The Queen of Pop's 13th studio album, Rebel Heart, dropped Tuesday, following a batch of leaked songs, a heavy promotional cycle, and an infamous tumble during the Brit Awards. So, after all this, how does Rebel Heart rank among Madonna's canon? Well, the superstar has set a pretty high bar for herself. See where her latest work falls in our definitive album ranking below.
Don't agree with our list? (Of course you don't.) Vote for Madonna's best album on the last page.
Lacking a central image or theme, 2012's MDNA instead relied on uninspiring beats and silly references to guns and partying. Singles like "Give Me All Your Luvin''" and "Girl Gone Wild" were so vapid, they made Taylor Swift songs look like cuts from a Joni Mitchell album. Almost instantly forgettable.
12: Hard Candy
Even with the catchy "4 Minutes" as a lead single, this 2008 album felt like a disheveled afterthought. Madonna threw everything at the wall: Timbaland (way past his producing prime), a boxing-themed cover, lyrics about Turkish Delight. The song "She's Not Me" was just embarrassing — you're Madonna, you don't need to remind us.
11: Rebel Heart
"Living for Love" is a stellar single for Madonna; catchy and uplifting, with a somewhat vague story behind it (Is it about Guy Ritchie, a more recent relationship, or even Gwyneth Paltrow?). Too bad "Living for Love" is the exception to Rebel Heart's confused, infantile rule. Too many songs name-check celebrities and drugs and contain insipid lyrics that the Madonna of 15 years ago would have laughed at. Where is our thoughtful icon? The parade of producers just crowd out her voice — which remains quite an instrument — and don't play to her strengths. Everything but "LFL" and "Ghosttown" are mostly disappointing, though "BodyShop" and "Unapologetic Bitch" are undeniably fun.
10: American Life
Possibly drunk with relevancy thanks to the critical and commercial success of Ray of Light and Music, Madonna took a big, brave risk with American Life — and failed. The lead single — oh, that rap — was pretentious pap. "I'm So Stupid" and "Intervention" were also misfires, but "Hollywood," "Love Profusion," and "Nothing Fails" salvaged the 2003 effort.