14 things we learned from Madonna about the ‘Rebel Heart’ surprise

12.22.14 3 years ago

In case you missed it, Madonna pulled off a holiday surprise late Friday night and released six new singles from her upcoming album “Rebel Heart.”  This was in response to the entire album being leaked by hackers on Wednesday, Dec. 17.  And, earlier in December, three other unfinished tracks found their way onto the net. In truth, those were unfinished demo tracks, but  it forced Madonna and her label into action in what can only be described as a “partial Beyonce.” No, the entire album with accompanying music videos wasn't released out of the blue, but six “finished” tracks were and, in some corners, the internet exploded.

Unlike Madonna's previous albums, these tracks immediately made an impact on iTunes.  Within 12 hours it was the no. 1 album in the US and in 40 other countries.  And, late Sunday night, it was still no. 1.  Now naysayers can say it was a busy holiday weekend and must have been a slow period for the top music store on the web.  Most people were traveling home or were busy at the mall picking up those last minute Christmas gifts.  Maybe, but six tracks occupying the iTunes single chart between no. 6 and no. 11 for over 24 hours?  Call us crazy, but we don't remember anything like that happening with her last two albums. It likely won't last, Taylor Swift should get a nice last minute X-mas burst back to the top of the charts, but the response from fans and critics alike had to be encouraging for Interscope.  Especially after her last album, “MDNA,” reached no. 1 on Billboard's charts thanks to a tour ticket bundle and a massive Super Bowl promotional blitz.

A latecomer to social media (although she's clearly made up for it on Instagram), Madonna has rarely been so active as she was this weekend.  She kept that buzz going with three separate Sunday interviews with Rolling Stone, The Guardian and Billboard explaining why they released the tracks so quickly, the parallels with the Sony Hack, working with Kanye West and much more.

What did we learn?

1. Diplo is not the album's executive producer
Some had reported he had a guiding hand in forming the album.  Madonna is not giving him that much credit. They collaborated on more than three tracks and he provided “input” on what he liked. She also says, however, they are “kindred spirits”

2. “Living For Love” is a breakup song and there are many versions
The lead single for the album features backup vocals by a London Choir singer known as Annie.  Other versions will include MNEK, a UK singer, writer and producer who has worked with everyone from Rudimental, Gorgon City, The Saturdays and Duke Dumont.

3. Alicia Keys is playing piano on “Living for Love”
Really. No vocals, though. Well, not on any version Madonna is going to release in the future.

4. Kanye West produced the rap-filled “Illuminati”
When they met Madonna played him a number of unproduced songs. She'd written “Illuminati” in March or April and he liked it so much he was jumping up and down on the mixing board.  Madonna says he “elevated the lyrics with the music.”  This is the track by the way, that name checks out Beyonce, Jay-Z, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, ISIS, President Obama, a Clinton (which one is unclear) and, of course, Kanye himself.

5. The entire album will now be released in three parts
The first six tracks are out now.  A few more will come out around the Grammys and the rest of the album will officially be released on March 10.  Right now there are 19 tracks listed. That's almost a big album.

6. Oh, and yes, a Grammy Awards performance is a big possibility
Madonna told Billboard that a performance on February's Grammy Awards — which makes a ton of sense considering how often she's done it in the past — is a “possible.”

7. Her demo leak and the Sony Hack will change things
Madonna told the Guardian: “People need the arts, we need to be inspired, we need to hear people”s records and see people”s films. Why destroy that process for creative people? It”s going to affect everybody.” What that means for the future is unclear. She says this project was stored on hard drives (not cloud servers) and phones at photo or video shoots are always a no-no.  How did the leak happen then? Sounds like even she and her reps are still puzzled.

8. Madonna's kids are her new A&R reps…sort of
She says she's not in the clubs “all the time,” but her kids are and introduce her to stuff the like (note: Rocco is 14 and Lourdes is 17). That being said, she says she surrounds herself with people who help her stay connected to street culture, pop culture and what's hitting underground.

9. Madonna says Nicki Minaj is “methodical”
“Bitch I'm Madonna” is the second collaboration between the two divas after “Give Me All Your Luvin'.”  The Queen of Pop says there is a lot of back and forth about her rap and describes it as a “total collaboration.”  

10. Every track needed to be able to stand on its own acoustically
Previously she says she was more concerned with the sound than the heart of the song.  Not this time around. And, yes, we're officially requesting an acoustic performance of “Illuminati.” 

11. “Ghosttown” was a true songwriting collaboration
Evan Bogart, Sean Douglas and Jason Evigan are listed as co-writers on the stand out ballad, but this wasn't a case of a singer adding their name to a pre-existing track. Madonna says all four of them sat in a room together and they were inspired by the theme of what a city would be like after an Armageddon (really).

12. There will be a music video for “Living for Love”
The leak and early release hasn't changed any plans on the video side.  When will it arrive? Unclear.

13. The album is actually not done.
Madonna tells Billboard she's “almost done recording” and there are “more little tweaks” to take care of.

14. Pharrell, Diddy, OneRepublic, Ariana Grande and Nicki supported the album on twitter Sunday
Why the love? Madonna previously collaborated with Pharrell on her 2008 album “Hard Candy.” He's been rumored to be a producer on “Rebel Heart.” P. Diddy's Bad Boy records is part of Interscope Records, Madonna's label. Minaj is featured on “Bitch I'm Madonna” (currently doing better on iTunes than any of her “Pink Print” singles – yikes). Ryan Tedder collaborated with Madonna for a new track on the album. And Grande? Maybe she's just a fan?

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What did you think of the new tracks?

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