Madonna encounters the IOM (Internet Outrage Machine)

We’re three days into the new year and Internet writers have found the latest thing to be faux outraged at: Madonna. Is this pre-Internet 1984? Or 1989? Or 1992?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with what’s happened, let me fill you in. Last month, dozens of demos from Madonna’s upcoming album Rebel Heart leaked to the Internet. The Queen of Pop was obviously pretty pissed and as a response, she and her team released six tracks from Rebel as part of a pre-order (more music is coming next month and the full album release is scheduled for March, 10th).

Since then, Madonna has been re-posting fan art of photoshopped images of famous activists and freedom fighters, from Nelson Mandela to John Lennon, with the black ribbon around them a la the album cover to Rebel Heart. As she explained, she loved the images and found them inspiring.

I would like to thank all my fans for recreating my album cover with the ❤️Rebel Heart ribbon on the faces of so many Great Hero’s. It shows that you are also celebrating and in admiration of these great freedom fighters! When I repost these images i am saying YES! These people are all Rebel Hearts in one way or another from Martin Luther King to Jesus to Nelson Mandela to John Lennon. YES! Lets

But since this is 2015, the fact that she promoted fan-made images of civil rights icons is grounds for self-righteous indignation. Entertainment Weekly ran a hack-job-of-an-article on the images, claiming Madonna was being disrespectful and offensive (hey, sounds like the detractors from throughout her career!) by posting the images. Aside from the ageism and outright Madonna-hatred, this is perhaps the most hilarious line of the piece:

Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t make his “I Have a Dream” speech in order to promote a rich white woman’s record a half century later. And the fact that she’s co-opting the images of three of the most influential figures in the modern struggle for black liberation—King, Nelson Mandela, and Bob Marley—while America struggles to reckon with its history of systematic racism is bafflingly tone deaf, to say the least.

Not to be outdone in up-to-the-minute Internet fads, Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos joined in the fun to accuse Madonna of personally photoshopping the pictures. He also joined the author of the EW piece by bashing Madonna for not being the superstar they personally wish she would be.

By tweeting these controversial images, she’s (or someone on her team) doing a masterful job at changing the conversation. Instead of talking about how bad “Rebel Heart” is, people are now talking about how disrespectful she’s being.

It’s almost as if things like introspection and fact-checking don’t exist. This is yet the latest example of something Madonna has dealt with since she burst onto the scene in the early ’80s. Now it’s been updated to the Age of Perpetual Outrage.

 

 

The official "Rebel Heart" album cover by Mert & Marcus

The official “Rebel Heart” album cover by Mert & Marcus

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Be still, my “Rebel Heart” (UPDATED)

 

Madonna is the Queen. No, seriously – she is the undisputed Queen. Let me explain…

For starters, she’s sold over 300 million albums worldwide (more than any female artist) over her 32-year career. She’s the top-touring solo artist in history and those shows are sold out, critically acclaimed extravaganzas. She’s a billionaire…..I could go on and on (a la “Give it 2 Me”). But her royal credentials have been proven yet again by how she worked the recent leaking of her album to her advantage.

In case you didn’t read the news, 13 demos from album number 13 leaked onto the web just days ago. Yeah, the one and only Queen of Pop was not happy about it. ““This is artistic rape!! These are early leaked demos, half of which won’t even make it on my album,” she posted alongside a photo to Instagram (which was later deleted). “The other half have changed and evolved. This is a form of terrorism. Wtf!!!! Why do people want to destroy artistic process??? Why steal? Why not give me the opportunity to finish and give you my very best?”

Well last night (12/19/2014), she literally broke iTunes by releasing her upcoming album as a pre-order – I had trouble downloading it and connecting to the store, a problem I saw happened to many who tried to pre-order. Titled Rebel Heart (Madonna-holics like me have suspected as much since she’s frequently used the hashtag #rebelheart on her Instagram), the 19-track album has six that are instantly available once a pre-order is made. You better believe I pre-ordered faster than she fired someone over the leak.

I say this as a hardcore Madonna fan (I have all her albums, most singles, several vinyls, some books, posters, etc.): It’s her best material since 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor. It’s ahead of the curve (classic Madonna trait) and beautifully showcases the magic that happens when she collaborates with amazing artists and producers like Natalia Kills, Diplo, Avicii and others. I’m not saying 2008’s Hard Candy and 2012’s MDNA weren’t good – I loved them. But they sounded like other music of the time (no complaints, by the way). Rebel boldly breaks the streak. It sounds unique and different from anything currently out right now.

There are seven tracks with names, six of which are instantly downloadable: “Living For Love,” “Devil Pray,” “Ghosttown,” “Unapologetic Bitch,” “Illuminati,” and “Bitch I’m Madonna (feat. Nicki Minaj).” The seventh – “Joan of Arc.” The available six are all single-worthy and could easily stand alone.

They’re all my favorite. The dance and EDM grooves that have come to define Madonna are fine-tuned into some amazing songs. The lyrics are both deep and lighthearted, the beats are incredible, and the cover of the album is a stunning piece of art by Mert & Marcus. Someone leaked several demos so she released a surprise pre-order that included six songs. Touché.

If you need some confirmation, head over to iTunes and pre-order Rebel Heart. Twenty-fifteen is going to be the year of Madonna and I cannot wait.

The official "Rebel Heart" album cover by Mert & Marcus

The official “Rebel Heart” album cover by Mert & Marcus

UPDATED (12/20/2014)

Since the surprise pre-order “release,” Madonna has also released the first track, “Living For Love,” as the album’s first single (via YouTube).

“I was hoping to release my new single ‘Living For Love’ on Valentine’s Day with the rest of the album coming in the Spring. I would prefer my fans to hear completed versions of some of the songs instead of the incomplete tracks that are circulating. Please consider these six songs as an early Christmas gift.” – Madonna

Merry Christmas indeed.

 

 

UPDATED (again) – (12/22/2014)

New news of Rebel Heart keeps pouring in! Since pulling what Popjustice calls a “partial Beyoncé,” the pre-order/partial album has rocketed to the top of the iTunes charts in over 40 countries (the U.S. of A. included). Other than Barbra Streisand, no other female artist has had as many chart-topping albums as her – a whopping eight (of her now 13) albums. As examiner.com’s Samuel Lora pointed out, she’s also the only female artist to reach the top ten lists in the all decades since the ’90s.

Hey Madonna haters, do you know what that means? She is still very relevant and popular and will be long after she’s gone. Whether you like it or not, she’s the Queen of Pop.

Yesterday (12/21/2014) she revealed to Billboard that she may sing at the Grammy Awards next year (!!) and how she and her team have been in “overdrive” since the 13 demos leaked onto the Internet. She also sat down with Rolling Stone‘s Caryn Ganz for an exclusive Q&A. A few highlights:

– on song-writing with producers and artists like Avicii, Diplo, etc.:

“And sometimes in the writing phase of the music, there are some people who I really felt a connection to, just as human beings, and felt they understood me as a songwriter and a person, so those people were easier for me to write with. Writing songs, you have to be vulnerable, you have to not be afraid to express yourself and to say things or share. It’s almost like writing your diary in front of somebody and reading it out loud.”

– on the spirituality behind the incredible “Devil Pray” (which does not endorse drug use, by the way)

“[Unity is] another subtle message of the song, and you really do have to pay attention to the lyrics, and I hope people do over time. The way we’re going to change the world, or the way we’re going to ultimately feel joy, is through unity. I’m certainly not encouraging religious behavior; when I say people are thinking in a religious way, I think they’re thinking about rules and dogma and laws that separate. When I say spirituality, I mean a consciousness that has an understanding that we are all in this together, that we are all one. We have to find a way to feel joy and to bring joy to the world together. That ultimately is with consciousness, not drugs.”

– on the meaning behind the ironic track “Illuminati”:

“People often accuse me of being a member of the Illuminati and I think in today’s pop culture the Illuminati is perceived as a group of powerful, successful people who are working behind the scenes to control the universe…The real Illuminati were a group of scientists, artists, philosophers, writers, who came about in what is referred to as the Age of Enlightenment, after the Dark Ages, when there was no writing and no art and no creativity and no spirituality, and life was really at a standstill…when people refer to me as a member of the Illuminati, I always want to say thank you. Thank you for putting me in that category. But before I can say thank you, I feel like I had to write a song about what I believe the Illuminati to be, and what it isn’t.”

She has also taken to her Instagram to thank and praise her fans. We love you, too! We eagerly await February 9th for more music and March 10th for the full work of art. We’re living for the love she’s giving us.

For a great review of each of the six released tracks, head over to MuuMuse. And if you haven’t pre-ordered Rebel Heart, you should…now. 😉

One of the incredible shots from the Mert & Marcus photo shoot for the December 2014 edition of "Interview Magazine"

One of the incredible shots from the Mert & Marcus photo shoot for the December 2014 edition of “Interview Magazine”