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.
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…