Updated: Oct 19, 2020
With a string of hits behind her, Madonna's awesome album tracks are often overlooked. We take a listen to some of her best album tracks and deep (or deeper and deeper) cuts.
THE FIRST ALBUM - THINK OF ME
Madonna's first album doesn't leave a lot of room for manoeuvre as most of the songs were singles. But the B-side of Holiday is also a great example of the infectious 80s pop that would propel her to superstardom.
LIKE A VIRGIN - STAY
The best deep cut from the album goes to the terrifically emotionally raw version of Love Don't Live Here Anymore which shows a vulnerable side we hadn't seen before. It wasn't originally released as a single, in fact, it was only when the Something To Remember compilation was issued that it had a chart entry in the US in 1996. But as it became single it sadly disqualifies it from our list. So the Like A Virgin deep cut has to be Stay. It's still quintessentially 80s but shows a clear development in Madonna's sound. There's an uncovering of hurt here, a bitterness that the material girl is far from superficial.
TRUE BLUE – LOVE MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND
True Blue is Madonna's most successful album to date, and it boasts some of her most popular songs. Madonna's lyrics are political, inspirational and unifying. All this delivered with a sunshine Latin and Calypso inspired beat. Genius.
LIKE A PRAYER - TILL DEATH US DO PART
Like A Prayer marks Madonna's shift from pop songstress to a mature recording artist. There's lots of serious soul searching here as she bravely confronts issues such as religion and her childhood and candidly shares them with us. The hidden gem here is Till Death Us Do Part. It's structured as a similar contradiction to Love Makes The World Go Round; its upbeat riff makes you want to dance until you realise that the lyrics are tainted with the sadness of a breakup, very possibly influenced by her own. Madonna's semi-spoken sections add gravitas to the emotional vocal performance which sounds as if she's just holding back the tears every time.
EROTICA – IN THIS LIFE
Released simultaneously with the controversial SEX coffee table book, the album breaks social taboos on sex, fantasies and the burgeoning AIDS epidemic. In many ways, it's a concept album with Madonna playing our 'mistress' Dita taking us on our journey of physical enlightenment. The album is often overlooked by the brouhaha at the time, but there are several worthy tracks including Thief of Hearts and Waiting. In this Life chronicles those close to her who have died from AIDS and wins here for its upfront and moving lyrics coupled with the unsettling accompaniment. It's not an easy listen, but it was never intended to be.
BEDTIME STORIES – SANCTUARY
Bedtime Stories bridged the gap between Erotica and Ray Of Light. It was also an album that never got its own tour due to Madonna filming Evita. As a result, it seems to have got lost in her canon of work, surprising as it's artistically one of her best albums. Sanctuary hints at what was to come in Ray Of Light, but the clincher is Love Tried To Welcome Me, nothing beats a good Madonna slow dance tune. Mournful and yearning with a perfectly structured arrangement of acoustic guitar and emotive strings.
RAY OF LIGHT -LITTLE STAR
Ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time, 1998's Ray Of Light marked another artistic change of style and noticeably different to anything that had gone before. It's certainly one of her most accomplished albums. Her work on Evita has clearly helped her vocally for this album and the mystical content of the album is embellished by William Orbit's outstanding production. Little Star, written after the birth of her daughter Lourdes, is a heartfelt lullaby from mother to child. It's simplistic, poetic and beautiful.
MUSIC – RUNAWAY LOVER
Madonna returned to her dance roots with this album but also added country and rock influences too. William Orbit also returned to co-produce which adds continuity. Runaway Lover's trance and electro mix are hypnotic and Madonna's vocal draws you into to the middle of this dance track.
AMERICAN LIFE – NOTHING FAILS
American Life is yet another album remarkably different to anything that has gone before. The track has similarities with Don't Tell Me from Music, with finger-picking acoustic guitar, but this is another heartfelt love song. It's a great example of Madonna's romantic nature and what's important in her life, with a nod and a wink to a hit from 1989.
CONFESSIONS ON A DANCE FLOOR – FORBIDDEN LOVE
Rooted in pure 70s disco this track from Forbidden love, throws modern and vintage together to create another classy disco diva classic.
HARD CANDY - HEARTBEAT
A mixed bag as an album but Heartbeat is another floor filler song to let your hair down and the chorus will stay with you long after the album has ended.
MDNA – GANG BANG
The second track from one of The Queen Of Pop's albums that divide listeners. Gang Bang is a song about revenge that's hypnotically catchy, violent, aggressive and totally bonkers. On the first listen you'll think she's finally lost the plot, but keep revisiting; it's a theatrical and sexy tour de force.
REBEL HEART – WASH OVER ME
Where to begin? It's such a great album that there are so many fantastic songs to uncover. So I'm going to cheat a bit and name some worthwhile contenders Joan of Arc returns us to a vulnerable Madonna taking the mask off revealing that things get to her, the massive inspirational dance track Iconic and the sexy Holy Water is brazen and fun. Inside Out creates a huge level of intimacy but it's the terrific vocal performance on Wash Over Me that pulls us back to the days of Evita. It's vocally diverse, filled with emotion and a terrific ballad from a brilliant album.
MADAME X - I DON'T SEARCH I FIND
Like Rebel Heart, Madam X also has several worthy deep cut contenders: There's the three C's (Crave, Crazy and Come Alive) which all have the hallmarks of classic Madonna. God Control and Dark Ballet would normally be great deep cuts, but they both appear early on, which narrows it down. Have Mercy is a a top ballad from the Queen of Pop, but the prize here has to go to I Don't Search I Find which encompasses the throbbing trance grooves of Confessions, infused with the seductive tones that ran through the Erotica album - there's even Vogue style clicks. This is Madonna at her most self referential.