Can Madonna turn the song hack to her advantage?

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Last week, 13 of Madonna’s demos in various stages
of completion were stolen and leaked to file-sharing services.
(Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi / AP)

The year-end
surprise album release is becoming a holiday tradition. First, Beyoncé,
then D’Angelo: Each of them released recordings that came out of
nowhere to capture the pop imagination just in time for the New Year.

But what happens when an album release is a surprise even to the artist?

That’s
the bind Madonna is in right now. Last week, 13 of her demos in various
stages of completion were stolen and leaked to file-sharing services.
The singer told the Guardian that there was a “big possibility” that her
home computer had been hacked, and the singer (perhaps overheatedly)
called the leak “artistic rape” and “a form of terrorism.”

Her
tactical response, though, was unexpected. She put an EP’s worth of
tracks from the album, called “Rebel Heart,” up for sale immediately on
iTunes. It was just enough new music to count as a last-minute winter
release (she quickly topped iTunes charts in more than 40 countries).
But it wasn’t quite enough new music to land with the force and urgency
of “Beyoncé” or “Black Messiah.” More pieces from the album are expected
to land on Feb. 9 to preview the March 10 release on Interscope.

So
what is this six-song partial record intended to be? An album teaser? A
middle finger to the hackers? A sign the LP might not be quite
finished? Or just something, anything, Madge can do to take back the
narrative around “Rebel Heart”?

 – LA Times

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