Does anyone care about Madonna anymore? Silly question, but it gets asked in headlines and comments sections each time she releases music these days. Maybe Kim Kardashian answered it this week when she said she dyed her hair blonde in tribute to Madonna. Maybe Drake did last month when he released a song titled "Madonna," in which he lures a love interest by promising that with his help she "could be as big as Madonna."
If nothing else, Madonna still matters as a symbol. A fashion symbol for Kim, a fame symbol for Drake, and a musical symbol for everyone. She’s pop's north star—a reminder that the genre can reinvent its sounds and its looks and can age and can court controversy and yet can still remain, at its core, pop. The title of her 13th album, Rebel Heart, is meant to reference how iconoclastic the artist has been, but listen to it and instead you get the sense of her as a unifying force, gobbling up disparate ideas and taming them for a sound anyone can hum along with.
Past acquisitions into Madonna Inc. have included gospel, euro-disco, and country music; this time, she's rounded up a few different, distinctly 2015, sounds. Working with a salon of disparate producers is standard practice for pop singers these days, but Madonna has a slightly edgier-than-par group for Rebel Heart, including Kanye West, Diplo, and some under-the-radar types like Blood Diamonds. Unlike other current stars shopping for the best beats, she’s not so much jumping from one style to another from song to song as she is grabbing elements from various acts and jamming them together in the space of a single track.