It seems that when people mention great Madonna songs, the usual suspects tend to show up: Like a Prayer, Ray of Light, Vogue, Express Yourself, and so on. Rarely is a ballad ever mentioned. Her latest single, Ghosttown, will hopefully make people look back at her other ballads over the years and start re-evaluating them. Together, these songs highlight just how versatile her career has been, and they also show that if she doesn’t quite have a five-octave vocal range, there is still a difference between singing and interpreting. She puts what she does have to far better use than other singers who are more recognized for their vocal ability, delicately maximizing the emotional potential of each song. So, to remind everyone just how many great ballads Madonna has released over the years, here is my list of her top 10. I do have to admit, though, that with the exception of the top two, the others could easily move up or down on any given day, depending on my mood. That should just further prove how consistent she has been over the course of her career.
What do you think? Did I forget any? Where would you rank Ghosttown on the list?
Much has been said about Madonna’s relevance in today’s pop music landscape. While I understand the disappointment many felt with her last two studio albums, I also challenge you to think of another artist who, more than 30 years into their career has yet to make a bad album. There have been bad moments on individual projects, but never a bad album. There have been artistic highs, and albums where she simply follows whatever is popular at the moment, but, again, never a bad album. You can argue that, at her age, she shouldn’t be talking about sex, that she should give up the kind of music she’s been making the past few years and “act her age,” but then you’d basically be arguing that she should stop being Madonna. You might say that Hard Candy and MDNA show a Madonna struggling to stay relevant, struggling to still lead pop music, essentially struggling to maintain a career but it would be nothing that hasn’t been said about her before and she has always managed to come out on top every time. Rebel Heart is already shaping up to be her best album in years. If it isn’t quite another Ray of Light, it should at the very least rank up there with Music when all is said and done. Madonna could, of course, never release another (good) album in her career and her legacy would not suffer one bit. Because when, after a 30 year career, the most common and worst insult you can throw at someone is that they’re old, you’re in a pretty good place. So, to celebrate the release of her 13th studio album, I am ranking her previous 12 albums from worst to best.
12. Like a Virgin
It might have been the album that made her a superstar, and it is by no means a bad album, but as far as dance-pop music goes, there is nothing on here that she hadn’t already done before on her debut, and better.
- Will Win: Argo
- Alternative: Lincoln
- Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty (or Amour)
- Should Be Nominated: Skyfall and Moonrise Kingdom
Pretty great batch of nominees overall. Zero Dark Thirty and Amour are my favorites, but Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild are not too far behind. Realistically speaking, though, only Lincoln has a chance of winning over Argo.
Best Director Read More…
Every once in a while, a song gets played to death on radio that actually deserves it. The second part of my list also includes a couple of veterans making music that is worthy of being played next to their very best work (O’connor, Cohen), a relatively new artist that shows how to avoid the sophomore slump (and also proves what a great year it was for r&b music), two artists that make music so consistently good it’s easy to take for granted how brilliant they are (Stars, Cat Power), and…Fiona Apple. She’s not for everyone, but for those of us who appreciate her singularity, waiting half a decade in between albums is sure worth it!
- Somebody The I Used To Know, Gotye (feat. Kimbra)
Now and then I think of when we were together
Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
Told myself that you were right for me
But felt so lonely in your company
But that was love and it’s an ache I still remember Read More…
“I played around with your heart, now I’m playing around in the dark.”
- Losing You, Solange
Comparisons between Solange and her sister Beyonce were always going to be inevitable, just because they’re the easy way to go. Which is too bad since they’re actually nothing alike. The music on her True EP throws all wisdom about how to make and market modern pop/r&b music out the window, and the results are stunning. Longer than your typical EP, but at 7 songs not long enough to be considered an LP, True nevertheless feels just right. Is it pop music? R&B? Dance? Indie? Who cares when the music is this good. Great from start to finish, zero filler. Music that could have been released three decades ago, but feels just as fresh today. Perfect for radio, but unlike anything else that’s on it right now. Lead single Losing You might be the most instant song on the album, but cuts like Lovers in the Parking Lot and Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work are equally worthy of attention. Bonus points: great video, too! Read More…
For better of for worse, technology has completely changed the way we interact with cinema. No longer do we have to wait days or even months to hear early word about the latest movies. Thanks to Twitter we can find out instants after any given screening. With the latest innovations in home theater technology, watching a movie from the comfort of your own home is becoming a more and more viable option. For more and more relatively high-profile movies it is becoming an option even before the movie receives a theatrical release, thanks to new video on demand trends. There are many benefits to this; no longer do those of us living too far from a theater showing a movie we want to see have to wait months and months to see it. The downside to having word about any given movie get out so early, though, is fewer and fewer people willing to decide for themselves whether they like anything. There are those who won’t go anywhere near any movie not playing in over 3,000 theaters across North America. Those who take pride in their intellectual superiority, having the ability to enjoy that independent little gem that general audiences are not “smart enough” to appreciate. Those who get a kick out of being the contrarian, always having a negative opinion ready when something becomes successful. Yet, perhaps it’s the middle group who is the most conservative of all.
How often do you see sellouts at a festival for a film without a star or director that has already been given some kind of critical seal of approval prior to the screening? How many small, truly independent films become breakout hits without an amazing reception during the FIRST festival or public screening. It seems that, more and more, that first screening is a make or break moment. If it’s successful, its smooth sailing ahead for the film. If that first group of people who sees the movies isn’t ready to declare it a masterpiece, chances are no one after that will want to be the first to do so. We don’t want to take a chance on something that hasn’t already been branded hip. It’s my opinion that Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz has fallen victim to this. It had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, and while reaction to it has been far from bad, it does feel a bit on the tepid side, especially in comparison to her 2006 masterpiece, Away From Her. It’s a shame because in spite of some minor flaws (the series of coincidences that set the “romance” of the film in motion seem like a bit of a stretch) it is one of the best films of the year.
I have considered myself a Lars von Trier fan for over a decade. Ever since, as a teenager, I stood horrified but completely absorbed in front of the screen as the conclusion of Breaking the Waves unfolded, the announcement of a new von Trier film is an event. I say this even though I haven’t truly loved any of his films in the past decade. Melancholia, which I saw months ago, was another in a series of disappointments. It is, however, the first in a while that I feel compelled to give a second chance.