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

RJN

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People are quick to pounce on her these days but the quality of the songs on that list plus the fact she probably has almost the same amount of proper quality not on it should make her immune from criticism forever.
I myself am quick to criticize her, but this list made me remember just why she’s so great
 

funky

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I only ever criticise her music (and social media behaviour) since 2010. Before then I could honestly name less than ten tracks across her entirely catalogue I didn’t like. The rest ranged from good to great to fabulous.
 

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Bravo @Suedey! I know from being on the forum for years how much of a fan you are so it has genuinely been interesting to follow this!

I'd have the same Top 2, they pretty much alternate. The top 5 is such an perfect mix and I like how their all from very different Madonna era's.

VERY pleasing to see a high ranking of Justify My Love too :disco:
 

Iguana

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That was fantastic @Suedey! Sorry I'm a couple of days late!The write-ups were so engaging and interesting. I especially loved the MOODY song section between (approx) 20 and 10 - and the top 10 is of course amazing.

I think my top 2 may be the same as yours but in reverse order. But it's so hard to choose. So many good songs!

Randomly it's made me put Madame X on :disco:
 

Suedey

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The ultimate TROLLDONNA anthem :disco:
 

Whatevar

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Hi @Suedey, I have now read your entire countdown - what fun!

These are the tracks I love:

2. Frozen
4. Vogue
5. Secret
15. Power of Goodbye
17. I Want You
21. Hung Up
23. Rain
29. You’ll See
31. Nothing Really Matters
41. Masterpiece
48. Hollywood
 

KindaCool

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11 Frozen
12 Into The Groove
17 Vogue

I'll get boiled for this but Like A Prayer is, in my opinion, one of history's most overrated songs. Perhaps it's the overplay or karaoke abuse, but I find it mediocre.
 

KindaCool

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This countdown was amazing though Suedey. Perfect blend of songs I already know and love, and deep cuts to check out.
 

Whatevar

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I just remembered that when I was in Year 4 at my Church of England primary school, we had a Tudor Day and had to present entertainment to ‘the court’ - an assembly of school & parents. My group sang Deeper and Deeper. I wore my mum’s silk kimono because I had the idea that it passed as a ‘robe’. I mean, how hilarious must this have been.
 

Jark

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you (and the whole group) sang Deeper and Deeper for Tudor Day? :D sounds feasible only if you went to gay theatre school in DETROIT!
 

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Like A Prayer simply does nothing for me anymore. Loved it at the time and for years after. But it just leaves me cold now. Overplay has slaughtered it. I'm sure I'll have a moment to it again.
 

Suedey

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Like A Prayer simply does nothing for me anymore. Loved it at the time and for years after. But it just leaves me cold now. Overplay has slaughtered it. I'm sure I'll have a moment to it again.
I can see that and it's not just overplay but also she's over-featured it in her live sets, and sometimes to its and her own detriment (e.g. Eurovision).

But if you strip all of that back and just assess the song itself, to me it remains her greatest moment. But maybe 'Frozen' should have been number 1.
 
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Bubbling Under:
61. Time Stood Still (Original Soundtrack - 'The Next Best Thing', 2000)
62. Die Another Day (American Life, 2003)
63. Forbidden Love (Confessions On A Dance Floor, 2005)
64. Lucky Star (Madonna, 1983)
65. Nobody Knows Me (American Life, 2003)

So here we go. It was a total agony narrowing this down to 50, so I felt a top 65 would be more appropriate but the bubbling under 15 will get joint write-ups. 'Time Stood Still' is a lovely forgotten ballad from the ill-fated Next Best Thing film, a little sister of sorts to 'The Power of Goodbye'. Two American Life songs missed the cut - 'Die Another Day' and 'Nobody Knows Me' have both featured in my top 50 in the past, but perhaps overplay has somewhat pushed them down this time around. Like another one of her Mirwais-helmed albums, American Life works better for me as an album rather than taking out individual songs and ranking them singularly in her catalogue. 'Lucky Star' works much better for me in live form, and the Who's That Girl Tour 1987 performance is iconic for me but I rarely seek out for the studio version.

Forbidden Love is the disco drip feed of cool I still live to tell and desperately seek from her. It is absolutely still within her abilities.

Time Stood Still makes me surprised she never sought out Air. It's a souvenir of when her Hyacinth Bucket vocals worked and then some.

Die Another Day. I never understood hating a music video and then seeing a tour promo that looked more expensive or at least more cinematic.

Nobody Knows Me remains one of her best and most raw live performances on the Re-Invention tour (it's Madge lipsyncing for all our lives).

Lucky Star. It's cute.
 

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Bubbling Under (continued)
56.
Human Nature (Bedtime Stories, 1994)
57. Physical Attraction (Madonna, 1983)
58. Words (Erotica, 1992)
59. Love Tried To Welcome Me (Bedtime Stories, 1994)
60. Future Lovers (Confessions On A Dance Floor, 2005)

Another batch that just didn't quite make the cut. The only proper single being 'Human Nature' - a Madonna anthem of sorts that has appeared on most of her live setlists for the past 20+ years. 'Physical Attraction' was, of course, a double A-side to 'Burning Up' (her second single) - I agonised over this the most. The early, foetal Madonna live performances of this show the raw hunger that would catapult her to super stardom. Then we have 'Words', a personal favourite for a long time and also, as we know, a permanent fixture in @Christian 's Madonna top 10. 'Love Tried To Welcome Me' is silky smooth balladeer Madonna channeling her best Barbra Streisand, and she should have included it on Something To Remember but I suppose she doesn't like it much. 'Future Lovers' we all know and love and the opening sequence in the Confessions Tour was of course, life-affirming.

Physical Attrsction drips in glossy 80s pop trash splendor. So pretty and infinitely appealing. I feel she's revisited this unassuming approach, albeit stiffly, and never quite pulled it off with the necessary aplomb and it's nothing to be ashamed of.

Love Tried To Welcome Me was too much sultriness for my instant gratification needs at the time, but I do confess I'm now drawn to its languid sadness. What a flow.

Words is cold, exotic and an airkiss fuck you. Those snotty, sore sounding verses are just everything I could ask from Madge. The perfect assortment of Madonna sensations.

I'm not sorry, but Human Nature needs to sit its ass down and not be performed for a tour or two. Madge as T-Boz and her layered BVs is one of her most unappreciated turns. Into the groove, but not quite the charts. BOOM!

I'm gonna tell you about Future Lovers. Forget about Kylie, this is her Light Years. In the evidence of it's tour showcase, it's a pure, panting lava flow of majestic Madge I can only want more of. I'm breathless.
 

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Bubbling Under (continued):
51. Cherish (Like A Prayer, 1989)
52. Holiday (Madonna, 1983)
53. Sorry (Confessions On A Dance Floor, 2005)
54. Music (Music, 2000)
55. Rebel Heart (Rebel Heart, 2015)

Final batch of also-rans before we get to the main countdown. Some controversial choices in here perhaps - with two of her UK number 1 singles missing the cut, but when the catalogue is that vast what can you do? However, many of those songs have suffered from overplay for me and, in recent years, the likes of 'Holiday' and 'Music' have also been heavily featured in her live sets on the expense of other hits and so I have somewhat punished them perhaps by taking a leaf out of her book and relegating them out of the main top 50. 'Cherish' I really agonised over - it is Ciccone/Leonard songwriting heaven, and the layered vocal harmonies towards the outro are absolutely divine, but it had to be done. A quick reminder also here that the definitive version of 'Rebel Heart' is the leaked Avicii demo version (readily available on on YouTube) as opposed to the somewhat pedestrian album version.

Cherish is a state of Bliss. Holiday another sigh of pop perfection (the Blond Ambition performance where she starts spinning with the look of "yes I do own the world" swirling in her eyes being the song's ultimate for me). Sorry has never rang true for me. Maybe it's just too tame and not even Alison Hammond in the video could save it. Anyway, I won't go in about it as talk is cheap. Music was the last time she felt leader of the pack. The batch of remixes also lost in music - what a package we got here. It's a well deserved later day addition to what can now be called oldie but goodie and even the video delivered the goods (Deb probably cancelling a family birthday plan to keep up the facade of fame :disco:). @Suedey, was there an explanation why it wasn't Donna playing friend on the right? I'm glad D and Nik do their duo thing, but personally I think they could do a whole tour from it. Anyway, back to the muzik. I honestly believe Rebel Heart to have been her biggest sabotage and most frustrating what could have beens. In Avicii form (couldn't agree more with the write-up), this is a stone cold classic. It's regal, self-regarding and the explosion of dance does the heavy lifting for her whilst not making it obvious she's at a reduced capacity these days. There's a very fine album in here, but I suppose with most things leaked it matters very little to scrutinise the track listing, which I guess are mere starting off points these days (Madge down with the kids as ever).
 

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50. God Control (Madame X, 2019)

UK chart position: n/a
Key live version: Madame X Tour (2019-2020)
Key remix: n/a

We commence the countdown proper with a track from 2019’s Madame X. After a relatively underwhelming decade commercially and artistically, the album was perceived as a return to form of sorts (despite what Pitchfork says). To me it is her best album since Confessions, and while the heavy use of autotune throughout the album was a choice; in the case of “God Control”, it works. The muffled intro as though she is singing through gritted teeth then leading into some crazed disco pastiche encapsulates the Madonna/Mirwais partnership down to an art. Lyrically, it swings from the clever (the ‘gun/God’ pun) to the crazy (‘People think that I’m insane/ The only gun is in my brain’) and the frenetic pace of the music matches it. How much of that is Madonna’s own contribution has been muddled by the controversy with Casey Spooner (he had demoed an early version of the track to Mirwais) – and this may also explain why the commissioned remixes haven’t yet seen the light of day.


The video would have benefited from a serious edit but the partnership with Jonas Akerlund remain synergistic. However, the song really came to life for me when I saw it live on the Madame X Tour and I think otherwise it may not have made my top 50. The low-key emergence of her onto the stage to a backdrop of bloody stars and stripes whilst dressed as George Washington was a moment for the ages and if she ever finishes editing the tour film we may all finally be able to see it. Anyway, it’s great. Check it out if you haven’t!

It's iconic Madonna indulgence. She hasn't sounded this immersed and compelled by her own imagination since Hung Up quite frankly. Catching up slowly here:)
 

straightorbroken

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49. Like A Virgin (Like A Virgin, 1984)
UK chart position: 3
Key live version: Blond Ambition Tour (1990)
Key remix: Extended Dance Mix (1984)


I can almost hear the collective groans and see the eye rolls but hear me out please. ‘Like A Virgin’ = Madonna. It is as simple as that. It is a chameleon of a song in live format – just as she is. It is a delicious juxtaposition of contrasts – just as she is. And it is, quite simply, sordid – just as she is. Bubble-gum pop was never the same again after this song. I still marvel at the sheer audacity of her at that early stage in her career and in the ‘80s, blatantly singing about not being a virgin. A lot of feminists were up in arms at the time with headlines like Madonna setting back the women’s liberation movement by 50 years of something thanks to songs like this but they had it all wrong. ‘Like A Virgin’ is probably the most effortlessly feminist statement of her entire career (ironically penned by two men). In studio form it is quite simple, and the bassline is very reminiscent of ‘Billie Jean’ (which she acknowledged by interpolating into the Virgin Tour performances in 1985).

'It hurts. It hurts her. It shouldn't hurt. You know, her pussy should be Bubble-Yum by now. But when this cat fucks her, it hurts. It hurts like it did the first time.
You see the pain is reminding a fuck machine what is once like to be a virgin. Hence, "Like a Virgin."' (
from Reservoir Dogs)

‘Like A Virgin’ really took on a life of its own with the 1990 Blond Ambition Tour performance where she simulated masturbation with two eunuchs in cone bras. It was brazen, filthy and absolutely genius. Since then, it has had many other incarnations including a cabaret-style reinvention a la Marlene Dietrich (Girlie Show Tour) and the morbid, underrated waltz of a performance in the 2012 MDNA Tour which she sang flawlessly in a far more comfortable lower register. Yes, it is overplayed; yes, it is every basic queen’s go-to karaoke song – but that does not take away its sheen. Not for me at least.

Oh imagine Dietrich doing the BA perf in the 50s. I wonder what she thought of Madge. It makes me remember her daughter sharing later day tales where she and Madame Marlene would plan ideas for her funeral: Dietrich wanted the men to be given colour coded roses based on how far she got with them :)

Anyway, I love the chameleon description. The song is shameless, a shambles and sublime. The nearest kitschy take on it for me would be Lene Nustrom and her Virgin Superstar, but perhaps all the Touch Me, Touch Myself songs were also in it's more immediate trail/veil. It's basically a blueprint to the point where I take it for granted and consider Shoo Bee Doo and Stay to be the true jewels of the era.
 

straightorbroken

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48. Hollywood (American Life, 2003)

UK chart position: 2
Key live version: MTV VMA’s (2003)
Key remix: Stuart Price’s Thin White Duke remix (2003)


I suspect this may be another controversial choice but, anyway, my countdown – my rules. ‘Hollywood’ was originally actually conceived as part of the sessions for Music but apparently she was not happy with it then. Of course we all are familiar with the iconic Britney/Christina moment but I would bet that the majority of people would remember the kiss first, ‘Like A Virgin’ second and Missy Elliot third. ‘Hollywood’ itself is all but forgotten.

'How could it hurt you when it looks so good?'
I have always loved this song – it is not a Madonna classic and even though it debuted at No. 2 in the UK this was back in the day when single sales were in the toilet and it swiftly left the top 10 anyway. I love the guitar riff and just how palpably frustrated she sounds. In a way, it represented 2003 for me – it wasn’t a great year for Madonna, and it wasn’t a great year for me on a personal level either. So I really connected with it. The multi-tracks recently ‘became available’ online, and listening to them I really appreciated the layered production. The video I have mixed feelings about: another one of her famous ‘homages’, it was supposed to honour French photographer Guy Bourdin – his family were having none of it though, and they ended up suing her and Jean-Baptiste Mondino. She hasn’t worked with him since (probably due to this fiasco) and I find that a bit of a shame. My favourite scene is actually the fully-clothed hitch-hiking finale which goes full circle back to SEX.

5RZf.gif

She does look good there.

Unlike the rest of the video, which bombs. The phone cable is the star of that clip. Madonna just never pulled off a wig (as it were).

I'm here for the Thin White Duke remix, that smile on her face as she appears on the VMA stage, and the ultimate "reaction video" from the dregs in the audience. It's horror, comedy and her most basic and obvious stunt ever (try harder Geru). I wonder what the Music incarnation sounded like as American Life in general needed some of that lusciousness.
 

straightorbroken

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47. Promise To Try (Like A Prayer, 1989)

And so to our first entry from Like A Prayer – not to give too much away, but it certainly will not be the last song from that album. ‘Promise to Try’ is a simple, heartfelt tribute to her mother. When I was younger I didn’t quite understand that the song is actually written from the perspective of her father singing to her as a child. It is a raw, tender vocal like much of the rest of the album, which I suspect was recorded in a single take. Musically, it is a classic Pat Leonard composition written on the piano with accompanying strings. Lyrically, it is one of her most effortlessly touching efforts:

Don’t let me memory play games with your mind
She’s a faded smile, frozen in time
I’m still hanging on
But I’m doing it wrong

‘Promise To Try’ has never been performed live, but it was prominently featured in Truth or Dare/In Bed with Madonnachronicling the Blond Ambition Tour 1990 when she visits her mother’s grave. A highly divisive scene to this day which is either the height of tastelessness or a tender intimate moment (depending on which way you’re inclined).

I'm not sure whether we will ever see ‘Promise To Try’ live – the closest she may have come to considering dusting it off may have been the Tears Of A Clown shows in 2015-2016, but it appears to be all but forgotten unfortunately.

The only thing more tasteless will be Lola singing it live at Madge's funeral. It is lovely though, the follow-up to Shoo-Be-Doo baby.
 

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