Madonna’s never been one to shy away from referencing the work of other people (Monroe, Dietrich, Michael Jackson, the list goes on…) but on her new album Rebel Heart, she seems unusually comfortable with some sly mentions of her own work. Attitude‘s Ben Kelly has tried to lock down every self-referential moment we’ve seen so far this era.
It’s perhaps the most obvious, but underneath all those weird black wires we never quite understood is a good old-fashioned Vogue era Madonna – one could even mistake it for being a doctored version of an old image. She has almost identical hair and make up to the classic Vogue promo shot, and of course, it’s also in black and white. Perhaps the threads represent how she’s packaged up her old self and put it into Rebel Heart: who knows (we don’t).
The other promotional pictures
This one is immediately recognisable. Here, she is in exactly the same sultry pose as she was on the promotional cover of In Bed With Madonna.
On her recent Rolling Stone cover she did that ‘finger to eye’ pose that she’d also done on (here it is again) the promotional images for In Bed With Madonna.
This image, the cover of the Rebel Heart Super Deluxe Edition, she’s very ‘SEX book era Madonna‘, complete with black leather outfit and object in mouth.
Alright, alright, we might be pushing it a bit here, but this picture with her chin resting on her hands reminded us of something: on further investigation we realised it was this image of her with the Minnie Mouse ears, taken by Herb Ritts in Tokyo on the Who’s That Girl Tour, and later used on the cover of the Dear Jessie single.
Living For Love
The song itself, a gospel-infused house number, bears resemblance to both Like A Prayer and its successor Express Yourself. When performing it live, she tends to open with some spoken word about ‘a revolution of love’, bringing back fond memories of her recent ‘Secret Project’. Then along came the video, with more self-referencing than you could shake a stick at. The matador theme is of course reminiscent of her beautiful video for Take A Bow, but with her as the main event this time rather than heartbroken damsel.
Also, look out for a return performance of her Papa Don’t Preach trot at 0.56!
“It’s not Jay Z and Beyonce, it’s not Nicki or Lil Wayne…” When Madonna raps her way through the who’s who (or indeed who isn’t) of the Illuminati, you can’t help but be reminded of her ultimate ‘who’s who’ rap, in Vogue. It’s worth noting that while Lauren Bacall’s death in 2014 saw off the last of the Vogue clan, most people referenced in Illuminati are still very much alive. The real Illuminati is a different story altogether…
Once again, she’s gone in for a bit of (would you believe it), Vogue. Holy Water is a saucy, Yeezy-produced bit of fun that sounds like it should have been on Hard Candy, but when it gets to the breakdown, M can’t help a little bit of ‘ladies with an attitude’, which for us evokes the image of a couple of fierce bitches reading our magazine. Pick up the bit in question at 2.48.
Another saucy number, but slightly more sultry, on Best Night, Madonna promises a night like no other. So no better time really to drop in a bit of Justify My Love – possibly her raunchiest moment ever. She starts wanting, waiting and needing around 2.10.
Veni Vidi Vici
She came, she saw, she conquered, though not necessarily in that order. This is where Madonna really goes to town, telling the story of her life through her song titles. “I took a holiday…I kinda got into the groove”. There’s about 10 songs mentioned by their title (sorry, it’s bad news for Revolver), and she even gives us a nod: “When I struck a pose, all the gay boys lost their mind”. Indeed. The bit that really gets us is the almighty replication of the Holiday chords that come in at 3.11.
Sticking on the theme of evaluating her life, Rebel Heart deals more with Madonna’s personal journey, and will mean most to any super fan who knows her well – the father references, the masochism, the narcissism! We defy you not to get goosebumps when she sings “So I took the road less traveled by, and I barely made it out alive”. This is in desperate need of a career montage video accompaniment. A perfect way to end the album. Well, the Deluxe Edition at least, but that’s another story…
In conclusion, it seems Madonna is very happy to look back at her career these days, without fearing retirement rumours or facing accusations of running out of ideas. Plus, everyone else is referencing her (check out the vogueing in the new FKA Twigs video), so why shouldn’t she join in on it?