Madonna's ability to not only stay ahead of musical trends but to also create them is what makes her legendary. With 2008's Hard Candy and 2012's MDNA, there was a distinct sound of trend chasing. On the former, Madonna connected with Timbaland, Pharrell, and Justin Timberlake to update her sound for the masses. However, looking at the top 100 songs of 2008, you'll notice many were beginning to stray from the bells and beats of Pharrell's production, as well as Timbaland's signature sound found on songs like Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous." The following year would see the introduction of eurodance courtesy of acts like Lady Gaga and Casacada.
With MDNA, Madge tried her hand at the dominating dance trend of the time by releasing generic songs like "Girl Gone Wild" and "Turn Up The Radio." Both were serviceable as pop songs, but as Madonna songs, they were tragically subpar. The rest of the album was a mixed bag containing decent songs like "Love Spent" and the return of William Orbit ballads in the form of "Falling Free." Unfortunately, mediocrity overtook most of the tracklist.
That's what makes listening to the six songs from Madonna's upcoming 13th album Rebel Heart so exciting; after eight years, Madonna is making pop music that's two steps ahead rather than behind.
The clearest example of the songs released is "Bitch I'm Madonna." The song title is a mix of camp and confidence, so the music needed to match it. With production from forward-thinking dance and hip-hop producer Diplo combined with the mysterious DJ SOPHIE, "Bitch I'm Madonna" is the artist's most progressive track in nearly a decade.
SOPHIE leans on eccentric beats and sound effects to construct his sound. Melodically, he ropes in the emerging PC Music sound to sweeten the aggression. Take a listen to his viral hit "Lemonade," which came in at number 21 on Pitchfork's best of 2014 list. After listening to it, you'll hear many of the same elements in "Bitch I'm Madonna": the playful, pitched-up verses, the sinister beat that hits after the chorus, and the final dog-like sound at the climax. The childlike melody is similar to the ones from QT's "Hey QT" and Hannah Diamonds' "Pink and Blue." Nothing on top 40 sounds like this song, yet it's been the most successful of the six songs released thus far.
Lyrically, people may write "Bitch I'm Madonna" off as a generic party anthem. However, take it for the healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek it so deliciously provides; of course Madonna isn't going to a party where someone calls "the 5-0." It's a nod and a wink to cliches of top 40, while also owning them. That's also what makes the Nicki Minaj feature so crucial and relevant. With Nicki's latest album The Pinkprint, she's cemented herself as one of the best rappers making music. Her incomparable flow is undeniable on "Bitch, I'm Madonna," and she rides Sophie's beat like a pro. Her inclusion contextualizes the song in the now and increases its reach and influence.
In addition to "Bitch I'm Madonna." The other songs released thus far include production from Billboard, Blood Diamonds, and even Kanye West. It's clear that Madonna is linking with producers who have a progressive sound but with enough accessibility to make her a relevant force in pop music. With 13 more songs to be released from the 19 track set, Rebel Heart is shaping up to be Madonna's best album in a decade, and maybe more.