“Rebel Heart” may have been Madonna’s last pop album of new music. Released in March, the collection failed to catch on no matter what Madonna did for it. The total sales were 179,000, according to Nielsen. She could never get a single going from the album. All together, there were only 312,000 purchases of individual tracks from the album, like “Bitch I’m Madonna” or “Living for Love.” The album was streamed a lot on line for free– about 14 million times including video and audio from YouTube and places like that.
Madonna worked hard to promote “Rebel Heart” too. She was everywhere, and even had the calamitous fall during a promo appearance in London. She spent a week on “Ellen,” which was supposed to connect her to the young mothers audience. She also did what she could to connect to the teen crowd: she horsed around with Taylor Swift, kissed Drake on stage one TV show.
Her best moment was on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight show, which actually gave the album and the single a momentary jolt. But “Rebel Heart” never caught fire. It’s the fourth time in a row that the former chart star was unable to cause a commotion. She can’t get her very vocal fans to buy albums of new material, a problem now for most legacy pop stars.
The next step? A duets album using her classic hits is probably being considered. One issue for Madonna is that she has few past collaborations. She’s used contemporary stars to bolster her up– like Justin Timberlake or Nicki Minaj– but Madonna really hasn’t appeared on other people’s albums. She’s an outsider in many ways, without a lot of ties to the musical community. But maybe we’ll be hearing Michael Buble on a new rendition of “Frozen.”
Madonna’s big business is still live shows. Her tour in the fall will do well, and if there’s a future tour, she can always make a record that serves as a commercial tie in. But her days of selling CDs (or whatever) are done, I’m afraid, unless she can figure out a new hook.