Love her, like her or hate her, Madonna has been a staple of the pop rock world for almost 30 years. Her remarkable propensity for reinventing herself has allowed her to feel fresh to entirely different generations of music fans, and her ability to generate headlines has allowed her to stay in the headlines for an equally long time.
I’ve always been a big fan, although I’ve found her last couple of albums to be remarkably unmemorable. But albums are not really what Madonna is all about. Her presence on this list is recognition of a body of work, more than recognition of a single album. And if that seems like a bending of the rules, well…they’re my rules, after all. But I don’t feel like this is cheating, because there’s no doubt in my mind that I could compile a mix-CD of her best work (which is not always her “greatest hits”) that would find its way to a spot near the Top Ten.
So – what album to pick? It boiled down to three: the 1983 eponymous debut, 1998’s “Ray of Light,” and 2000’s “Music.” I don’t hesitate to say that these are all great albums, and any of them could fit in here. But ultimately, I went with the debut, because it is the one album in her entire career that is consistently outstanding from beginning to end.
It’s not an album of high concept – it’s a dance album, plain and simple. The hits – “Lucky Star,” “Borderline,” “Think of Me,” and “Everybody” – sound as good today as they did then. And some of the rest – “Burning Up,” “Physical Attraction” – sound even better.
And perhaps more importantly, being the debut, it is the one album in Madonna’s career where one doesn’t have to ponder the calculation behind it. From this point on, every piece of work – no matter how strong – would have to be looked at through the lens of whatever Madonna was trying to accomplish at any given moment. And because of that, it all feels like a breath of fresh air.
Produced by Reggie Lucas
Lucky Star/Borderline/Burning Up/I Know It/Holiday/Think of Me/Physical Attraction/Everybody