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Rebel Heart 'Tamed': SPIN'S 12-Track Edit of Madonna's New Album

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http://www.spin.com/articles/madonna-rebel-heart-album-edit-new-track-list/?utm_source=spintwitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=spintwitter

Rebel Heart' Tamed: Our 12-Track Edit of Madonna's New Album

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Earlier this month, Madonna's new album leaked in full. It wasn't the first time this promotional cycle that the iconic singer has been dealt a blow by hackers, as more than 30 of her tracks trickled online in unfinished form throughout the month of December. Her final product suffers from such a severe lack of self-editing, overstuffed with clunkers, messy harmonies, lazily strung together lyrics, and an almost irreperably uneven flow.

In the interest of helping Madonna salvage this campaign (and preserve her legacy), SPIN has dug deep into every single track publically available from the Rebel Heart era to re-track and restructure the album. Our 12-track version consists of a mix of fully mastered album cuts, album demos, and a track that wasn't ever supposed to see the light of day. We present to you Rebel Heart Tamed.

1. "Living For Love" (album version)
For all of the album's unevenness, Madonna made the right call with Rebel Heart's will-to-power opener: "Livin' for Love" builds slowly to its anthemic pre-chorus, but as soon as those '90s house piano chords hit, you're ten years old dancing to "Vogue" or "Ray of Light" on the radio again. It's her best club anthem in ages, and it's probably the song that a lot of old-school Madonna fans wish that she would fashion an entire album after. We're good with just the one throwback, though, and putting it front and center as a reminder of why we've loved Madonna all along is a pretty good look. ANDREW UNTERBERGER

2. "Bitch I'm Madonna" (feat. Nicki Minaj) (album version)
The most surprising thing about a song that's actually called "Bitch, I'm Madonna" is that it doesn't have any surprises. Our premier pop matriarch didn't get to the top of the world by running in place, and this Diplo-helmed track braids together several key pop sounds of the last few years: the crabwalking synths of "Turn Down for What," clippy, affected Auto-Tuned rapping à la Miley, skittering breakdowns courtesy of meta-pop provocateur Sophie and — what else? — a 16 from Her Minajesty. By the time Madge proclaims herself a bad bitch, it's like, lady, we remember. DAN WEISS

3. "Two Steps Behind Me" (non-album demo, prod. by Avicii)
In December, this incendiary demo leaked and within an hour, Madonna had already uploaded an Instagram distancing herself from its message, quick to note that it was not about Lady Gaga as was heavily rumored: "Their [sic] are People that are so hateful. they want to create feuds between strong women that do not exist! I do not wish ill will towards any other female artist and i never have!"

Ignore that missive. "Two Steps Behind Me" finds Madonna standing atop ground strewn with the careers of pop stars who couldn't outlast her reign. "Here we go again / In your fantasy / You can try it all / But you can't be she," she says with a sneer, her vocals still generally untouched by Auto-Tune, rendering her verdict icy and potent. She's at her best when she draws blood, and this demo finds the icon at peak "Unapologetic Bitch." BRENNAN CARLEY

4. "Rebel Heart (album demo)
This retrospective is Madonna's sweetest melody since "What It Feels Like For a Girl," with her register dropped an octave or two until it resembles the Liz Phair of 2005's (underrated) Somebody's Miracle. "I've spent some time as a narcissist," she admits before slant rhyming it with "provocative," a move that sums up her last 15 years as well as any. The album version marches along as a pop-rock respite from the two discs of EDM, but the supremely Avicii'd-up demo (one of more than five that leaked) continues the dance party well past the downtempo hours, with plucky synths, unused counterpoint vocals, and punchier disco strings. Wake her up; she's older and wiser. D.W.

5. "Iconic" (feat. Chance the Rapper & Mike Tyson) (album version)
With its robotic, authoritarian droning, "Iconic" conveys the point that — love her or hate her — Madonna is an icon, and you're not getting rid of her anytime soon. It's a statement that's hard to deny, and in many ways, it's the album's lynchpin. However, if we could make one additional edit to this song, it would be to drop the Mike Tyson intro: The open-armed acceptance of Tyson as a goofy celebrity, despite his reprehensible past, feels off-brand. JAMES GREBEY

6. "Body Shop" (album version)
The shuffling drums, gently plucked acoustic guitar, and dribbled-out vocals threaten to ground "Body Shop" in Jason Mraz territory before the song can really take flight. Luckily, the sneaky build of the beat — formed around handclaps, backing yelps, and even some creeping Eastern winds (damn, is that a shehnai?) — give the song much-needed levity, making it a perfect mid-album breather. The less attention paid to the cars-as-sex extended metaphor — "So pop the hood and see what's good / I need a tune-up man" — the better, though. A.U.

7. "Joan of Arc" (album version)
Though this re-edit loads Rebel Heart with a dance-heavy first half, one of the finished album's most shocking moments comes in the simplistic "Joan of Arc." Its opening verse is the rawest that Madonna's voice has sounded since Ray of Light. Accompanied by only an acoustic guitar, she sings about the pressure of fame without stooping to cliches: "Each time they take a photograph / I lose a part I can't get back / I wanna hide." In a perfect world, the synthed-up chorus would've remained as stripped and vulnerable as the track's verses, but "Joan of Arc" revels convincingly in its vulnerability. B.C.

8. "Illuminati" (demo)
Far be it from SPIN to suggest that Kanye West stumbled in his rework of "Illuminati," but something about the Yeezus megamind's mastered final cut detracts from the demo's whiplash weirdness. On Ye's version, the track flails in overwrought production, its lyrical power lost to thunks and howls that are a little too purposeful in their creepiness. Part of the original's charm is how organically, DIY-spooky it comes across with its incessant drum beats and a strikingly Avicii-esque post-chorus. On Rebel Heart, the song takes itself too seriously, but the warmth and humor of the "Illuminati" demo make it the more interesting inclusion. B.C.

9. "Holy Water" (album version)
In case you somehow forgot about the "Like a Prayer" video or her namesake (don't start even get her started: "Bitch…"), the Queen of P-O-P is also the queen of church-baiting innuendos, and this one might be her bait-iest yet: "Don't it taste like holy water?" she asks, before clarifying that yes, Yeezy did reupholster her pussy. She starts by shooing you off her pole and climaxes by quoting her own classic "Vogue," over a maelstrom of black leather synth blips. When she finally cajoles, "I promise you it's not a sin," what — are you calling Madonna a liar? D.W.

10. "Heartbreak City" (album demo)
While there aren't a ton of differences between the album version of "Heartbreak City" and its equally as emotive demo, this version's vocals stand apart, plus it keeps off the hackneyed martial drums that sludge up the final cut. It's also confessional-mode-Madonna on full blast: "You got just what you came for / A bit of fame and fortune / Now I'm no longer needed," she sings with a noticeable, weeping warble. This is the way to deal with heartbreak: Drench your lyrics in nuance, expose only enough dirt to keep listeners interested, and keep the production bare. B.C.

11. "Veni Vidi Vici" (feat. Nas) (album version)
This is one of the strangest conceivable pairings, but somehow, each of them bolsters the other's street cred. After Madge spits verses shouting out her classic tracks — how many people can construct an entire song based on callbacks to old material and her fans? — Nasty Nas jumps in with a verse that eviscerates ex-wife Kelis and outlines his own struggles. "Had a baby girl / By a crazy girl... / That ended / In a bad divorce," he rhymes. We're also incredibly thankful that she kept her chorus simple — "I came / I saw / I conquered" — without tacking on an unnescessary Latin retranslation. B.C.

12. "Unapologetic Bitch" (album version)
Rebel Heart really is two albums in one, as it alternates between a boisterous Madonna and a more open, thoughtful, and venerable Madge. The way she chooses to finish this exercise in dichotomy is important, so it would makes sense for her to conclude by really doubling down on her role as the Queen of Pop. She doesn't apologize. If you didn't like what you heard, Madonna DGAF. J.G.

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How is it that SPIN can write such a harsh critique of the final product when it isn't even released for a month?

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Agreed! I thought the SAME thing.

How is it that SPIN can write such a harsh critique of the final product when it isn't even released for a month?

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It's an interesting take, though obviously misguided (first paragraph is simply wrong). But without Devil Pray, Ghosttown, Hold Tight... even the final tracklist can't be taken seriously.

I do think plenty of music critics will find fault in the elements SPIN just pointed out (too long, too indulgent) so I can't say I was totally surprised. They aren't invested in actually understanding the product.

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What an awful article, that track list is hideous!

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What the hell? They're reviewing STOLEN CONTENT. I'm shocked that such a reputable publication as Spin would describe and review unauthorized leaks before the album is released, especially considering that they have a long relationship with Madonna.

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Their list has too many Rebel tracks and not enough Heart ones. It's not as balanced as the actual album. Also, I really like how she ends her albums on slower ballad like songs. I think it would be odd to make the last song Unapologetic Bitch. I think it makes more sense to end on a softer song because although Madonna has her rebellious in your face side at heart she's a romantic and a nice girl from Michigan.

Also it seems like there's a typo or misuse of words in their article. They talk about a more open, honest, venerable Madonna, but don't they mean vulnerable. That is the word I would use for the softer sweeter romantic Madonna on ballads on this album. Venerable doesn't make sense in that context.

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I don't think you're allowed to post that article here.

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How is it that SPIN can write such a harsh critique of the final product when it isn't even released for a month?

Exactly. This article was totally uncalled for and very maligned. I'm upset by it and would never have expected such nonsense from SPIN.

-500 points from them!!!

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Feel this was not very fair like others have stated because the album has not been officially released.

M deserves better and spin does not need to help her "savage this campaign and preserve her legacy" :angry:.

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Two Steps Behind Me is a cute song, but the songs on the actual album are better. If she put that one on the album it would bring up all kinds of negativity from the media and the little monsters and not do a lot for her legacy.

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Why the hell would anyone want anything "tamed"? Everything is better when it's wild...

Had this been the final version I would have been devastated.

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I also noticed they got three separate people to review the album and pick songs. That seems odd to me. If you are trying to make a cohesive track list I would think you would get one person to do the whole review.

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Yes, this is complete BS.

They should wait for the complete album. WTF with reviewing 2 Steps???

I predict this will have much better reviews once it is officially released. At least they liked VVV.

And I think the Mike Tyson rap is awesome

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Sloppy, butchered mess of a "tracklist". The one we have is perfect, thanks.

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These idiots stripped away the album from the awesomeness of the ballads! :angry:

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Why the hell would anyone want anything "tamed"? Everything is better when it's wild...

Had this been the final version I would have been devastated.

^ This!!

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I remember Spin naming Don't Tell Me -- one of my favorites -- at the #2 single of the year, saying something like how she came out with such a great song that late in her career.

Does anyone remember, I think they did something similar with Beat Goes On?

So I had hopes for them for Rebel Heart, a little disappointed.

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I remember Spin naming Don't Tell Me -- one of my favorites -- at the #2 single of the year, saying something like how she came out with such a great song that late in her career.

Does anyone remember, I think they did something similar with Beat Goes On?

So I had hopes for them for Rebel Heart, a little disappointed.

Yes, re: DTM they said that nobody had ever released such a masterpiece so far into their career. I loves that write up. They also gave American Life one of its better reviews. And Madonna had three covers with them. Or maybe four. I expect the actual review will be better.

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sounds like the reviewer had an ax to grind.

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Rebel Heart TAMED ? What a crap title and how can you review DEMOS of songs that aren't finished ? If they'd given it a terrible review upon its release it would be more understandable.

No actually it wouldn't . FU SPIN !

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Why the hell would anyone want anything "tamed"? Everything is better when it's wild...

Had this been the final version I would have been devastated.

Exactly! I'd prefer the wild over the tamed version myself. I think some of the criticism directed at SPIN is unfair though. The points they made are ones I've come across in several fan sites. including this one. It's their opinion on the music they've heard, I don't think it means they have an axe to grind or anything like that. I can't tell at this point whether I would agree with them or not, because I haven't heard most of the leaked songs. But apparently the final versions have also leaked so it's not like they are reviewing only on the basis of leaked demos. That part where they mentioned they were going to enlighten M on how to "preserve her legacy" was pretty ridiculous though.

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Ppl said no one cares for an old hag like M and yet they monitor whatever M does.

Desperately.

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Hmmm. What a horrible selist. How can there be no Wash Over Me Inside Out Queen etc. and be a "perfect" list??????????????? Lets hope the author that does review the album has any taste in music really.

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Yes, re: DTM they said that nobody had ever released such a masterpiece so far into their career. I loves that write up. They also gave American Life one of its better reviews. And Madonna had three covers with them. Or maybe four. I expect the actual review will be better.

I have a subscription to Spin and I have found 5 issues with Madonna on the cover in my collection. Don't be too hard on Spin magazine; they have actually been very supportive of Madonna throughout her career. They even named MDNA one of the BEST POP albums of 2012 (which, let's face it, was pretty generous). In this case, it's ONE writer who put his two cents in on some songs that were never meant to be reviewed in the first place.

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