Right, before I have a go at counting down my top Madonna songs, there are a few little stragglers from the 00’s to get through. What will the next decade hold for her though? I loved “MDNA” but it was hardly the commercial success we’ve gotten used to from the old girl. If anything though, she’s shown the impressive ability to make huge comebacks.
After “Ray of Light” she managed to dominate the world all over again as one of its biggest touring acts, with her celebrity status reaching another crescendo in 2000 with the “Music” album. After the blip of the panned but amazing “American Life”, she bounced back with one of the biggest hits of her career in “Hung up” and the massive “Confessions on a Dance Floor” album. Maybe it looks like she’s lost her touch now, but those seem to be the moments when she launches those big comebacks.
Anyway I realised there was one particularly big 1999 soundtrack song I missed out in the 90s write-up, so that’s along for the ride too.
Soundtracks and retrospectives
8.0 Beautiful Stranger: First up, this from the Austin Powers soundtrack, back in 1999 and before “Music”. The William Orbit sound that made “Ray of Light” such a triumph is still here in spades, although perhaps too much. If “Ray of Light” was a genre-defining record then Beautiful Stranger was a bit of an echo of former glories. That sounds a bit harsh, this is still a great song and a lot of fun, but still feels a bit LACKING somehow. The video was fun, even if she looked a bit weird, I think it was the eye makeup. While “Ray of Light” itself was a bit low on laughs, did she really need to do this? I’m a bit torn really, it’s a great song and one of her more memorable hits of the 90s, but … I dunno.
9.0 Time stood still: And another soundtrack, this time to her own movie “The Next Best Thing”. There wasn’t much to the movie but it was alright I think, and I actually really like the soundtrack. I’ve covered “American Pie” already as part of “Music”, but there’s this other original track. More fitting to “Ray of Light” than “Beautiful Stranger” ever was, full of bloopy synths, strings and spooky vox. This would have been a total 10/10 before, I think I’ve overplayed it a bit to be honest. Still, LOVE IT.
While I never felt like sampling the “Austin Powers 2” OST in depth (though I did own it for a time), I feel like “The Next Best Thing” is a pretty decent album as these things go. There’s a decent mix, not particularly poppy, but with well-known tracks by Moby and Groove Armada amongst other odds and ends including a lovely cover of 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” by Olive (apparently still in employment in 2000) and bits by Beth Orton and Mandalay. Even Christina Aguilera gets a look in but I don’t remember the song so much.
Then there’s GHV2. Obviously it’s an essential round-up of the 90s Madonna, but it’s a bit of a pic’n’mix. No new tracks either, so it’s catering to the casual fans and die-hard completists. I guess she put more effort into “Celebration”, can you imagine?! Nice to see “Evita” represented but it does offer a bit of a roadblock in the tracklist. Still, there are enough awesome 90s tracks to fill this up satisfactorily but it’s NO Immaculate Collection, make no mistake.
YO YO YO Who dat beeeee?
“Remixed & Revisted” was a rather odd little project. After her commercial low-point with “American Life”, what made anyone think that a remix EP was in demand? As I understand it, it was meant to replace an aborted 20th Anniversary box set, though to be honest I’m not sure why they bothered. Still, let’s have a look. What the hell is that artwork though?
OK I will be fair, I tend to think remixes are shit and unrecognisable from the source material. However the remixes on “R&R” are how I like them, i.e. simple twists on the original. It’s not always particularly necessary in my opinion. I mean obviously I’m a big fan of “American Life”, so I don’t want things being tampered with that I already liked. Having said that, I did love a few of the remixes on the American Life single (Oakenfold Downtempo and Felix da Housecat) so I have an open mind here.
They aren’t amazing remixes but they aren’t too bad for the 15 minutes I have to sit through. Nobody Knows Me falls a bit flat, but the American Life one is pretty alright. The others fall somewhere inbetween – I don’t hate them but I’m not in a rush to hear them again.
Next is the MTV VMAs medley, notorious for the LEZZING UP with Britney & Christina. It is a hot mess by any standards, but it is all the more entertaining for it. Finally a bit of FUN, and a great performance (homosexually if not vocally). Madonna emerging out like some ageing sexual predator croaking through “Hollywood” was a bit of a MOMENT, but I really love the “Hollywood” remix (ish). That “Everybody-everybody-everybody-..” bit is pretty hot… and then MISSY turns up, amazing!
Into the Hollywood Groove now, with MISSY on the M-I-C! That is seriously one of my favourite lines ever, it’s just so craptacular. Well it’s a bit pointless really, basically an extended version of the GAP Jeans advert. I don’t hate it, I mean how far wrong can you go with “Into the Groove”? Happily not too far. The Hollywood bit is barely THERE though … and I thought she hated medleys? WHERE’DYA GET THEM JEEEEANZZZ?
7.0 Your Honesty – A new track! Well, I SAY new, it was 10 years old at the time and takes me back to the heady days of “Bedtime Stories” … GREAT. That said, it’s not that bad, probably helps that I’ve not had to sit through “Bedtime Stories” for a few months. It’s got a bit of life in it, she’s actually SINGING too, rather than the supposedly-sexy murmuring of “Bedtime Stories”. It’s an oldie but not necessarily a goody.
Celebrate good times
So now it’s time to wrap this up, and it’s quite apt that the last entry here goes to her career-spanning retrospective. Eight years after the functional but sterile “GHV2” collection, and the end of a quarter-century long contract with Warners, this should not have failed.
In the end “The Immaculate Collection” probably counted against it by sheer market PENETRATION, while it’s not hard to suggest a lack of interest in the project by the woman herself. However saying that, we did get three new tracks, that’s three more than GHV2 so we can at least celebrate something. Actually, maybe wait until you’ve heard them…
10.0 Celebration: The Oakenfold collaboration was a little exciting. He’s not exactly been A-List for a while but some good simple dance music did pique my “Confessions”-loving interest. The track itself I think is incredible, I love the music to it, just feels like a proper pop song without the weight of expectation that previous lead singles had. This sort of late 90s dance music is RIGHT up my street and I love it to bits. WHY couldn’t this have been used in the video though?
8.0 Revolver: Oh GOD. The first time I heard this was when my CD arrived, and what a shock. It feels like a Britney track, which in some ways isn’t a terrible but what fucking awful lyrics. I mean I know some her lyrics are terrible but this is BEYOND THAT. That said, it’s annoyingly catchy and doesn’t fail to raise a smile despite how hard I may want to hate it. It takes the heat off “Miles Away” as the worst-handled single she’s ever done too. I really don’t get Lil Wayne’s appeal though, what a bizarre little character. Despite everything though, this really came alive at the MDNA tour. I still don’t quite understand why.
9.0 It’s so cool: I just can’t begin to understand why this got made. What a fucking retarded amazing mess, I really love this and I hate myself for it. The lyrics budget had clearly been used up by Revolver (!!), so they just ad libbed it. She sounds like some random Madonna-lyric generating magnetron spouting vocodered nonsense over a gaytastic soundtrack. That middle 8 really is just … OH LORD I LOVE IT, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
8.5 Celebration (Benny Benassi mix): It felt like this deserved to be there as much as anything, since it was the video mix. What a dirty bassline, I love it turned up loud in my car. For a remix, I really rather like it, while it really pales next to the original, though I concede that it fitted the video well in the end. At the halfway mark it gives us a break into a lovely breakdown, gorgeous, then for the final act it just grits its teeth and just goes totally mental. Then at the end it just holds it in the air… God I love this remix. Shame there are no good videos of it online. The official Madonna channel one is in deplorably poor quality!
So there we have it. “Celebration” was a little iffy on the track order when it all came together, but I did approve of the new stuff. The loons seemed to be up in arms about the edits chosen, and various little mistakes that crept into the project, but you can’t really go wrong with 2 CDs full of Madonna singles. I don’t care enough about the details to get too upset about them, frankly. Its sales weren’t THAT bad either, I’m sure it will be a good catalogue seller like “GHV2” ended up being.