A deep dive into the pop diva's 13th studio album

By Jeff Nelson
Updated March 10, 2015 03:00 PM
Credit: Rosenberg

Madonna‘s latest album, Rebel Heart, is a triumph.

First, there’s the rough release timeline. Hackers leaked it. Then they leaked some more of it. Then she released parts of it herself in December, then again in February, before officially dropping the full record Tuesday. And do we even have to mention #CapeGate?

But the pop icon’s 13th (!) album in 32 years is worth the wait. Rebel Heart accomplishes what her last two efforts, MDNA (2012) and Hard Candy (2008), couldn’t: She brings the innovation while also paying just enough homage to her best moments. Add in sex, sacrilege, genuinely personal lyrics and some killer hooks, and it’s the best album she’s put out in 10 years.

With that, PEOPLE offers 13 reasons to give the veteran provocateur’s latest a spin:

1. ”Living for Love” is her best single since 2005’s ABBA-sampling ”Hung Up”
Her Hard Candy hit “4 Minutes” and 2012’s electro-confection “Girl Gone Wild” were ubiquitous, but in today’s EDM-saturated charts, they skewed toward the reductive, whereas “Living for Love” takes us to church with “Like a Prayer”-esque gospel disco.

2. She references a dozen of her own songs in a single verse
Awkward rapping aside, “Veni Vidi Vici” (featuring Nas) is a victory and the most self-referential work she’s done. Look no further than verse No. 2:

“I expressed myself / came like a virgin down the aisle
Exposed my naked ass, and I did it with a smile
And when it came to sex I know I walked the borderline
And when I struck a pose all the gay boys lost their mind
I justified my love / I made you say a little prayer
They had me crucified / you know I had to take it there
I opened my heart / I learned the power of goodbye
I saw a ray of light / music saved my life.”

3. You still shouldn’t listen to her songs with your mom
The “queen of obscene” reigns on with the wonderfully filthy Kanye West-produced oral sex ode “Holy Water.” (Serious question: Has Kim heard this one yet?)

4. She’s got a song called ”Bitch I’m Madonna” – in case you forgot

5. Mike Tyson makes a memorable cameo
“Iconic” opens with a monologue from none other than the tiger-owning boxing champ. Forget the fact that Tyson drew inspiration from fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and focus on Madge’s beat-your-way-to-the-top chorus, and it’s 4.5 minutes of pop perfection.

6. Come for Madonna – stay for the A-list producers
Per usual, the queen of pop tapped the industry’s top producing talent. In addition to West, Madonna teamed up with of-the-moment hitmakers including Diplo, Avicii and Ryan Tedder for undeniable stereo success.

7. It’s a great breakup album
It’s no secret Madonna has had her share of breakups, and hell hath no fury like a pop star scorned. From the raw “HeartBreakCity” to the I’m-better-off-and-you-can-kiss-off “Living for Love,” she clearly came out on top.

8. She has a song called ”Illuminati” – because obviously
She swears she’s not a part of the fabled conspiracy theory, so this track probably just adds fuel to the fire. But whatever. Madge name-checks Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, the pope and more in the dark, Yeezy-produced dance jam.

9. Her double-entendre game is alive and well
The songwriter who invited a man to release her lock with his key in “Open Your Heart” returns on “Body Shop.” This time around – you guessed it! – her body’s a car, and he can keep her overnight to work overtime if need be. Except the awkward lyrics are canceled out by her gorgeous, unrendered voice, making it a saccharine-sweet love song.

10. She channels ”The House of the Rising Sun” – and it’s awesome
Reminiscent of her strumming-infused Music era, the acoustic-meets-dance vibe of “Devil Pray” makes it an instant classic.

11. Nicki Minaj
Joining Madge for the third time, Minaj’s “Bitch I’m Madonna” is by far her best guest verse in recent memory. (Not quite “Bang Bang” but way better than “Beauty and a Beat.”) Between the frenzied production and Madonna’s “na na na na na” hook, the song’s all over the place, but the rapper’s lyrics of label-dropping and bottle-popping make it a satisfying hot mess.

12. Multiple ”Vogue” nods
Whether it’s the soundtrack to a movie makeover montage (lookin’ at you, The Devil Wears Prada) or Madonna’s quoting it in “Holy Water” and “Veni Vidi Vici,” “Vogue” will never go out of style.

13. She reminds us she’s still a person
Yes, she’s the best-selling female artist of all time. But, as she reminds us on the über-personal “Joan of Arc”: “I can’t be a superhero right now I’m only human.” Sexy dance confections are fun, but it’s tracks like the aforementioned, “Wash All Over Me” and the must-listen “Rebel Heart” (only available on the deluxe edition) that showcase the megastar’s vulnerable, relatable side.

For more on Rebel Heart, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday