Sputnikmusic.com give the album 2/10 :
Review Summary: From the queen of reinvention, to the queen of complacency.
There comes a time in an artist's career when they've been around for a long enough, when they have to consider how to stay relevant. Through the late eightites to the tail-end of the 2000s, this was a seemingly easy task for Madonna Ciccone; the Italian-American pop queen was given the name "The Queen of Reinvention", and she certainly didn't earn it for nothing. Nobody saw the shift from ordinary New York girl trying to find her place in this world (Like a Prayer) to sex queen (Erotica) in the early nineties, and nobody expected such earth-shatterers like Ray of Light or Confessions on a Dance Floor. But you can only get by on reinvention alone for so long. Track 5 on this album "Bitch, I'm Madonna", in addition to one of the most annoying synthesizer riffs of all time, has a chorus that goes, "We go hard or we go home/We gon do this all night long/We get freaky if you want/Bitch I'm Madonna", which should speak volumes about the Madonna we all know now. The once exciting, adventurous one-woman army has given way to a self-satisfied, squandering egomaniac. Not helping this is that a glance at Rebel Heart's hilariously troubled release history (which finally culminated in the bloated 98-minute SuperDeluxe edition being streamed in full a whole month before its release) seems to suggest that he just doesn't give a fuck anymore, because people will buy this album, if for the sole fact that it's a Madonna album. Which, I guess, is probably as good an excuse as any... almost.
Rebel Heart's biggest problem is that it's anything but rebellious or heartfelt. It's little more than MDNA 2.0, and it's merely a collection of grab-the-money-and-run pop anthem hopefuls with more than a few ballads tossed in there for good measure. It's overlong and hardly does anything to convince us that Madge is here to stay; in fact it only just seems to suggest that maybe the end of her career is near and she knows it. In addition, she hasn't given up the whole "middle aged pop queen trying to be a sex symbol" facade yet, and it's alive and well on this album. Everything here has been done before, and nothing is shocking coming from her anymore, especially at age 56. Sure, maybe in the Erotica days, a line like "Yeezus loves my pussy best" would have been shocking and even a little bit exciting, but nowadays, it's the musical equivalent of trying to do your homework while your parents fuck in the room right next to you. Everything here seems so commonplace and routine for Madonna, and while that isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just dissapointing and shows her lacking ideas. Now, it's not all bad here; there are a few decent tunes (mostly in the form of ballads), but they're all towards the end of the album, and you can't help but dwell on what could have been.
One of the biggest issues with Madge's albums post-Confessions has always been that she's never been the best at showing balance in the slow ballads and the upbeat and catchy pop numbers, and that is alive and well here. The first side of the album has three pop anthems all in a row ("Unapologetic Bitch", "Illuminati" and "Bitch, I'm Madonna"), and all of them are absolutely terrible. In fact, "Illuminati" may be the worst thing she's done since "Where Life Begins". The song is painfully dull and runs on a repetitive synth hooks, has some absolutely cringe-worthy lyrics and even more cringe-worthy spoken word/rap/whatever in the verses that makes absolutely no sense, and the extremely autotuned verses don't help much either. "Unapologetic Bitch" starts off well with a rather breezy reggae vibe, before it degenerates into a clusterfuck of a pop track- the chorus is one of the worst in her career and apparently Madonna still thinks being in her 50s and repeating the word "fuck" over and over in her lyrics is still shocking. "Live to Love" is... catchy and danceable, and I can see it being a good club anthem, but there's not much else to it. "Devil Pray" is basically a slower "Miles Away" but without any of the heartfelt emotion, and lyrics that reek of tryhard- I'm sorry but hearing a 56 year old name-drop multiple drugs in the chorus just comes off as pure desperation. And not forgetting to mention "Holy Water", which basically is an Erotica-era track that back then, even Madonna herself would have thought twice about putting on the album.
Fortunately, there are some bright spots among all the rubble- the final few songs do offer some catharsis from what you just sat through. There's been some hype over the final track "Wash All Over Me" and it isn't hard to see why- it's no "Falling Free", but its mix of beautiful piano, powerful drums and eerie vocal melodies make for a great way to close out the album. "Inside Out" is a dark, mid-tempo song with a sinister bassline and some stunning vocals from Madge herself, and "HeartBreakCity" is yet another good acoustic-based ballad with brutal honesty, and then there's the rather tongue-in-cheek "Body Shop". It is also a ballad, but one these ballads do seem to prove the notion that she can't do good ballads wrong. But while that's a good thing, it's simultneously a problem when the standout tracks are ballads and not the anthemic dance numbers.
And that's why Rebel Heart does not live up to its title at all. The album reeks of complacency, and it won't win her any new fans either. The whole time you listen, it's hard not to think that it's been her time to throw in the towel a long time ago, and while it might not be as bad as, say, Hard Candy or American Life, it's just plain dull, immature, and bloated. It's hard to tell exactly whether this album is going to be her swan song or just another bad album from Madge- I certainly hope that it's just the latter, but considering she's 56 and still doing things like stripping down on stage and writing songs about how sex with her is the best thing since sliced bread, I can't see her career lasting much longer. If the Madonna of the 80s was the little pop star who could, the Madonna of the 90s was the one who proved that to stay at the top you needed to break the rules, and post 2000s Madonna was the woman who was queen of the dance floor, then Madonna of the 2010s is the woman who gave it all away for a false sense of relevance.