Oh I’m a tease aren’t I? Somewhere between busy and lazy is where I am at the moment, squandering what little time I have available, making another dump of 10 songs a little too time-consuming. But I still want to get it sorted soon, I have a backlog that will only get worse when my copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf arrives. So here’s 5 of the best, with my top 5 following probably on Friday.
10. I’m Addicted
Oh controversial, a song from her latest album. I never understood why some people discount recent songs in their all-time lists, like they can’t trust themselves not to organise their thoughts democratically. Sure you need some perspective, but if a year isn’t enough, I think you need to have a word.
I digress. “MDNA” might have caused some nervous smiles with the Madonna loons – most of which denounce her much more than the casual fan – with calls that she was too old for this sort of thing. Whether or not the slating of “MDNA” came before or after its disappointing sales is debatable, even though it picked up Madonna’s usual slew of #1 positions for the album.
Superficially it could still look successful, but it marks decision time for Madonna – does she just continue doing what she likes and remain as the world’s biggest touring act for a while, or start to court commercial success? Indications are that she’s in the former camp but let’s see what happens next.
“I’m Addicted” was an early standout from the album, a simmering dance track filled with passion and brain-addled infatuation. Some of the lyrics are a bit ropey but that’s par for the course. The production really holds this one up as something special – rich in synths and harsh beats, it feels like a distant relative of “Confessions” and “Music”. It was a standout moment of the MDNA tour and a superb return to form. That “M…D…N…A…M…D…N…A…” refrain near the end is such a great climax.
9. Deeper and Deeper
In some ways “I’m Addicted” and “Deeper and Deeper” have a similar role in their respective albums. Both albums had disasterous launches and struggled to recover, and both were manifestations of Madonna’s love of dance music. In this case, both the songs were the best examples of how complex but totally commercial the sound could be.
Both songs are also about dizzy infatuation, their tempos are relentless and layered, with the extended run-times just flying by. I feel that while “Deeper and Deeper” distinguished itself by actually being a single, it fell down the cracks a little bit. Every time I rediscover it, it’s a joy, it’s almost worth burying it again to discover it one more time. Full of catchy refrains and synth melodies, I love this.
8. Take a Bow
from “Bedtime Stories”
I never imagined anything from “Bedtime Stories” making it up this high, but this totally transcends anything on that album. Due to its use on “Friends” it’s probably one of my first exposures to Madonna that made me sit up and take notice (even though I didn’t know it was her at the time).
Now I’m old and wizened, I really appreciate the simplicity of this love song. Any 90s ballad worth its salt needed Babyface on board, and this is perhaps the climax to Madonna’s softening image post-“Erotica”. It’s a simple song but lyrically tugs on me emotionally, it’s got all my triggers – unrequited or unequal love, sad acceptance that it’ll never work out, sad string sections. Just heartbreaking, and one of the very best Madonna ballads.
On a morbid note, when she eventually dies, this will totally be her “Man in the mirror”, won’t it?
7. You must love me
Those ballads just get me! “Evita” might have been a hard sell to the casual pop fan, despite its signature tune “Don’t cry for me Argentina” being a big success. Madonna’s long-awaited big break into movies was her most dignified yet, as she somehow got into the character of young ambition-driven blonde Eva Peron.
Of course “You must love me” is an old-fashioned ballad, penned by musical dream-team Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber specifically for the movie adaptation of “Evita” from the stage. It won an Oscar and a Golden Globe, and marked the ending of two chapters for Madonna – on one side she had finally got that big movie hit, something she had been hell-bent on getting for years, and on the other, her transition to respectable artist with vocals to match reached its 5-year conclusion in the wake of “Erotica”.
The acapella intro, simple piano accompaniment and emotional lyrics that put her heart on her sleeve. It’s a perfect storm of drama, but conducted very simply and quietly. Lines like “Why are you at my side? How can I be any use to you now?” resonate so well with the plot of the film but could easily resonate with your average person’s love lives.
The only way was up for her – after this came motherhood and her most radical transformation of all, the modern era of Madonna was about to begin.
We will certainly return to fill in the blanks, but at the other end of the modern era came a chance to finally REALLY follow-up “The Immaculate Collection” after the by-numbers “GHV2” failed to impress. Unfortunately “The Immaculate Collection” was such a massive success, I think it scuppered any chance for the career-encompassing “Celebration” reaching quite the same heights.
Sure, for many it was a sign that post-“Hard Candy”, the wheels really were coming off Madonna’s commercial appeal, but it marked the end of a rocky relationship with her label and perhaps gave hope that her new Live Nation deal would be a new start.
Still, a rather leftfield collaboration with 90s superstar DJ Paul Oakenfold saw a lead single for the hits collection – something “GHV2” never managed. And while there are plenty of points you can criticise, I absolutely love it. It’s a real throwback to my favourite dance period, the summers of trance at the turn of the century.
The beat never stops, there are so many little hooks I love. The “put your arms around me” bridge, the big and bouncy chorus, even the knowingly-tacky bits (“I guess I just don’t recognise you with your clothes on”). It was hope for me that she might yet make dance music I can really enjoy. It went down a storm at the MDNA tour as a perfect closing number to replace “Music”, and I still love it, as well as the much harder Benny Benassi remix that accompanied the video.
Here’s the woefully low-quality version of the Benny Benassi remix official video on the actual Madonna YouTube channel – shocking!