In order to keep the buzz from last night's performance going strong, M has released "Joan of Arc," "Hold Tight" and "Iconic" which features Chance the Rapper and Mike Tyson (I'm not over it either.) The three songs are dominating on the iTunes chart, currently keeping a strong-hold over the top 3 places on the singles chart.
The newest songs don't represent the absolute strongest offerings from Madonna's forthcoming LP but they're certainly not the weakest either. "Joan of Arc" is a strangely moving pity party about the struggles of fame, which rather that feeling self-indulgent (as this type of song so often can) it might actually move you to feel some sympathy for the "Like A Prayer" star. It also features some solid Madonna lyricism - "being destructive isn't brave / they couldn't say it to my face" - capitalising on her direct and sometimes abrasive writing style. Unfortunately, despite its merits, the song is dragged down by some extraordinarily uninspired production and the forced beat in the chorus feels totally out of place.
"Hold Tight" is comparatively much stronger. The etherial instrumental, which is reminiscent in places of Coldplay and Rihanna's "Princess of China," is paired with a the catchy hook, strong lyrics and some of that real songcraft which Madonna has arguably been running dangerously low on in the past decade, making for a largely brilliant pop moment. There are some minor gripes with the track, however, like the lack of a final chorus, which leaves the song feeling a little unfinished and is kind of like the musical equivalent of blue-balls. Moreover, the chorus that we do get is lyrically altered from demo form and not necessarily for the better. Those lines - "I know we'll find a way / Push to the limit with no end in sight" - were by no means integral to the song, but were arguably more accomplished than the phrases that've replaced them ("Only love, only love tonight / Like stars we're burning so bright.")
The most exciting new track, however, is the Chance and Mike assisted "Iconic," which at one stage was rumored to be the title of the record. Well, title-track it is not, but it's one of the best things we've heard from 'Rebel Heart' so far. Gratefully, Mike Tyson's role in the song is limited to a brief introductory speech, and Madonna handles the bulk of the track with ease, not being outshone by either of her co-stars. The instructional, inspirational lyrics are clearly drawn from Madonna's considerable life experience and her habit of causing as much controversy and mayhem as possible - "Tell me I'm no good and I'll be great / Say I have to fight and I can't wait" - and feel impassioned and sincere. The production is also solid - the sparse, electro/hip-hop beat is kinetic and feels as rousing and uplifting as the lyrics. As more and more people rush to criticise the mother of four for nothing more than being a woman who's still working in her late 50s, it's interesting to see her come out with tracks like "Iconic" which are so full of youth and life, without feeling forced.
Take a listen and see what you think. Those who've heard the leaked deluxe edition of 'Rebel Heart' in its entirety can tell you that these aren't the best moments on the album which is set to be released in full next month, but they do seem to show you the three of the four main components of the record. "Iconic" is the uplifting, inspirational side of M we've seen on "Living for Love," "Hold Tight" is the self-confessed hopeless romantic Madge from already-released track "Ghosttown" whilst "Joan of Arc" represents the intense vulnerability that we've yet to really experience in the officially released material. The forth and final part, of course, is the #unapologetic side of the record which is probably the most entertaining - tracks like "Holy Water" are a treat worth waiting for, should you have managed to exhibit some will-power and ignore the leaks.
While you're at it, check out the new cover art for the Super Deluxe version of 'Rebel Heart':
What do YOU think of the newest piece of Madonna's 'Rebel Heart?'