In honor of Madonna's 58th birthday, we are counting down our favorite Madonna tracks of all time. With more than 30 years of hits, the material girl has shocked us, and changed the music landscape in a matter of 3 to 4 minutes of music.
Born in Bay City, Michigan, Madonna moved to New York City in 1977 to pursue a career in modern dance. After performing in the music groups Breakfast Club and Emmy, she signed with Sire Records (an auxiliary label of Warner Bros. Records) in 1982 and released her self-titled debut album the following year. She followed it with a series of commercially and critically successful albums, including the Grammy Award winners Ray of Light (1998) and Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005). Throughout her career, Madonna has written and produced most of her songs, with many of them reaching number one on the record charts, including "Like a Virgin", "Papa Don't Preach", "Like a Prayer", "Vogue", "Take a Bow", "Frozen", "Music", "Hung Up", and "4 Minutes".
Madonna's popularity was further enhanced by her film roles, including Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), Dick Tracy(1990), and Evita (1996); the latter earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. However, most of her other films have been panned by critics. Her other ventures include fashion design, writing children's books, and filmmaking. She has been acclaimed as a businesswoman, particularly after she founded entertainment company Maverick (including the label Maverick Records). In 2007 she signed an unprecedented US $120 million 360 deal with Live Nation, which led to a record deal with Interscope Records.
Having sold more than 300 million records worldwide, Madonna is recognized as the best-selling female recording artist of all time by Guinness World Records. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) listed her as the best-selling female rock artist of the 20th century and the second highest-certified female artist in the United States, with 64.5 million album units. Madonna is the highest-grossing solo touring artist of all time, earning US $1.31 billion from her concerts since 1990. Madonna became one of the five founding members of the UK Music Hall of Fame and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility. She was ranked at number one on VH1's list of 100 Greatest Women in Music and number two (behind only The Beatles) on Billboard's list of Greatest Hot 100 Artists of All Time.
1. "Like a Prayer" (from 'Like a Prayer,' 1989)
Madonna has been obsessed with the taboo her entire life . Sex to religion she has made it taboo,and left everyone talking. In 1989 she shocked the world with her gospel-disco hit, Like A Prayer. Blurring the lines between prayer and sex, she testifies, "I'm down on my knees/I want to take you there." Not only were the songs racy for its time, but it got her banded by the vatican.
Inspired by her Catholic upbringing—but changed the context in which they were used. They have dual meanings of sexual innuendo and religion. "Like a Prayer" was acclaimed by critics, and was a commercial success. It was Madonna's seventh number-one single on the United States' Billboard Hot 100, and topped the singles charts in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and other countries.
The music video, directed by Mary Lambert, portrays Madonna as a witness to a murder of a white girl by white supremacists. While a black man is arrested for the murder, Madonna hides in a church for safety seeking strength to go forth as a witness. The clip depicts Catholic symbols such as stigmata, Ku Klux Klan-style cross burning, and a dream about kissing a black saint. After its release, the Vatican condemned the video, while family and religious groups protested its broadcast. They boycotted products by soft drink manufacturer Pepsi, which used the song for a commercial. Madonna's contract with Pepsi was then canceled, although she was allowed to retain her initial fee.
2. "Into the Groove" (Non-album single, 1985)
In 1995 Desperately Seeking Susan premiered. The New York Times named the film as one of the top 10 films of 1985. Madonna popularity surged durning 1985 that actress Rosanna Arquette won the BAFTAA Award for Best Actress, even though she was the lead. Madonna recorded a song for the movie, titled "Desperately Seeking Susan". It ended up not being used in the film, and a demo she just finished at the time called "Into the Groove" was used instead. The demo version can only be heard in the movie. The song was a huge commercial success but was not included on the film's soundtrack, despite being heard in the film, due to licensing restrictions, which did involve Madonna's record label, that none of her songs was allowed to get mixed in with other artists. The music video for "Into the Groove" consists of clips from the film compiled by Doug Dowdle of Parallax Productions.
2. "Vogue" (From 'I'm Breathless,' 1990)
In 1990 the world saw one of the most memorable reinvention of Madonna career, the cone bra, that will forever be remembered. The first addition, a black cone, was featured in the Vogue video. The golden cone bra from the Blonde Ambition Tour is the synonymous one with the Material Girl. Jose F. Promis, in another Allmusic review, claimed that "Vogue" was a "crowning artistic achievement". In 2003, Madonna fans were asked to vote for their Top 20 Madonna singles of all-time by Q-Magazine. "Vogue" was allocated the #14 spot. In 2007, VH1 ranked fifth the song on its list of "Greatest Songs of the 90s". Slant Magazine listed "Vogue" as tenth "Best Singles of the '90s"as well as third in their list of the "100 Greatest Dance Songs". "Vogue", on addition, has received numerous accolades. It won the 1991 Juno Award for Best Selling International Single, as well as winning the American Music Award for Favorite Dance Single. The song, based on the 1990 Rolling StoneReader's Poll Awards, was voted Best single. The song was also ranked as the fourth best song of 1990 on that year's Pazz & Jop poll by The Village Voice.
4. "Borderline" (from 'Madonna,' 1983)
One of Madonnas most acclaim song came in the from "Borderline". Many contemporary critics applauded the song, calling it harmonically the most complex song from the Madonna album and complimenting the dance-pop nature of the song. "Borderline" became Madonna's first top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number ten. In the United Kingdom it reached number two after it was re-released as a single in 1986. Elsewhere, the song reached the top 10 or top 20 of a number of European nations while peaking the singles chart of Ireland. The song was placed at 84 on Blender magazine's "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born", while Time included it on the critic list "All-Time 100 Songs".The accompanying music video portrayed Madonna with a Latin-American man as her boyfriend. She was enticed by a British photographer to pose and model for him, but later returned to her original boyfriend. The video generated interest amongst academics, who noted the use of power as symbolism in it. With the video, Madonna was credited for breaking the taboo of interracial relationships and was considered one of her career-making moments. The release of the video on MTV increased Madonna's popularity further. Madonna has performed the song on her Virgin Tour(1985) and the Sticky & Sweet Tour (2008), where a punk-rock version of the song was performed. "Borderline" has been covered by a number of artists, including Duffy, Jody Watley, Counting Crows, and The Flaming Lips.
5. "Like a Virgin" (from 'Like a Virgin,' 1984)
Musically "Like a Virgin" is a dance-oriented song, composed of two hooks. Madonna's voice is heard in a high register while a continuous arrangement of drums are heard along the bassline. The lyrics of the song are ambiguous and consist of hidden innuendo. In sexual terms, the lyrics can be interpreted in different ways for different people. "Like a Virgin" received positive reviews from contemporary as well as old critics, who frequently called it as one of the defining songs for Madonna. It became her first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, while reaching the top of the charts in Australia, Canada, and Japan, and the top-ten of the other countries.
The music video portrayed Madonna sailing down the canals of Venice in a gondola, as well as roaming around a palace wearing a white wedding dress. With the video, scholars noted Madonna's portrayal of a sexually independent woman, the symbolism of the appearance of a man with lion's mask to that of Saint Mark, and the link between the eroticism of the video and the vitality of the city of Venice. Madonna has performed the song in six of her concert tours, most recent being the Rebel Heart Tour in 2015. Most of the time, her performances of "Like a Virgin" were associated with strong reaction and uproar from the media.
6. "Hung Up" (from 'Confessions on a Dance Floor,' 2005)
"Hung Up" was a worldwide commercial success, peaking at number one in charts of 41 countries and earning a place in the 2007 Guinness Book of World Records, as the song topping the charts in most countries. It also remains one of the best-selling singles of all time, with sales of over 9 million copies worldwide. In the United States, "Hung Up" debuted at twenty on the Billboard Hot 100 on the issue dated November 5, 2005. It became her highest opening position since "Ray of Light" entered the chart at five in 1998. The same week the song entered the Hot Digital Songs chart at number six and became the highest debuting single of the week on the Pop 100 Airplay, where it debuted at number 38. On the issue dated November 21, 2005, the song reached a peak of number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, jumping from number 14 from previous week. The song became the chart's greatest digital gainer for that week and claimed the top position on the Hot Digital Songs chart. It also tied Madonna with Elvis Presley for 36 top ten hits, which was subsequently broken by Madonna's 2008 song "4 Minutes", which peaked at number three on the Hot 100. "Hung Up" debuted at numbers 25 and 10 on the Hot Dance Club Play and Hot Dance Airplay charts respectively ultimately reaching the top of both.It became the most successful dance song of the 2000s in the United States, by topping the Dance/Club Play Songs Decade-end tally.The song also reached a peak of seven on the Pop 100 chart. In 2008, the single was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling at least a million copies in paid digital downloads. As of April 2010, the song has sold 1.2 million digital units in the United States.
"Hung Up" became the fastest rising single on radio in Canada, according to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems. On the second week itself, the song reached the top of the Contemporary Hit Radio chart of Canada, while reaching the top five of the Adult Contemporary and Canadian Airplay charts. Paul Tuch from Nielsen clarified that "Hung Up" achieved this feat within 10 days only] Consequently, "Hung Up" also peaked atop the Canadian Singles Chart for 15 non-consecutive weeks, and was certified double platinum by Music Canada for sales of 160,000 copies. In Australia, the song debuted atop the ARIA Singles Chart on November 20, 2005, breaking her tie with Kylie Minogue as the female artist with most number-one singles in Australian chart history. It was present within the top 50 of the chart for 23 weeks. The song was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipment of 70,000 copies."Hung Up" debuted at number 67 in the French singles chart and jumped to the top next week, remaining there for five non-consecutive weeks. It received a gold certification from Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP) for sales of 150,000 co "Hung Up" reached a peak position of number two in New Zealand, being kept from the top spot by Kanye West's single, "Gold Digger".
In the United Kingdom, "Hung Up" debuted at number one on the issue dated November 13, 2005, thus giving Madonna her 11th number one single on this chart. It sold 105,619 copies becoming the first single to sell more than 100,000 copies in a week since Crazy Frog's "Axel F" did it 23 weeks earlier. The first week sales of "Hung Up" were a little lower than Madonna's last UK number one, "Music" (2000), which opened with 114,925 sales, but exceeded her last single "Love Profusion", which debuted at number 11 with 15,361 sales in December 2003. The next week the single had a decline in sales of 43% to 59,969 ;copies, but remained on the top as Confessions on a Dance Floor debuted atop the UK Albums Chart. It remained at the top position for three weeks and a total of 40 weeks on the Singles Chart. According to the Official Charts Company, by the end of 2005, "Hung Up" was Madonna's biggest selling single with 339,285 copies since "Music" sold 390,624 copies in 2000. It was certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and has sold 617,000 in the UK to date. In Ireland, the song debuted at number two on the chart dated November 10, 2005 becoming the highest debut of the week. The song also topped Billboard's European Hot 100 Singles chart where it soared from 73 to the top of the chart on the issue dated November 21, 2005. The song was able to peak the charts in almost all the European nations including Austria, Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
7. "Live to Tell" (from 'True Blue,' 1986)
A pop ballad, the song includes instrumentation from guitars, keyboards, drums and a synthesizer, and its lyrics deal with deceit, mistrust and childhood scars. It is also about being strong, which Madonna recalled in an interview that she thought about her relationship with her parents, while writing the lyrics. The music video, directed by James Foley, shows Madonna's first image makeover, featuring her with a cleaner look, shoulder-length wavy golden blond hair, conservative wardrobe and subtle make-up. This toned down blond appearance was again inspired by Marilyn Monroe.
"Live to Tell" was generally well received by music critics, who frequently referred to it as the best ballad of her career. It was also a commercial success, becoming Madonna's third number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 and her first number-one on the Adult Contemporary chart. The song faced controversy when Madonna performed it on her 2006 Confessions Tour wearing a crown of thorns while hanging on a giant mirrored cross. The performance at Rome's Olympic Stadium was condemned as an act of hostility toward the Roman Catholic Church by religious leaders.
8. "Ray of Light" (from 'Ray of Light,' 1998)
"Ray of Light" received acclaim from music critics. In a review for the album as a whole, Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusicdescribed the track as "swirling". In a separate review, Liana Jonas of the same website called the track a "wickedly good club song", as well as claiming that it was "sonically progressive yet listener-friendly"; she also praised Madonna's vocals, comparing them to those of a "club diva to celestial goddess". Larry Flick from Billboard described it as Madonna at her best. Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone in his review for the album as a whole, wrote that, alongside other tracks such as "Swim" and "Drowned World/Substitute For Love", Madonna is "positively ferocious".Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine wrote that the song was a "celebratory tech-frenzy", and noted Madonna's "elation" in the song, giving it an "A" rating. Sputnikmusic listed the song as the album's recommended tracks. Michael R. Smith from The Daily Vault praised the song as one of Madonna's best singles, explaining:
What makes "Ray Of Light" one of Madonna's best singles is the fact that it is such a bitch to sing. Filled with multiple octave changes, it forced Madonna to push her vocal as far as it could possibly go. The song demanded she make use of her upper register and hold notes longer than she ever had before. It really is a techno gem that is always a standout at her concerts. After hearing a sample of it for the first time in the spring of 1998, I just knew that Madonna had outdone herself. The song brings the entire album of to a whole new level.
9. "Crazy for You" (from 'Vision Quest', 1985)
"Crazy for You" received positive response from music critics and earned Madonna her first Grammy Awardnomination in the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance category in 1986. The song became Madonna's second number-one single on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and reached the top position in the charts of Australia and Canada as well. It also peaked at number two in Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, where it was released twice, once in 1985 and again in 1991. Madonna has performed "Crazy for You" in three of her concert tours, The Virgin Tourin 1985, Re-Invention World Tour in 2004 and in some dates of Rebel Heart Tour in 2016. The performance from The Virgin Tour was included in the home video releases on VHS and LaserDisc whereas the Re-Invention World Tourremains unreleased. "Crazy for You" has been covered by a number of artists.
Dave Marsh, author of The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, felt that with the coda of the song, Madonna transformed her record into an adult love song. William McKeen, author of Rock and Roll is Here to Stay: An Anthology, said that the song "offered an aggressive sexuality for women".Maria Raha, author of Cinderella's Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground, said that with the song, "Madonna brought a trunk full of trite lyrics on the long-standing tradition of pop music, love. "Crazy for You" was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at 1986 Grammy Awards, but lost to Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love for You". The song was ranked number 38 on VH1's "100 Greatest Love Songs", and during the special it was revealed that "Crazy for You" was recorded in one take. In 2003, Madonna fans were asked to vote for their Top 20 Madonna singles of all time by Q; "Crazy for You" was allocated the eleventh spot.
10. "Open Your Heart" (from 'True Blue,' 1986)
Originally a rock 'n roll song with the title "Follow Your Heart", it was written for singer Cyndi Lauper by songwriters Gardner Cole and Peter Rafelson, although it was never played to her. Since Madonna's management was looking for new songs for True Blue, she accepted it. Madonna altered some of the lyrics and changed the composition to suit the dance-pop genre, giving her a co-writer credit for the song. Lyrically "Open Your Heart" is a love song, talking about innocent feelings of boy-meets-girl romance and Madonna expressing her sexual desire.
The song was well received by critics who commended it for being a simple love song. It was also successful commercially, reaching the top-ten of the charts in Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, also reaching the top of Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, thus making it Madonna's fifth US number-one single. The music video, however, portrayed a different concept of the song. Madonna played an exotic dancer in a peep-show club, who befriends a little boy and subsequently escapes. It was critically acclaimed for portraying a completely opposite perspective of "voyeuristic male gaze and object", and depicting innocence rather than sexual overtones, although the entry of a child in a strip club was negatively criticized. The video was an homage to actresses Liza Minnelli and Marlene Dietrich.
"Open Your Heart" has been performed by Madonna in three of her world tours – 1987's Who's That Girl World Tour, 1990's Blond Ambition World Tour, where Madonna wore her infamous conical bra during the song, and 2012's The MDNA Tour. The performances were included in the respective video release of the tours. "Open Your Heart" has been covered a number of times by different artists, and appeared in the Britney Spears film, Crossroads (2002).