808s / The Definitive Ranking

The Definitive Ranking of Madonna Studio Albums

madonnaHeaderI woke up this morning and decided to listen to a Madonna album.

There was no expectation, just an impulse decision before leaving for work to listen to Confessions on a Dancefloor. A few ill-judged tweets later I had decided to attempt to listen to all 13 of Madonna’s studio albums. Of course this led me to wanting to rank said albums and of course the initial set of tweets I was going to send have evolved into a full article. No matter how we got here though, we did and I will attempt to post this as quickly as possible (I already have half an article about Madonna in draft form on here). Listening to all the albums next to each other is great for comparisons like this, but I’ll also attempt to keep things extremely short.

Erotica_Madonna13) Erotica – 1992

Erotica features some incredible songs: Deeper and Deeper, Erotica, Rain. It also features some of the worst music of Madonna’s career: Bad Girl, Where Life Begins, Bye Bye Baby. For such a sexual album it’s impossibly dull too. A great statement era for Madge, but it’s a shame the album is by far her worst.


LikeAVirgin198412) Like A Virgin – 1984

Similar to the split seen on Erotica, albeit to a less extreme extent, there are some brilliant and some awful songs on Madonna’s second album. I’m not the biggest fan of Like A Virgin and Dress You Up either, which are among the best tracks here. Love Don’t Live Here Anymore is obviously a standout though.


MDNA_Album_Cover11) MDNA – 2012

My views on MDNA have been obscured by the playlist I usually listen to, which cuts Superstar and official ‘All Time Worst Madonna Song’ Some Girls replacing them with the stellar bonus track Best Friend. I do really like the rest of MDNA though, fiery Nicki Minaj collab I Don’t Give A… and the beautiful midtempo Masterpiece still being some of my favourite Madonna tracks.


Bedtime_Stories_Madonna10) Bedtime Stories – 1994

Known to most as ‘The RnB album’ or ‘The one with Take A Bow on it’ Bedtime Stories does stick out next to the pop focused sounds of just about every other album on this list. It’s a consistent record though, with a brilliantly diverse set of singles that includes Secret, Human Nature and the incredible Bjork written title track.


Madonna_Rebel_Heart9) Rebel Heart – 2015

Her latest album and one that manages to look back on the 12 albums that preceded it while remaining lodged in a current mainstream pop sound. Appearances from Nas and Nicki are highlights yet again, while songs like Joan of Arc and Heartbreak City are more emotional and personal than they have been in a long time. It loses its way after the stellar opening, but there’s some brilliant songs on here.

Music_Madonna8) Music – 2001

Music is always a strange listen. Halfway between Ray of Light and American Life, it begins with out-and-out dance tracks, before retreating into guitar led midtempos and country inspired pop tunes. A baffling amalgamation of genres and songwriting styles, it sort of works in the end. It’s thanks to some of the best songs of Madonna’s career Music, Impressive Instant, What It Feels Like For A Girl and most notably my all time favourite Madge track Don’t Tell Me.

AmericanLife20037) American Life – 2003

For an album preceded by such punchy aggressive singles, Die Another Day and the title track, the overall feeling on this is electronic infused acoustic ballads. I think most will be surprised to see it so high on this list, bug songs like X-Static Process, Hollywood and Nobody Knows Me manage to be totally different to each other, but nail what it means to be a Madonna song. A massively underrated album.

Like_a_Prayer_Madonna6) Like A Prayer – 1989

The obvious fan favourite, Like A Prayer manages to be consistently good from start to finish. It’s a transitional album, from the 80s sound of Express Yourself and Cherish to a more edgy sound on Price duet Love Song and of course the electric title track. As someone who wasn’t even born when this album came out, I can understand why Like A Prayer was such an important album for so many people a turning point both for her fans and for Madonna herself.

HardCandyAlbumCover5) Hard Candy – 2008

I’ll get some hate for this album being this high. You have to remember this album was released when I was a teenager, I just can’t help but love this album. I would listen to Hard Candy every day walking to dancing. Tracks like Heartbeat and Kanye collaboration Beat Goes On are all over my Madonna playlists. This is late 00s Pharrell/Timbaland pop done right and a song like Give It 2 Me remains one of the most obvious hits she’s recorded this century.

True_Blue_Madonna4) True Blue – 1986

True Blue is all about those singles. 5 ridiculously huge hits, each as great as the next (expect perhaps the title track). This is a small intense shot of 80s pop, songs like Live To Tell, Papa Don’t Preach and Open Your Heart speak for themselves. Pure pop gold.


Madonna3) Madonna – 1983

Sometimes the original is the best and for me Madonna’s debut album is the perfect example of her 80s appeal. I don’t think individually the songs are as strong as the big hits from True Blue, but as one 8 track package it’s hard to match. From the joyous opening of Lucky Star to the commanding chants of Everybody, this is 5* pop. Madonna is at her best when she has nothing to prove and she was freer that ever on Madonna.

Ray_of_Light_Madonna2) Ray of Light – 1998

It was a tough decision between the final two albums for the top spot, the most cohesive ‘albums’ of Madonna’s career. Arguably Ray of Light should just edge it, a sound scape of 90s rave and eastern anthems, it’s an album that artists are still trying to replicate 17 years on. Opener Drowned World/Substitute For Love is one of the most breathtaking pop songs ever recorded while the title track and Nothing Really Matters wouldn’t sound out of place at #1 in 2015. A full experience for the listener.

Confessions_On_A_Dancefloor1) Confessions on a Dance Floor – 2005

Described as a ‘Tour De Force’ on the cover, I can’t really argue with that description of the album that made me finally ‘get’ Madonna. From start to finish Madge is in command, whether that’s command of the dancefloor, your heart or your body. There isn’t a weak moment, each track seamlessly blending into the next; it’s a throwback disco album that remains totally Madonna throughout. A moment in time where the idea of Madge wearing anything but a leotard was a shock and one that has remained on my iPod without fail ever since I first heard it. The album that started this baffling day of Madonna albums Confessions on a Dance Floor is definitely my all time favourite album of her career.

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