Right now, every Madonna fan I know is either lost or about to be lost in MDNA. Really folks, the album is THAT GOOD. But my friend and fellow blogger Popservations did a little look back today on his blog and did a list of what he would consider to be Madonna’s best album tracks. As a die hard Madonna fan, I always have to remind myself that not everybody in the world knows the ins and outs of her back catalog like I do, and his post (which you can and should read here) was a fun trip down memory lane and reminded me that, even though we may disagree, Madonna fans will always have that bond that unites them.
I followed the same rules he did – I excluded songs from 1990’s I’m Breathless from contention (no big loss as I’m not sure I would have included anything from that album), as well as any song that was an international single. Because of this, I couldn’t include “Spotlight” which was probably the most heartbreaking cut I had to make from this list. Additionally, any song that was not a single but was serviced to DJs for remixing was also out, which explains the absence of “Nobody Knows Me” and “Sky Fits Heaven.”
Anyway, here’s my list. It’s not in any particular order, as ranking them was more than my poor brain could handle.
1) “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You” (Hard Candy)
If there’s one reason to be thankful for Hard Candy, it’s because it produced “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You.” Four years after Hard Candy‘s release, it stands tall as my favorite song from the album and one of the few classic Madonna ballads of the 2000s. Many argue that it is too similar to Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River” and while I can see the similarities, it is Madonna through and through. One of my biggest beefs with Hard Candy is that Madonna seemed to not be in control of the record. She took a backseat to Timbaland and Timberlake on too many of the tracks. On “Devil”, Timberlake is relegated to backing vocals and Madonna seems much more in the driver’s seat. And if this weren’t enough, I love its minor key and “ize” rhymes and the fact that it was massive when performed live.
2) “Over & Over” (Like A Virgin)
This song is so adored by me that a lyric from the bridge serves as the tag line for this blog. It has the distinction of being the first non-single Madonna song I ever heard so perhaps that’s why, nearly 30 years later, it’s still one of my favorite album tracks. It’s an ode to self-empowerment and, while the production is very dated, it still sounds so good. Last performed live on 1985’s Virgin Tour, what I wouldn’t give to hear this performed on tour now.
3) “Words” (Erotica)
In the final analysis, Erotica is an album of album tracks. With the possible exceptions of “Deeper & Deeper” and “Rain”, there are no obvious radio-ready singles. Perhaps that’s why fans love Erotica so much. And as the album tracks on Erotica go, “Words” is my favorite. I love kiss-off songs, and “Words” is a kiss-off song par excellance. What I love most about it is how lyrically complex it is and how well sung it is by Madonna. And who can’t relate to falling for a person whose actions do not line up with their words? This song has seen me through the end of more than one relationship, and for that reason alone, it holds a very special spot in my heart.
4) “Future Lovers” (Confessions On A Dance Floor)
“Future Lovers” benefits from the visuals that The Confessions Tour provided for it. Simply put, it’s the best opening to a Madonna concert, period. I will never forget the disco ball opening to reveal Madonna in riding crop, ready to dominate the dancers. I also find the cheesy opening oddly endearing. How many songs do you get to hear Madonna talk about your bills and loans? Madonna begs you to come with her on her journey and we are more than ready to follow her. Mashing it up with Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” (a song to which “Future Lovers” owes more than just a bit of a debt of gratitude) was sheer genius for its live performance.
5) “I Deserve It” (Music)
I have such a soft spot for Madonna’s acoustic cowgirl phase and “I Deserve It” is probably my favorite of the lot. Although it is almost without a doubt an “I’m in love with Guy Ritchie” song, meaning we’ll never hear it live ever again, I still love its Joan Baez vibe, probably because it was so unexpected after the first three songs on the Music album. Madonna may never revisit this sound ever again, but it fit her better than I could have ever predicted.
6) “White Heat” (True Blue)
This is the first song that Popservations’ list and my list have in common. I’m surprised to hear that it is so beloved by so many fans. It’s very throwaway, the Jimmy Cagney movie samples are cheeseball, but somehow, I can’t help but love it. My favorite story to tell about this is how, upon buying the True Blue vinyl in 1986, I went home to listen to it. When the opening lines “A copper! How do you like that boys? A copper!” came on, I was convinced my brother and sister had turned the music off and turned on the TV. My second favorite story to tell about this song is how my sister and I always imagined the music video to Madonna opening up her shirt at the “this is a bust!” line.
7) “Can’t Stop” (Who’s That Girl Soundtrack)
I’m fond of saying that during her imperial phase, even Madonna fluff was brilliant fluff. Brilliant fluff is how I would characterize “Can’t Stop.” Really, any of the Madonna songs from the Who’s That Girl soundtrack could have been singles and I think it’s the lack of radio overplay (which kind of killed “Causing a Commotion” for me) and it’s relative obscurity that keeps me coming back to it. Well, that, and its fan-fucking-tastic bridge. It almost makes me forgive that hideous peroxide blond hair and dark eyebrows. Almost.
8) “Candy Shop” (Hard Candy)
Was “Candy Shop” really not a single? It sure seems like it was. Alas, it is relegated to album track status, despite the fact that it looms large over the rest of Hard Candy. Yes, it’s a bit embarrassing for Madonna to be comparing her crotch to a candy shop. As I’m fond of saying, it’s the least subtle double entendre from Madonna since “Where Life Begins” (a song that was cut from this list at the last minute.) I’m not proud of the fact that I am fond of this song, but damn it, her sugar is RAW.
9) “Till Death Do Us Part” (Like A Prayer)
I’ll echo Popservations’ post when I say that only Madonna could take something as tragic as the dissolution of a marriage, turn it into a song and NOT have the end product be a dirge. Written in the aftermath of her divorce from Sean Penn, “Til Death Do Us Part” examines the the death of a marriage that one can’t help but think isn’t drawn from her own personal experience. It’s not really surprising that her divorce from Guy Ritchie is showing up so much on MDNA – she set the precedent so very long ago.
10) “Think of Me” (Madonna)
There were many songs that occupied this last spot on the list until I finally settled on this song from the very first album. There’s something that is so joyous about “Think Of Me” that keeps it from being just another generic Madonna dance ditty. Personally, it’s the bridge that does it for me. So many of Madonna’s best songs have fantastic bridges and this is absolutely no exception. “Think!/Stop wasting all my time/Think!/You know we could have been so fine.” So so fine. This is another song that, were it performed live on the upcoming tour, I’m pretty sure I would spontaneously combust.
Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments section. And one final thanks to Popservations for the inspiration. I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) have done it had he not paved the way.