#musicmarathon is a feature in which we get someone to listen to all of an artist’s studio albums in order of release date and ask them to comment on them. The idea being to see the evolution of an artist whilst listening to some nice music. The highs, the lows, the weird forays into reggae – we cover it all. Sit back and enjoy the musical journey.
So here we are at Part II of the Madonna #musicmarathon. Such is the magnitude of Madonna’s career that it only seemed right that there should be a trilogy of Madonna #musicmarathons and Part II is where things get really interesting. Part I is, of course, filled with numerous music-can’t-get-any-better-than-this hits but Part II is where Madonna really begins to test her artistic limits and experiment. Fuck I sound like an NME writer. It’s also the era in which Madonna created some of the greatest work of her career and the era in which I was born. Coincidence – I think not. Well perhaps – but below is the evidence as to why Part II of the Madonna #musicmarathon is what Madonna is all about.
Erotica – 1992
Sex. Sex. Sex. Madonna had touched on it in her music before but never had she really sung about it. Not until The Immaculate Collection’s Justify My Love – and then of course the album which followed: Erotica. Not only was Erotica an ode to sex but it was accompanied by Sex – a coffee table book filled with sexually explicit photographs of the singer. From house hits on sex itself (Erotica, Deeper and Deeper) to slow jams on cunnilingus (Where Life Begins) and ballads on AIDs (In This Life) – the album helped break cultural taboos and pave the way for priceless things such as better sex education, Sex and the City and Beyoncé. It also brought sex to the forefront of conversation and for that, alongside its massive tunes, it remains one of Madonna’s most important records to date. N.B. The child in me still chuckles at Where Life Begins – ‘Finger licking good’.
Listen to Erotica when horny.
Erotica – I’m a sucker for a bit of spoken Madonna.
Bedtime Story – 1996
Riding high on an Erotica-induced wave of sexual empowerment, Madonna released the R&B influenced Bedtime Stories – an album, which remains, one of her most subtle and seductive to date. Dallas Austin took over production duties and the result was a diverse and undervalued opus. Secret – the lead single remains one of Madonna’s most organic sounding songs to date, whilst Bedtime Story remains one of her most futuristic. And yet in spite of this range – the tracks blend into each other quite nicely. Sex is still very much at the forefront of conversation: Survival and Human Nature allude to the fact that it is simply a part of – you guessed it – human nature but tracks such as Take a Bow prove that Madonna is still capable of a good ballad. A very beautiful one at that too. The videos in this campaign are rather chic too which is always nice.
Listen to Bedtime Stories when feeling mysterious.
Human Nature – ‘Express yourself, don’t regress yourself’ is a very good lyric – isn’t it?
Ray of Light – 1998
Ray of Light is deemed by many critics to be Madonna’s greatest album – and, whilst we could debate this for a while over coffee and party rings, there’s no need. It is. The lead single Frozen marks a changed Madonna. The song is a cinematic ode to a cold human being and as well as being quite simply beautiful, it ironically hits out at the critics who have labeled Madonna ’emotionless’ throughout her career. What’s more – it sees Madonna explore new sound (William Orbit – we salute you) and master a spiritual voice (thanks Kabbalah). This continues in the camper-than-camp title track Ray of Light, motherhood-changes-your-priorities jam Nothing Really Matters and our-world-is-really-quite-fucked-up ditty Drowned World/Substitute For Love. From start to finish it’s a remarkable album and it sounds just as modern now as it did 15 years ago. True story.
Listen to Ray of Light when contemplating the meaning of life.
Frozen – In a perfect world this would be in the soundtrack of every decent film. Alas!
Music – 2000
After the intense self-analysation of Ray of Light, it was probably about time Madonna lightened up a bit. Thankfully with Music Madonna does just that. The title-track harks back to her let’s-dance-and-have-fun commercial roots and the follow-up single Don’t Tell Me is up there with Madonna’s greatest empowerment anthems. The whole album also sees Madonna experiment with country and vocoder to surprising success. Also for those who liked themselves a little bit of intellectual Madonna there’s some nice introspection too. Nobody’s Perfect is a great atypical love song, What It Feels Like For A Girl is a reserved work of feminist beauty and Paradise (Not For Me) is a brilliant commentary on fame. Music may not grab you straight away, when I first heard it I thought it was a bit shit, but it’s a grower and with time – it has become something quite special.
Listen to Music when feeling mellow.
Music – It’s an inter-galactic pop tune by all accounts.
Evita – 1996
Throughout her career Madonna has made many forays into film – some successful (Desperately Seeking Susan), some less so (W.E.) – however, out of all of them, one stands out in particular: Evita. Now although some people found Evita a bit boring (stick to pop please Madonna – thank you very much) – us theatre types loved it and it proved many of Madonna’s detractors wrong. Her performance was understated and natural. In fact so natural that the role bagged her a Golden Globe (and almost an Oscar). Not only that though, it proved that underneath all the pomp (FYI pomp, particularly Madonna pomp, is good) – Madonna’s voice really is quite beautiful.
WHAT A WOMAN.
Sam Prance is the Editor of Prancing Through LIFE. He studies French and Italian at Edinburgh University. His favourite film is American Beauty and he has Madonna marathons far too often. He is currently writing this auto-bio in the third person. He will now stop writing this third person auto-bio in order to save himself some embarrassment.
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(Images sourced from: www.madonna.com)
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