Madonna dropped Rebel Heart, her thirteenth(!) studio album, in most of the world over the weekend. We already gave it three-and-a-half out of five stars, but what is the rest of the critical world saying about it?
So far, the review aggregator Metacritic has tracked an average score of 68 out of 100, or, as they say, notching “generally favorable reviews,” based on the 15 critics noted so far. Highlights from just a few are below.
In a three-and-a-half out of five star review in Rolling Stone, Caryn Ganz writes, “Rebel Heart is a long, passionate, self-referential meditation on losing love and finding purpose in chilling times. It’s also a chance for the Queen of Pop to floss a bit and reflect on how she painstakingly carved a path others have happily twerked down in the years since her 1983 debut.”
In Time, Jamieson Cox opines, “Given all the turmoil, it’s impressive — and a little surprising — that the final product is her most consistent album in a decade, and one that renders any hypothetical “bid for continued relevance” moot by remaining proudly scattershot. It’s an album that places more emphasis on Madonna the person than Madonna the sonic visionary, and it benefits as a result.”
Kitty Empire’s 3 out of 5 star review in The Guardian explains, “The ageism unleashed by Capegate makes you warm to much of Rebel Heart, Madonna’s 13th album. The unseemly segments, where Madonna baits and gyrates, can be a hoot. When she acts her age, it is lacklustre and over-enunciated; lived-and-loved stuff trotted out in overblown ballads.”
Entertainment Weekly had two writers hash it out in a back-and-forth. Kyle Anderson wrote, “I have faith that she’ll reveal herself with repeated listens. (Weirdly, for an album mostly designed to move people in a club, it’s actually a pretty fascinating headphone trip.) This may be damning it with faint praise, but this is Madonna’s best outing since 2000’s Music, and that earns Rebel Heart a solid B.” EW’s Adam Markovitz concluded, “I love that she’s as frustrating and ambitious as ever–still difficult, complicated, and hard to pin down. But that’s how I’d describe this album, too. If Like a Virgin is her A game, and something rocky but rewarding like Bedtime Stories is B level, then this gets a C+.”
In a three out of four star review for The Los Angeles Times, Randall Roberts shares, “The difference between pop agitators like Madonna and her lesser offspring is one of determination. “Rebel Heart,” like its creator, pushes through the pain and, more often than not, lands solidly and with great grace on its feet.”
The Associated Press writes, “In perhaps her most complex album, Madonna seems determined to plant a flag for her 30-plus year career, even giving a crash course in Madonna-ology on the self-referential “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” featuring Nas, during which she playfully incorporate phrases and titles from past hits. At its best, “Rebel Heart” pulsates with a vibrancy that reveals both the sour and the sweet in Madonna’s extremely complicated life and leaves no doubt that she still has a lot more to share.”
Elysa Gardner for USA Today says, “When Madonna sings on the title track of her latest album, Rebel Heart (***1/2 out of four; out March 10), that she has “outgrown my past and I’ve shed my skin,” she is both protesting too much and engaging in understatement. Our most durable pop star has indeed reinvented elements of her look and sound repeatedly over the past 30 years, but Madonna has retained the same essence: that of a woman who champions and demands love, in every sense of that loaded word. No single artist has been more crucial in shaping our modern view of celebrities as people who need people — and attention.”