There’s a before Madonna and after Madonna era in the Hollywood pop industry in my opinion. There were some brilliant singers before her. Better than her. But Madonna redefined everything and everyone else (especially the female pop artists) after she, mere reflections in some shade or the other in varying degrees.
You see the Madonna influence everywhere to this day. From Lady Gaga’s risque music and style to Ariana Grande’s trademark long high ponytail. Closer home, we see it in Rekha’s transformation – be it her makeup, outfits, or still poses. Or in Kangana Ranaut’s vibe and style.
That’s the power of Madonna. She singlehandedly changed the face of the female lead artiste forever — no more pretence and trying to fit in to suit the society’s expectations.
She was not a babe in the woods who needed to be rescued by a Prince Charming. She sang her mind while owning her sensuality and desires.
She’s always been a trend-setter. Quite possibly for the androgynous fashion as well. She displayed her biceps with as much elan as her cleavage.
What makes Madonna timeless is her distinct voice, and her experimental streak as she toyed with various music genres and fashion trends in her career. She could pull off the wackiest styles that would make anyone else look like a clown. The same can be said for her music which offers a genuinely diverse and inclusive musical experience.
So, I’m going on a Madonna roll in this post, picking some of my favorite songs of hers over the years.
1. La Isla Bonita
Also my younger brother’s fave. He’d play this on loop, and I don’t blame him. It’s the perfect song to play on a lazy weekend post brunch and before your siesta. It’s got just the right amount of sexiness or what some call classy. But again, anything Latino or Spanish sounds effortlessly sexy and chic.
Frozen is apt for what’s happening in our world right now. There’s so much narcissism and apathy today that it’s not surprising that Empathy will be the top Future of Work skill.
“You only see what your eyes want to see
How can life be what you want it to be?
When your heart’s not open.”
On my playlist for any holiday drive, this song puts you in the mood for a vacation. Even if you aren’t going anywhere, and just chilling out during the weekend, this is the song to listen, sing out loud, and dance.
4. Hung Up
How can you not love this catchy ABBA-Madonna fusion song? The perfect pick for that road trip, or quickie adrenaline rush. And whenever you want to let your hair down and dance like no one’s watching.
I saw this song first in my middle school and was hooked ever since with the haunting melody. I love how unabashed Madonna is. She owns her sensuality and wears it on her sleeve. My favourite lines in the song –
“Until I learned to love myself
I was never ever lovin’ anybody else
Happiness lies in your own hand!”
6. Papa Don’t Preach
This song was controversial for its depiction of teen pregnancy. As a parent, I can totally understand the agitation. But, the song’s well-portrayed and enjoyable. On a different tangent, I loved Madonna’s timeless look and style in it – the short-cropped hair, black biker jacket, striped Tee, light blue denim, and ballet flats.
You don’t even have to watch the video because the music is amazing enough. It’s another thing that she looks like a million bucks in this one. It’s got that strong vibe and independent streak just like Madonna.
8. Nothing Really Matters
When this song first came out, I couldn’t stop humming it. It has the same effect on me years later. If I had to dedicate a love song to my husband, this one would be on the hit-list. Love the video, the tune, and the lyrics. It’s my kind of a love song.
“Now that I am grown
I’ll never be the same
Because of you”
9. Material Girl
Different people are intrinsically motivated by different things. This song celebrates materialism and doesn’t shy away from the practical realities of the world. Material Girl has acquired a cult gold-digger status where you have a vintage Madonna channeling Marilyn Monroe.
One of Madonna’s best videos, Vogue is a fitting tribute to the fashion industry as a whole, and the fashionista in all of us.
11. Beautiful Stranger
A double treat. It has to be when you have Mike Myers and Madonna in the same frame. Great sound, outrageously cheeky, deliciously wicked, and downright hilarious.
12. You’ll See
When it comes to breakup songs, Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive” comes to the top of mind. I love the celebratory feel of that song. But, I also love what Madonna has done with “You’ll See.” It’s quietly fierce and supremely confident. You’ll see. When you watch this song.
This song is for all the brave and adventurous people out there. It speaks to the nomad in me. Well, I love a change of place, scene, and travel on the whole. But, figuratively too, life can be an adventure if you want. Say Yes to life and its myriad experiences. Don’t cling to the past. Move on. Take that leap of faith and jump.
14. Don’t Tell Me
This one’s badass. It’s the song form of the middle finger. You can tell anything but don’t you ever tell me to stop. Ultimately, it’s your life, and you have to live it. Like the Sun will shine whether you want it or not, and the wind will blow in whichever direction it wants to, so must you do what you have to do.
This is another classic song from Madonna. It explores the frustrating greys in a relationship – of being the only giving one, of being taken for granted in the relationship.
16. American Dream
The song is anti-establishment. It’s a whistle-blower. A depiction of the bitter reality, it speaks of the superficial dream of materialism and its devastating results on humanity, at large. As much as I love this song, I cannot help think about the irony of it. It’s a brave song on the front. But C’mon, it’s sung by Madonna. Duh! She’s a thick part of the elite establishment. It’s like Sunny Leone sermonizing like the Pope and talking against the Porn industry.
17. Ray of Light
With Ray of Light, Madonna springs another surprise. It’s evolved, chaotic, psychedelic, spiritual, country, city…it’s got myriad elements that somehow come together fantastically.
It’s hard to pick a few songs when we’re talking about Madonna.There’s “Cherish”, “Like a Virgin” “Rain,” “Live to Tell,” “ and so many more are such favorites.
She’s over 60 today, mother of six children, and still living life on her terms, pursuing her passion for music with as much zeal as much as she did when she started. If that’s not fascinating, I don’t know what is!
Are you a fan of Madonna’s music and legacy? Which are your favorite Madonna songs? I’d love to know.