10) Vogue – I’m Breathless – 1990
Earlier in the year when Madge was making her entrance for her Superbowl show any worries I had over her choice as halftime act vanished once those opening clicks began. What other sound in pop music is as stylish, sophisticated or threatening as that intro. It’s the sound of Madonna introducing herself into the 90s in the campest way possible. Who knew that middle 8 talky bit would become a staple of female pop in the years to come?
9) Like A Prayer – Like A Prayer – 1989
An obvious choice and its easy to see why. Like A Prayer is the most universally loved of any of Madonna’s hits. This song has moved up a place since I saw it performed live too, with the impact of that gospel choir chorus coming alive in an arena. More about sex than religion when reading into the lyrics, no matter what she is singing Madonna is taking you to church.
8) Hung Up – Confessions on a Dancefloor – 2005
The first track to appear from my favourite Madge album Hung Up speaks for itself. The fact that I can’t hear that Abba sample (from one of the group’s biggest song Gimme Gimme Gimme) without thinking of Hung Up shows just how embedded this song, and Madge’s infamous leotard is in my brain. The dance routine doesn’t help matters either, Hung Up is the sort of song that will never stop being a part of my life and one of the main reasons I’m a fan of Madge today.
7) 4 Minutes (Feat. Justin Timberlake) – Hard Candy – 2008
The most obvious commercial hit of Madonna’s career, getting Timbaland and Timberlake on board was unlike the usually inventive lead singles she usually delivered. It’s a good job that the song is fantastic one of the catchiest offerings from all those involved. Justin and Madge have an interesting chemistry on vocals, while the Timbaland breakdown in the last 30 seconds is worth listening to the whole song for.
6) Get Together – Confessions on a Dancefloor – 2006
There was a time where Get Together wouldn’t have been anywhere on this list, but every listen makes me love this euphoric smash more and more. There’s no ego, no hidden message, no Madonna-isms just a banging tune that’s all the better for it. You know that I always lose myself in that build up near the end too, the moment where everything drops out before the final chorus kicks in is just perfect.
5) Frozen – Ray of Light – 1998
Probably the first Madonna song I ever ‘heard’ that is to say was aware of being in the charts and such. My mum was a big fan of the Ray of Light album and so Frozen was a staple in our house around release. It’s an epic song, the obvious next step from her work with Bjork on Bedtime Story. Waves of sounds wash across you with this, while the now fully Kabbalah inspired Madge takes the holy thing just far enough for it to be taken seriously. It’s not the best song from ROL though…
4) Die Another Day – American Life – 2002
Die Another Day is a weak Bond film, and the song is a weak Bond theme. Being a bad Bond theme doesn’t stop this from being one of my favourite Madge tracks though and to be honest this was at the top for a very long time. Packed and hectic production mixes the most striking strings she’s had since Papa Don’t Preach with dub sounds and a ridiculous amount of Vocoder. If you’ve learnt anything at all from reading my blog it’s easy to see why Die Another Day would feature so highly on my list.
3) Drowned World/Substitute For Love – Ray of Light – 1998
Understated and emotional Drowned World is one of the most striking songs in Madonna’s repertoire.The strongest vocal on any of her songs this is a thrilling journey from a quiet opening to a dramatic and stomping peak and back again. Each section of the song brings with it another layer of production, the water effects, the piano, the drums, the guitar, the epic clattering breakdown; sheer pop brilliance. It’s the song I listened to most before seeing Madonna, even though I knew she didn’t perform it. Even closing lyric ‘This is my religion’ completes the song as a fully fledged record.
2) Sorry – Confessions on a Dancefloor – 2006
Big shocker here. Sorry was my number 1 as I begun writing this list, in fact it made it to 23 in my all time favourite songs. There’s a reason for that too, Sorry was the first Madge song I became properly obsessed with. I hadn’t heard anything like that breakdown section before, the steady build up to the final chorus being so electric that in my head no other Madonna song could ever beat it. The talky bit where she says Sorry in various languages? Amazing. Sorry shaped a lot of the dance music that I like nowadays, so why isn’t it at number 1 on this list?
1) Don’t Tell Me – Music – 2000
I can’t believe I changed my mind so late in the process, usually the top spot is the only position that sticks in these lists. After listening to Madonna for the 2 weeks prior to seeing her Don’t Tell Me was the song I would always go to first. It amazes me how fresh this 12 year old song sounds, the mixture of guitars, strings and dub bass makes for an impeccable record. It’s hard to describe every thing that I love about Don’t Tell Me. The vocal that sounds like it’s coming through a phone line, the slightly off key stabbing of synth in the background, the sweeping strings near the end. A victim to it’s own video like so many Madge songs, this isn’t the country line dance song it has become. The production continues to blow my mind this long after first hearing it, a new sound effect of wub wub appears underneath such a brilliant pop hook everytime I listen. Don’t Tell Me is a phenomenal song, and is a track that keeps on giving, even 12 years after its release. I just wish she would perform it sometime…