It’s been a little while since I’ve gone through an entire artist’s back catalogue. In fairness, all the ones I’ve posted have been ones I’d originally written on a messageboard and transplanted to this blog, since they took quite some time to prepare and write.
If you had to ask me who my favourite artist was, for sake of an easy answer I might well say Madonna (though I’m not sure if I really HAVE a clear favourite). Say what you like about her current output, but she’s got a pretty formidable back catalogue, and over the coming months I will do my usual track-by-track reviews of each album, as well as some odds and ends along the way.
So we begin at her 1983 debut, a sensible place to start really, on the 30th anniversary of its release. It’s a short album, clocking in at a modest 41 minutes, but with its slim 8 track roster it packs some pretty huge hits. It’s not a surprise to see how her career got off to a great start, even if the Madonna juggernaut hadn’t quite reached its full momentum yet.
09 Lucky Star – Oh fuck being impartial, I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. Dripping with 80’s charm but still feeling fresh over 25 years later. Quite simple really, but there are so many little features of this that I love, from the opening shimmer to the “You may be… my lucky star” bits. I’m never very good at explaining why I love songs, I have musical Aspergers or something. But hopefully I don’t need to explain myself too much here, this is a simple but effective pop song, and one of my favourites of her early career.
10 Borderline – Again, I’m finding it hard to contain myself at this. Much as I love Lucky Star, it is a bit thin when stretched out over 5 minutes. Not so with Borderline, from its sweet intro to the brilliant chorus… This has serious karaoke kudos with me, I love this in the car. It’s bright, warm and upbeat, and has that great layering of synths that made Lucky Star so great.
09 Burning Up – Now I do like this, always has been my favourite of the non-singles. Well sort of, it was a single in some territories, but not the UK, and it didn’t make it to The Immaculate Collection, so I often feel like this is a bit of a lost gem. Again I’m amazed at how well this album has aged, and filled with such strong material. I think the lyrics are the best feature of this, with the backing being a bit more standard compared to the previous tracks. I think it’s got one of the catchier choruses of the album.
08 I know it – I LOVE the intro to this, that synthy riff is really just SUPER (and super-dated, is this Flash Gordon?). Still a strong track, but I think the chorus is lacking a bit of OOMPH. The “but I’m not gonna CRY. FOR YOU” bits are great, and generally gets warm fuzzies from me. It’s a little too bubblegum-pop for my liking, given the slightly more mature sound to the earlier tracks.
09 Holiday – Again, old as the hills but I think I love it more now than I ever have. I used to think of it more like a novelty song, but it’s just the right side of it. I think it’s managed to avoid being one of those songs that always gets played when holidays are mentioned (like Get the party started is every time anyone mentions a party). That synthy riff is just perfect, with a nice simple beat to make it an easy listen. Great karaoke fun too, simple but amazing. If I ever forget the words to this then they should just PULL THE PLUG on my life support.
07 Think of me – Intro reminds me a bit of Sonic The Hedgehog. Just me? Well then… It’s a bit repetitive, but for once not in a good way. There’s nothing I particularly dislike about it, but it’s not really doing it for me. Her vocals are a little strained, or maybe that’s just my ears. It’s just a bit of a standard 80s disco-lite track, which on an album as strong as this is a bit weak.
07 Physical Attraction – LOVE that synth-tastic intro. But that’s about it for me, the rest just feels a bit too empty, and the earliest example of her rather crummy rhyming SKILLZ. The verses are good, they feel a bit like a sub-version of “Borderline”, but the chorus really lets it down for me. Actually I think the verses put this above “Think of Me”. Really reminds me of my old 80s tapes I used to listen to as a kid, like 5 Star or something. This really is far too long though. Why do I need nearly 7 minutes of this, but less than 4 minutes of “Burning Up”? Madness!
08 Everybody – I don’t know why, but I really like this. Its use on Annie’s “Greatest Hit” helped remind me that there was some great music underneath this. I always thought she sounded a bit off key in the choruses though, it’s not that bad but it just jars a little for me. In my head this is the first Madonna song, it just feels like PROTO-MADONNA or something, I can imagine this being an underground hit before she broke through. I don’t know if that would give me many marks in a Madonna History exam, but that’s how I feel. It’s pretty great but I don’t entirely understand why I like it.
Well that was over QUICK wasn’t it? Short but sweet, though I could have done with edits of a few of them (and maybe extended cuts of others). A great little selection, but to me that’s all it is, a selection. Obviously this is very early days before Madonna really had much of a defined image or input. While the album has a similar sound throughout, it doesn’t quite feel like a cohesive piece of work, but that will surely come in time.
Keepers for the iPod: Holiday, Borderline, Lucky Star, Everybody, Burning Up