna” – Amazing title. Horrid song. There are dub-steppish (is that a word) sound effects that are so annoying, I feel embarrassed to hear this song even in headphones. Madonna is letting the world know how fierce she is. And yes, to have such a long career with such limited talent and great marketing is truly amazing. The demo version was Nicki Minaj-free and would have been my preferable version to have included since Nicki is not rapping about Madonna’s greatness and is instead rapping about herself in a track called “Bitch, I’m Madonna.” That makes absolutely ZERO sense and you’d think Madonna of all people would not want to waste a rap performance talking about someone else’s greatness (though they did the same thing in another track on this album).
7. “Hold Tight”- The flow of this album doesn’t exist, probably because they were expecting that people would be shuffling the songs anyway, but seriously listening to the album in order is not a good experience, so don’t do it! This is a little more uptempo than “Ghosttown,” but it’s the same old same old and will not be a song I will be revisiting often. “Hold Tight. Everything’s gonna be alright.” Please tell me it did not take a team of 10 songwriters to come up with that.
8. “Joan of Arc” – The demo was a straight up ballad and the “released” version benefits from a beat, so thanks for that. The lyrics, however, are god awful. Madonna wants you to feel sorry for her because the world is coming down on her for being famous. She’s beat this point to death for over 20 years in her music and if you don’t want to be famous – don’t sign up for it! If you want to live an anonymous life after being famous, it can be done if you try hard enough.
9. “Iconic” – She uses Mike Tyson and some rapper in the song – WHY?! For some reason veteran acts think they need to stay young by working with hot producers and include guest spots, but truthfully, we just want good music that sounds like you, not the “it” music biz people. That is what is truly iconic. She says that “I can’t” and “Icon” are just two letters apart but let me remind you that “Hit” and “Shit” are one letter apart.
10. “Heartbreak City” – A ballad that shockingly wants you to feel sorry for poor old Madge. The demo version’s final line was “and I still feel shitty” and for some reason, this line was left out of the finished version. It was the only line of the entire song that didn’t make me cringe and now it’s gone. Figures.
11. “Body Shop” – With some of the songs that got cut from the final track list, I have no idea who green lit this song. It’s folksy and really nothing special.
12. “Holy Water” – Slutty Madonna has poked her head into this album finally. She basically is saying that her pussy tastes like holy water and you should worship it. The track is midtempo. Out of nowhere, in the middle of the track she samples herself saying “Ladies with an attitude” from “Vogue.” It’s really puzzling to see who thought that was a good idea.
13. “Inside Out” – The demo version of this had a wicked beat and was one of my favorite songs out of this new batch of material. Naturally, I did not get my way and the officially released version strips away the beat completely and makes this track nothing special.
14. “Wash All Over Me” – See review of track 13.
15. “Best Night” – Even in reviewing these songs, I find myself completely exhausted. Sometimes less is more and this is the case definitely with this album. The song is a mid-tempo track telling a potential lover that she’s going to make this “the best night of your life.” Nothing special, but also not offensive.
16. “Veni Vidi Vici” – Madonna looks back on her career and talk/raps about her past whilst using song titles from her back catalog. Super clever idea and I think it works. But then she adds a rap from Nas (who I like usually), and instead of hyping up Madonna’s career, he raps about his own life. The editor who put the raps on this album are serious “what the fuck” moments.
17. “S.E.X” – Slutty Madonna is sluttier than ever. She tells her guy to pull her hair and later he wants her to come inside her. I wonder what her kids think about that? Just imagining them singing along probably counts as child abuse somewhere in the world!
18. “Messiah” – Ballad. Yawn.
19. “Rebel Heart” – In demo form, this song was a lot more dancey and this released version would not be out of place on her “acoustic-tronica” album “American Life.” She talks about being a rebel and not following the path that everyone wanted her to take. Again, ground she’s covered for 2 decades, but at least with the conclusion of the song, the album is over!
But it’s not… there are bonus tracks.
20. “Beautiful Scars” – Midtempo track that asks the listener to take Madonna with all of her beautiful scars. Sure.
21. “Queen” – Apparently this track got chopped in favor of a remix of “Living for Love.” That’s ok. It wasn’t that great anyway.
22. “Borrowed Time” – More of the same old, same old. Live for now, our time is only borrowed is the gist. A slow song that now just seems like they are grabbing demos out of the hat and tacking them on.
23. “Graffiti Heart” – She name drops former lover Basquiat (in the cringeworthy pairing of “What do you got/show me your Basquiat”) and pal Keith Haring and tells us that love is pain and pain is art. It has that modern hand clapping progressive bridge and chorus which makes this song sound like every other song out there now instead of being unique or… art! Oh, the irony.
24. “Autotune Baby” – It looks like this track got dropped too, which is too bad. Aside from the intro which literally features an autotuned baby crying, the beat is dirty and raw and is reminiscent of the good old “Erotica” days.
25. “Addicted” – My favorite track of this entire project, and it’s relegated to a super deluxe bonus track. Sad. This track made the rounds as “The One that Got Away” in its initial stages possibly because her last album had a song called “I’m Addicted.” This track could have also been on “American Life” as it has a folky bit, but it gives way to a full on dance track by the chorus. I thought this would have made a great single, but apparently nobody asked me.
If you do a little googling, you can find some more tracks that are not making any cut of this album (read: don’t ask me to send them to you because it’s not happening)
26. “Alone With You” – A folky track that talks about how she’d rather be alone than alone with you, a concept Prince explored in a 1984 song. For as trite as the lyrics are, this song is better than many that ended up on the record.
27. “Heaven” – A ballad. Yawn.
28. “Never Let You Go” – Once again, I am baffled why this mid-tempo track got slashed. The lyrics are nothing special, but has a nice beat, which these days is about all you can ask for in a new Madonna song.
29. “Score” – Ugh! This track is Madonna mixing sports lingo with scoring in the bedroom. It even has a sample of crowd cheering and the Hammond organ build up for the audience screaming “charge!” No Madonna. No!
30. “Take A Day” – The track sounds like it could have sound-tracked a 1950s movie, as it is slow, frilly and light she wants someone to have a carefree day with her and then the chorus comes in she declares that they just “bang bang bang bang….” Um… ok.
31. “Take It Back” – This track must have been produced by Pharrell because it sounds like everything else he does, which is to say that it has a familiarity of an old classic track while just being slightly different enough to not get sued. Has a decent beat and would have been better than a lot of the songs that made it to the album.
32. “Two Steps Behind Me” – Madonna’s attack Lady Gaga song. The lyrics are so mean that it makes me really despise Madonna for doing a song like this. Lady Gaga certainly isn’t the most original pop star that has ever walked the face of the earth, but neither is Madonna! Gaga has publicly stated that she idolized Madonna growing up and to be so hateful in this song is really petty. If you’ve ever met one of your heroes before only to have them be an asshole in real life, you know how devastating it is. So much for living in the light and all that other shit her Kaballah lessons are supposed to have taught her. Despite it all, the beat is great.
33. “Revolution” – A cousin to the song “Isaac” as it sounds like a track you’d hear at a religious hoe-down, the track is folky and funky and again would have been fun to hear live, but since it got cut from the record, it will probably never be heard from again.
34. “Back That Up (Do It)” This track must have been produced by Pharrell because it sounds like everything else he does, which is to say that it has a familiarity of an old classic track while just being slightly different enough to not get sued. Have I said that before? So has Pharrell.
35. “God Is Love” – A midtempo acoustic-ish song that tells the listener to never stop what they believe in. Also, she questions if love is god and god is love, why are people using that as an excuse to be an asshole. I’m sure she cut this song because she doesn’t practice what she preaches… bwaaaahhaaa!!
36. “Nothing Lasts Forever” – A weird track that could have been a “Ray of Light” b-side.
37. “Trust No Bitch” – I see why this song was cut, but it has a cute little beat and with a little bit of a lyrical revision, it could have been a great contender for the “Bitch” album.
38. “Tragic Girl” – Ballad. A tragedy indeed.
39. “Freedom” – Not to be confused with the funky track “Freedom” that was released on an obscure compilation in the 1990s. This could have been the B-side to her horrendous “American Pie” cover.
40. Did I miss any? Tracks like “La Petit Jeune Filles” and the demo of “Music” (with different vocals) and “Hung Up” (before the Abba sample) to me were new at this time, and you should definitely seek those out if you are on the prowl for some new tracks.
I think these are Madonna’s best tracks in many years (which isn’t really saying much since her last few albums were fucking awful), but just like so many other veterans of the music scene, they don’t give the fans what they really want – an album that is worthy of their greatness. Instead, they feel the need to work with the “it” people to try and stay relevant. STOP IT! You can definitely pick out 12 songs and make yourself a somewhat coherent album, and again that is progress since her last few records have only contained a handful of good tracks (across all of them), so this is a sign of progress. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to prepare my house against an attack by legions of Madonna
sycophants fans that think everything she does is perfect. For those who think that, let me quote your goddess for you (and again, this lyric probably took a team of 10 to come up with) – “Nobody’s perfect.”
Bitch, I’m According2g!
Until next time…. xxx