May 06, 2008
Ranking Madonna's Albums
In a previous post, I had been asked how I would rate one of Madonna's albums versus another. This gave me the thought that perhaps it was time for a...list. Yes, I know. Lists have become so common on the internet, you'd think they were the start of Wikipedia. But for you, my dear readers, I feel it is my duty.
Thus I present to you my list of all of Madonna's 13 major albums in order. I have decided for the purpose of this list to exclude any greatest hits collections, as it's just patently unfair. Let's be honest - no album would stand a chance against The Immaculate Collection. Granted those collection albums usually had a little new material. Maybe some other day I'll rank all the top 10 hits. Also I'm excluding albums of remixes, and any album so obscure that you won't recognize it when I mention it. (Yes, there are a few - check out this discography.) And while I'm throwing out caveats, I'll mention that although it's awesome, I have to leave out Evita, as that wasn't exactly new material.
So here they are, folks! Release the hounds, and begin the debate.
1. Ray of Light
For me, this is it - the pinnacle of a career. Madonna blew the music industry out of the water with something very fresh, new and innovative. I defy you to listen to the title track in your car without accelerating. Frozen gives me chills, Shanti/Ashtangi centers me, and Nothing Really Matters is so very danceable! I came close to demoting this to the #2 spot because of the hopelessly annoying Little Star, but I'm sure even the Mona Lisa has a smudge in there somewhere.
2. True Blue
If I was stranded on a desert island and could only have 1 album on this list on my cleverly hidden iPod, I'd go with this one. I think Ray of Light is great as an overall album, but it's True Blue that has the songs I can't live without. A lot of people probably wouldn't be able to name this album off the tops of their heads, but there's no way they wouldn't know the songs on it. The title track is fun, and four of the greatest Madonna songs of all time are here - Papa Don't Preach, Live To Tell, La Isla Bonita, and my all-time favorite - Open Your Heart!!! LOVE!
A long time ago in a galaxy very nearby, Madonna launched a career with bubblegum pop that you could really dance to. Although this album is 25 years old, it still is the source of some of her most hummable tunes - Lucky Star, Borderline, Burning Up, and one of the best party songs of all time - Holiday!
4. Confessions On A Dance Floor
After a few missteps, Madonna came screaming back onto the scene with a very, very good album. Hung Up is a dance anthem wrapped in a pink leotard. And there are a lot of other great offerings - Sorry, Let It Will Be, How High. Personally I can't get enough of Jump and Like It Or Not.
5. Bedtime Stories
Go ahead and argue with me, but I think this is the most underappreciated Madonna album of all time. It was laying the groundwork for the electronica dance style she would pioneer in the coming years. Bedtime Story is an amazing song and a delightfully trippy video (love those whirling dervishes!). And what's more, it features some of Madonna's strongest ballads - Secret and Take A Bow. In other news, Human Nature is way sexy, baby!
Not every song on this album is amazing, but it marks a huge change for Madonna. This is when she became very, very grown up (read: overtly sexual) and at times very serious. There are some good songs here, but it's really all about Rain!
7. Like A Prayer
This is an odd album - it features a couple of the greatest Madonna songs ever (the title track and Express Yourself) and a couple solid hits (Cherish and Oh Father) mixed in with a lot of forgettable work (Dear Jessie, anyone?). I think this is the main reason we needed The Immaculate Collection.
8. I'm Breathless
What I like about this album is that it's got a great theme going. As the companion soundtrack to the movie Dick Tracy, Madonna presented a collection of songs in a swinging 40s style. Even if every track isn't successful, it's still a pleasure to listen to, in my opinion. And considering it's topped off with Vogue (a signature gay dance anthem), how can you go wrong?
9. Like A Virgin
Madonna was really hitting the big-time with this album (i.e. she ruled MTV), but when you look at the album itself, it doesn't have that much to offer. Sure, there are a few vital hits - Material Girl, the title track, and Dress You Up. But I think overall it's not very strong.
10. Hard Candy
As you may have read by now, I like parts of this album - the beginning (Candy Shop, 4 Minutes) and the end (Devil Wouldn't Recognize You and Voices) with one good song in the middle (Miles Away). Just stay away from some of that annoying pop with trite lyrics in the middle (I'm taking Incredible off my iPod)!
Maybe someone can argue in favor of this album, but I found it to be very disappointing. The title track and Don't Tell Me are definitely keepers, but can you name another song off the top of your head?
12. American Life
Yeah, yeah, I know it's pretty bad. I still own it. I kind of like the title track, and even the James Bond theme, Die Another Day. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
13. Who's That Girl
Putting this album on the list is debatable, as only half the songs are even from Madonna. Sadly, even those few aren't very good. The title track is about all that's worth listening to.
That's it - what do you think? I'm dying to hear some opinions from you other folks that remember when Madonna writhing around in a wedding dress was a real scandal!