Well, Rebel Heart has finally dropped – the most appropriate verb for this bomb/turd- and it is exactly what was to be expected. Sadly, “Living for Love,” yes, a great debut single, is not only the best track on the album, but an anomaly. It’s as if it were written for a different album all together. I can’t even stomach going track by track and critiquing the foolishness (“Body Shop”? “Unapologetic Bitch”? “HOLY WATER”? – I never thought I would actually yearn for “Where Life Begins”….). Point is, this album is garbage. Unfortunately, her vocals are some of her strongest. You can’t win ’em all, I guess.
So instead of reading Madonna for her ridiculously juvenile views on love, pompous martyrdom, and misplaced narcissism, I’m going to do exactly what Madonna is doing: pretending that the past is the present, that what worked before will work again, and that people still give a damn. Madonna is not “back,” people. And she probably never will be again. Let it go.
To cleanse your palette from the desperate hodgepodge that for some MYSTERIOUS reason is being heralded by queens and feminists from coast to coast, living so blindly in their vortex of sycophancy that any slight against their leader is automatically “ageist propaganda,” I present to you 19 under appreciated Madonna songs (the number of tracks on the Special Edition of REBEL FART) to remind fans – and haters alike – that yes, Madonna was once awesome.
Enjoy and discuss.
1) “Causing a Commotion” from the Who’s That Girl? Soundtrack (1987)
*Hitting #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, yet somehow forgotten in the pantheon of her hits, “Causing a Commotion” is the perfect clarion call to begin this playlist. The irony in starring in a movie called Who’s That Girl? is that everyone already knew who Madonna was. Brushing off Shanghai Surprise‘s catatonic reception, Madge returned to the screen with a gangster remake of Bringing Up Baby, giving us her best Judy Holliday (and actually succeeding). Encompassing her bombastic pride, her fun-loving nature, and her flair for the campy, “Causing a Commotion” with its electronic glissando shoots us out of cannon – after we’ve grooved in front of our mirrors with a hairbrush, that is.
2) “Where’s the Party?” from True Blue (1986)
*At the beginning of her world domination, Madonna invited us to throw off our cares and hit the club. Picking up where “Holiday” left off, “Where’s the Party?” with its drum machines and cheeky laughter is best being blasted down the freeway with your friends.
3) “I’m Going Bananas” from I’m Breathless (1989)
*Why does Madonna not do more stuff like this? Best when she is poking fun at herself, I’m Breathless, the “soundtrack” to Dick Tracy, is a collection of 30’s pastiche songs, heavily influenced with Madonna’s favorite Latin rhythms.
4) “Sooner or Later” from I’m Breathless (1989)
*Remember when Madonna worked with Stephen Sondheim? This unlikely duo produced one of the most underrated ballads in her catalogue. And her performance from the Academy Awards is…well, just watch it. Flawless. Where was this voice when she was recording Erotica?
5) “White Heat” from True Blue (1986)
*Sampling Jimmy Cagney from the titular film, Madonna warns her lover that she is dangerous, but worth it. How many times has she said this in real life? But don’t you dare cross her or…
6) “Thief of Hearts” from Erotica (1992)
*My personal favorite Madonna album for a myriad of reasons, Erotica was lost in her maelstrom of controversy. “Thief of Hearts” puts Madonna in the role of jilted lover. And she is coming for you with a broken bottle. Throbbing with a beat ready for Ecstasy laced sex in a dungeon, “Thief of Hearts” makes you want to stomp the runway in a dog collar and a Chinese fan.
7) “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” from Like a Virgin (1984)
*Madonna’s first cover, “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” was discarded in its original incarnation because no one wanted to see the Boy Toy as a vulnerable mistress. Years later in a slightly remixed, stripped version, Madonna released it as a single from her compilation album Something to Remember. But it’s this Motown infused power ballad that really shines – and proves that Madonna could always sing; even before Evita lessons.
8) “Rescue Me” from The Immaculate Collection (1990)
*One of two new songs on her first greatest hits collection, “Rescue Me” mirrors “Justify My Love” – and paves the way for “Erotica” – with her sultry speaking of the verses. But where “Rescue Me” outshines both of the other songs is her guttural grovel, paging her best Cher.
9) “I Want You” from Something to Remember (1995)
*As a response to her years of controversy, Madonna decided to put her clothes back on and release an album of her favorite ballads with a few new recordings. Here she covered Marvin Gaye’s classic with Massive Attack featuring a sweeping orchestral longing for a distant lover.
10) “I’d Rather Be Your Lover” from Bedtime Stories (1994)
*Too subtle to be controversial, too groovy to be mainstream, yet containing her biggest hit “Take a Bow,” Bedtime Stories may be Madonna’s most sadly underrated of albums. After the aggressive throbs of Erotica, Madonna produced an album of ’70s infused soul ready for your Harlem pajama party. Originally featuring Tupac on the featured rap, “I’d Rather Be Your Lover” serves up soul singer Meshell Ndegeocello as a counter punch to Madge’s best Martha Reeves.
11) “Drowned World/Substitute for Love” from Ray of Light (1998)
*Before Madonna spiraled back into adolescent, there was a brief period where she was introspective, genuine, and mature. This coalesced into Ray of Light, a beautiful album of regrets, spirituality, motherhood, and new beginnings. “Drowned World/Substitute for Love” is Madonna looking back at her life and taking stock. Beautiful ballad with a really cool video.
12) “Hollywood” from American Life (2003)
*Hilariously, this song was used at the beginning of the Oscars about ten years ago. Did the producers know that it was an indictment of the plastic vanity of Los Angeles? Or just pleased to be using a song with “Hollywood” in the lyrics?
13) “Nothing Fails” from American Life (2003)
*The closest Madonna has come to something as celestially transcendent as “Like a Prayer” in years, “Nothing Fails” might even surpass her classic with its confidently subtle vocal and its earnest declaration of love.
14) “Get Together” from Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005)
*Madonna returned to her roots with this disco inspired album, taking the listener on a ride through a night at Studio 54. “Get Together”, the strongest track on this underrated masterpiece, laughs off the idea of love at first sight, the lies we tell to get inside someone’s pants (or heart) and encourages us all to find love – or lust – wherever we can get it.
15) “Heartbeat” from Hard Candy (2008)
*Whatever can be said positively or negatively for Madonna – and there is a lot – what is undeniable is that she gets us out of our chairs and on to the dance floor. Dance is her first love – the one thing that makes her the happiest. For a brief moment, this song makes imagine a 17 year old Madonna in a Michigan dance studio practicing her pirouettes and her poses in the dusty mirror, dreaming of the days when she might be a star.
16) “Dance 2Night” from Hard Candy (2008)
*Fast forward 35 years when Madonna is a legend and she returns to that same studio to teach a class. A stand out track featuring Justin Timberlake.
17) “I’m Addicted” from MDNA (2012)
*Is Madonna talking about a person or her fans? One of the few passable songs from the drudgery that is MDNA.
18) Celebration from Celebration (2009)
*”Holiday” for the 21st Century, “Celebration” is one of Madonna’s strongest singles in years. Try to stay in your seat.
19) “Think of Me” from Madonna (1983)
*Could there be a more autobiographical song in her repertoire? Who knew how relevant it would be 30 years later.