Say which flavour you like and I'll have it for you: Suedey's Madonna top 50

Suedey

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9. Get Together (Confessions On A Dance Floor, 2005)
UK chart position:
7
Key remix: none are that good but at a push, Jacques Lu Cont’s remix|
Key live performance: Confessions Tour 2005

First of all, let us get one thing out of the way: the instrumental breakdown in the middle where she spins around on-stage is one of the gayest and greatest moments of all time (not necessarily mutually exclusive). Of all time.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk ‘Get Together’. The best way the song is describe is that it represents pure euphoria. Interestingly, the original demo version (before Stuart Price was involved) had a slightly melancholic hint to it which I do enjoy but it is nowhere near the majesty of the final version. May the gay gods forever bless you, Stuart Price.



Lyrically it is quite simple, really, and I would say that musically it’s also one of her less complex compositions or arrangements, but it just works so well because it’s so upbeat and positive and happy. I was at a gay wedding a couple of years ago and the DJ played ‘Get Together’ and Kylie’s ‘All the Lovers’ back to back and the room just erupted. Pure joy.

Most of us know and love the Confessions Tour version but I thought I’d highlight this lovely performance on France’s Star Academy – back when she had a proper record label that made her go out and promote her records and not get side-tracked with selling skin care products and opening gyms. But I digress.


 

Jark

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I actually think Get Together is LOADED with melancholy and if you had to ask me I'd say it veers more toward sadness than happiness :D there's a hint of desperation to it. interesting that you consider it full-on joyful. were you the DJ?

I seem to remember she gave quite a good PERF on Parkinson (?!). or perhaps Jonathan Ross, for the album release special?

it used to be possibly my fave thing from Confessions this side of Hung Up, but long surpassed by Jump now. I still love it when I'm in the right mood - an objectively amazing tune.
 
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Suedey

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I actually think Get Together is LOADED with melancholy and if you had to ask me I'd say it veers more toward sadness than happiness :D there's a hint of desperation to it. interesting that you consider it full-on joyful. were you the DJ?

I seem to remember she gave quite a good PERF on Parkinson (?!). or perhaps Jonathan Ross, for the album release special?

it used to be possibly my fave thing from Confessions this side of Hung Up, but long surpassed by Jump now. I still love it when I'm in the right mood - an objectively amazing tune.
As I was typing my write-up I thought the same thing actually. Those strings in the middle-8 are quite melancholic.


I liked the Parkinson performance too. :disco:
 

Ag

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Get Together is everything. It's huge and YES it's disco melancholy, which is my favourite sub sub section of music. Slick, rich, deep, painful, joyous, throbbing, electric, messy FUCKING HOUSE.
 

Music

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Get Together is in my Madonna top 5, the way it builds to that middle 8 and then explode gets me every time. Pure art.
 

Suedey

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8. Justify My Love (The Immaculate Collection, 1990; Celebration, 2009)
UK chart position:
2
Key remix: William Orbit or (if it counts) The Beast Within version
Key live performance: Girlie Show Tour

From pure euphoria we move on to pure sex. “Justify My Love” marked the peak of her Imperial Era (part 1) – this was a woman at the absolute top of her game in every sense of the word. The ‘song’ itself is very simple: stream-of-consciousness type lyrics (based on a letter that Ingrid Chavez had written to then-boyfriend Lenny Kravitz; with lots of legal issues later) set to the background of a hip-hop beat (suspiciously similar to Public Enemy’s – cue more legal issues).

But this is no ordinary recital of one’s lust for her lover: it’s all heavy breathing and cooing and basically pure unadulterated lust. And then there was the video – if you’re unfamiliar with the controversy then you need to do your gay history homework. All I can say is as a ten year old watching all of it unfold I was most struck by her bravery – and yes I know it wasn’t altogether altruistic, but she still won in the end: she put her message of inclusivity across, got lots of column inches and made a lot of money. And that’s the way it’s done.



And then there were the remixes - William Orbit's remix was probably the first time their paths crossed, and it is a delight. I wouldn't necessarily classify 'The Beast Within' as a remix rather a whole new interpretation - a genius fusion of religion and sex in a much more explicit fashion than 'Like A Prayer'. Perhaps not very surprisingly, it's not become a live staple though the Girlie Show tour performance in full-on My Fair Lady drag was for the ages.
 
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Ag

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I had Justify on earlier and it sounded amazing. I immediately hired a rent boy and fucked him until my cock fell off.

Also: the production.
 

RaspberrySwirl

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Justify is one of the sexiest things ever. A total filth package from the lyrics, vocals, video, single cover... and then The Beast Within remix which is really just the icing on the cake. Another ”remix” that I wish was available on Spotify.
 

RaspberrySwirl

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As for Get Together...

gob GIF
 

Bluejeans

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12. Drowned World/Substitute For Love (Ray of Light, 1998; GHV2, 2001)
UK chart position:
10
Key remix: BT & Sasha’s Ashram Mix
Key live performance: Drowned World Tour 2001

I still remember the first time I played this on my Sony discman. The atmospheric intro and the ‘You see---’ stopped me right in my tracks before she even sang the now-iconic “I traded fame for love/ Without a second thought”. As an album opener, it is up there with the very best scene-setters there are. As a song, it is pretty relentless in the way it just builds and builds, until it gets to that thunderous middle-8 where she soars. It came with a pretty decent remix package when it was released in the UK and Europe (the US didn’t get it), and it managed a decent No. 10 peak over here – partly thanks to the mild controversy surrounding the video.


It has, quite rightly, become a live staple and one of her signature songs in my opinion – not ‘signature’ with the general public or in terms of commercial performance, but it defines her in the same way that, say, “Human Nature” does. It opened the Drowned World Tour in understated fashion where she emerged from the mist, a sharp contrast to her usual bombastic intros, which I think really served to emphasise the power of the song itself. I loved the version from the Confessions Tour as well, but I also really enjoyed the recent outing at the somewhat maligned Tears of a Clown show.

No words. Just AWE.
 

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13. Oh Father (Like a Prayer, 1989; Something To Remember, 1996)
UK chart position:
16
Key live performance: Blond Ambition Tour 1990

Similarly to other songs in the top 15, ‘Oh Father’ has often featured in my top 10 in the past. It is just quite difficult at this point as most songs are 10/10 really. Anyway, ‘Oh Father’ is perhaps the rawest and most personal of all the songs on Like A Prayer. The ominous intro that follows on from the jolly string outro of ‘Dear Jessie’ is perhaps one of her greatest album transitions. And then comes her raw vocal and her assertion of ‘You never loved me’. It is as literal towards her father as it is metaphorical to all male authority figures, and this is emphasised by the video: another Fincher masterpiece which, at times, can be quite difficult viewing. And for those of us who have had, shall we say, challenging relationships with our families this song does resonate.


It was only performed at the Blond Ambition Tour in 1990 as part of a medley with ‘Live To Tell’ in the religious section of the show – but what a performance! It was released as a single in the USA, where it broke her consecutive string of top 10 singles. We somehow inexplicably got it in 1996 as the second single from Something To Remember – a bizarre choice in my opinion not just for a single but even for inclusion on that compilation. But if it is testament to how much she loved it, then I wouldn’t complain much further.

Oh guys, this is it. This is THE ONE for me. It's always been my favourite. It stopped me in my tracks the very first time I heard it, and it still has that effect on me today. I can't explain how much it means to me.
 

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11. La Isla Bonita (True Blue, 1986; The Immaculate Collection, 1990; Celebration, 2009)
UK chart position:
1
Key remix: extended remix
Key live performance: Girlie Show Tour 1993


Surprised? Well don’t be. “La Isla Bonita” is one of those effortlessly flawless Madonna pop songs that she just makes sound so easy to construct and perform. This is another sentimental childhood favourite of mine – as I already said, True Blue was the first album I ever bought, and I was totally obsessed with the entire album at the time (yes, even ‘Jimmy Jimmy’) but “La Isla Bonita” just felt so special. Musically, it marks her first flirtation with Latin culture, which was to continue throughout her career.



Some of you will know that the original demo version of this song was originally touted to Michael Jackson for his Bad album, but he rejected it. It landed in Madonna’s lap and with a few alterations became one of her biggest hits to date. Fun fact: in the streaming era, “La Isla Bonita” is her highest viewed YouTube music video with over 400 million views to date.

It is, of course, a live staple of hers alongside ‘Holiday’ and ‘Like A Prayer’ when it comes to the ‘catalogue songs’ – sometimes to the detriment of others. But it always gets the crowd going and I’d say at this point I’d be happier if she retired ‘Like a Prayer’ rather than ‘La Isla Bonita’. My favourite live version is from the Girlie Show, particularly the finale.


I know it was a big smash, but I feel that this one doesn't get quite enough love. It's pure pop perfection!
 

funky

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JML is just too much. Even 30 years on, that drum loop, those strings, the backing vocals, everything, it sounds so fresh and perfect today. It’s one of her most timeless pieces.

And I expected it to be in your Top 3 if I’m honest.
 

funky

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8. Justify My Love

set to the background of a hip-hop beat (suspiciously similar to Public Enemy’s – cue more legal issues).

Really? The Public Enemy song interlude is lifted from James Brown’s Funky Drummer - maybe they sought permission and she didn’t?

after the success of Soul II Soul in 1989 every dance producer was scrambling to find old funk drum riffs from the 70s to loop and use as backing music - Madonna was not the first but JML is probably one of the most successful.

So many songs sample Funky Drummer, there are entire YouTube playlists dedicated to it. George’s “Waiting For That Day” is my other favourite.
 

KindaCool

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Anyone denouncing Get Together needs their vitals checked. It's sleek and understated disco, and with a decent sound system, it's just bliss.
 

POP!

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"Oh Father" doesn't get the credit it deserves. Perhaps not an obvious or necessary single, but it is one of the few Madonna songs that genuinely gives me chills even after a hundred plus listens.

4:15 of the video

I never felt so good
About MYSEEEEEELF
*turns back to camera*

My actual wig. :shock:
 

Suedey

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"Oh Father" doesn't get the credit it deserves. Perhaps not an obvious or necessary single, but it is one of the few Madonna songs that genuinely gives me chills even after a hundred plus listens.

4:15 of the video

I never felt so good
About MYSEEEEEELF
*turns back to camera*

My actual wig. :shock:
One of the all time best moments. The drama!
 

Suedey

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7. Live To Tell (True Blue, 1986)
UK chart position:
2
Key remix: extended (12”) mix
Key live performance: Confessions Tour 2005

It is easy in a discography as vast as Madonna’s to just file ‘Live To Tell’ on the shelf as yet another ‘Madonna ballad’, but it is so much more than that. First of all, a little context: this was actually her first attempt at being taken seriously as a singer-songwriter, and it paid off. Whilst she had already had a hit ballad (‘Crazy For You’), it was a romantic song with her trademark girlie vocal performed in the original Madonna accessory and fashion look. With ‘Live To Tell’ there was a conscious reinvention: she looked plain and demure in the video, to give focus more to the song.



The song itself is one of her best collaborations with Pat Leonard. Cryptic lyrics that hint at previous trauma / child abuse lend themselves well to the film it soundtracked (
At Close Range, starring then-husband Sean Penn). Then there was the vocal – sung in a deeper register: the first time we heard that rich lower tone of her voice. The production is big, pompous and unapologetically 1980s but, as with most Leonard songs, it was written on the piano and a stripped down version also works a treat. Madonna herself has not attempted it, but Tori Amos has and it is magical. It has been performed a few times on tour (faithful to the original arrangement), and the Confessions outing was of course iconic (disco crucifix? Why thank you) but I'd love a stripped down version at some point.
 

Peekaboo

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There's a fascinating video on YouTube where Pat Leonard explains how the song came about - and he mentions that the vocals in the final version are the first and only recording of the song - ONE-TAKE QUEEN :disco:

The part of the song leading up to the "If I ran away..." bridge is MONUMENTAL. So much DRAMA!
 

wurst

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Till Death Do Us Part TOO LOW!

But the past run of Get Together/Drowned World/Power Of Goodbye/Justify My Love/Live To Tell amongst others is just UNTOUCHABLE! :disco:
 

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Till Death Do Us Part 14/10
Get Together 11/10
Justify My Love 11/10
Live to Tell 10/10

And that is that
 

Loufoque

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Live To Tell is weird for me. You cannot deny how iconic it is. But it's not a song I choose to listen to often. It's kind of important and iconic more than it is enjoyable.
 

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7. Live To Tell (True Blue, 1986)
UK chart position:
2
Key remix: extended (12”) mix
Key live performance: Confessions Tour 2005

It is easy in a discography as vast as Madonna’s to just file ‘Live To Tell’ on the shelf as yet another ‘Madonna ballad’, but it is so much more than that. First of all, a little context: this was actually her first attempt at being taken seriously as a singer-songwriter, and it paid off. Whilst she had already had a hit ballad (‘Crazy For You’), it was a romantic song with her trademark girlie vocal performed in the original Madonna accessory and fashion look. With ‘Live To Tell’ there was a conscious reinvention: she looked plain and demure in the video, to give focus more to the song.


The song itself is one of her best collaborations with Pat Leonard. Cryptic lyrics that hint at previous trauma / child abuse lend themselves well to the film it soundtracked (At Close Range, starring then-husband Sean Penn). Then there was the vocal – sung in a deeper register: the first time we heard that rich lower tone of her voice. The production is big, pompous and unapologetically 1980s but, as with most Leonard songs, it was written on the piano and a stripped down version also works a treat. Madonna herself has not attempted it, but Tori Amos has and it is magical. It has been performed a few times on tour (faithful to the original arrangement), and the Confessions outing was of course iconic (disco crucifix? Why thank you) but I'd love a stripped down version at some point.
The first great artistic leap of her career. When you think about it, this was quite a gamble to release as a new single in 1986!
 

Suedey

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6. Paradise (Not For Me) (Music, 2000)

Into your eyes my face remains.

Of all the songs on the countdown, I’ve found the write-up for this one the hardest. Not sure why, but let’s first start with some background. ‘Paradise (Not For Me)’ was actually featured on Mirwais’ Production album, which was released a few months prior to Music. So, for many of us we were already familiar with it. Again, it is one of those songs I describe as ‘Madonna in cinemascope’. It has got such an expansive, cinematic landscape. It sprawls, crashes and burns and then builds back up again.

The song is a perfect marriage of simplistic, introspective lyrics with haunting electronica. It marked the very start of the Madonna/Mirwais collaboration, and with results like this you can see why she nabbed him for her album and has continued collaborating with him ever since, as recently as her most recent album Madame X. Later down the line, the Madonna/Mirwais combination would yield mixed results – at times the simplistic approach exposing some of the fissures in her songwriting; but this is definitely not the case for ‘Paradise (Not For Me)’. ‘Into your eyes/ My face remains’ is one of her most haunting and iconic lines.


It received video treatment for the Drowned World Tour with full geisha look, which worked really well, but she also performed it wonderfully on the Confessions Tour and she also dusted it off for the underrated Tears of a Clown shows.

For those of you who have made it this far with me, congratulations – top 5 next! No spoilers but ‘Paradise’ may or may not be the highest ranking non-single on the countdown. Stay tuned to find out.
 

Ag

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Paradise is beautiful. There's virtually no filler on the Music album, unlike other albums.
 

Suedey

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Songs like Paradise and Mer Girl really show why Madonna was an artist at the turn of the century. Cut to Turn Up The Radio and Girl Gone Wild ten years later.
In all fairness I would say that Madame X has as much artistry on it as those songs/albums.
 

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