Madonna’s love of Instagram has allowed us to see her in many new ways - proud mother of four, hoovering expert, #unapologeticbitch – but perhaps the best thing about the Queen of Pop’s discovery of her iPhone camera is the amount of information she’s been firing off about her upcoming album. We’ve seen studio snaps, lyric sheets and snippets of both a gospel choir and an orchestra in full swing… something pretty exciting is happening. Which is a relief. Because, for many fans, Madonna has never needed a fantastic album more than she needs one now.
The last time she received near-universal acclaim was in 2005, when the Confessions On a Dance Floor album mixed huge hooks, some sharp lyrics and Stuart Price’s vibrant, club-ready production to create a modern pop classic. Since then, though, Madonna’s musical offerings have been less flawless. The urban rhythms of 2008′s Hard Candy and technicolor pop of 2012′s MDNA each received a cooler response, and in between came the somewhat slapdash greatest hits compilation Celebration. Some have even gone as far as to say that the Queen of Pop has ‘lost it’.
This is, of course, total bullshit. Though her albums have taken an overall dip in quality since Confessions (and there’s frankly no excuse whatsoever for Revolver), when Madonna gets it right, there’s no-one better. Here are ten brilliant tracks she’s recorded since 2005 which prove that Madonna still very much ‘has it’.
1. Give It 2 Me
Give It 2 Me, the second single from Hard Candy, showcases the very best of Madonna’s work with Pharrell Williams. That’s right: Madonna collaborated with Pharrell before every Tom, Dick and Paloma Faith was queueing round the block for their slice of the Happy hitmaker. What’s more, Give It 2 Me has all of Blurred Lines‘ hypnotic rhythms, without any of the creepy lyrics or Robin Thicke’s gurning face – what’s not to love?
2. Devil Wouldn’t Recognise You
Don’t let the faux-lullaby intro fool you, this slow-burning midtempo track is a much darker offering than much of Madge’s recent output. Co-produced by Justin Timberlake, Devil Wouldn’t Recognise You finds Madonna confronting a silver-tongued lover who’s talked himself right into a corner. Some of the best lyrics she’s written in years.
3. She’s Not Me
Written towards the end of her marriage to Guy Ritchie, the ’80s groove of She’s Not Me sees Madonna warning her lover that no other woman is ever going to beat her. The best thing about this six-minute epic isn’t the Queen Of Pop’s cocksure attitude, but the astonishing breakdown halfway through, which seems to reveal an underlying panic in Madonna’s supposed confidence. As she repeats “she’s not me” again and again, it becomes difficult to tell whether she’s trying to scorn him, or convince herself.
4. Candy Shop
Yes, this is the one where Madonna keeps growling “My sugar is raw, sticky and sweet” (nearly 20 times, in fact). Take a moment, shake it out, and get over it. Because look past Madonna’s toffee-coated unmentionables and you’ll find slick R&B beats with a prowling bassline and hooks all over the show. Candy Shop may be sticky and sweet, but that’s largely down to the fact that it’s a total jam.
5. Celebration (Benny Benassi Remix)
While the version on the Celebration compilation sounds a little dated, the video remix of Celebration is nothing short of a revelation. Relentless, pounding production breathes new life into the track – and the highlight is undoubtedly when it all falls away before the chorus for a euphoric build-up that simply demands you get you arms in the air. Listen in the office at your own peril.
6. I’m Addicted
This is the jewel in MDNA‘s crown. Evoking the quirky beats of early Daft Punk,I’m Addicted plays out like aural Jenga: the slippery electronic production slowly stacking up layers and layers of musical tension until the whole song wobbles and collapses into an uncontainable megarave. The Number One hit that got away.
7. Love Spent
People often moan that Madonna’s lyrics aren’t “personal” enough anymore – a criticism Love Spent takes one unimpressed look at before proceeding to shut it the fuck down. Pointing the finger of blame at Guy Ritchie for the breakdown of their marriage, Madonna flips between acidic barbs (“Guess if I was your treasury, you’d have found the time to treasure me”) and wishing she could take the place of the money he apparently loved so much. That the song bears echoes of Hung Up is just the cherry on an extremely bittersweet cake.
8. Some Girls
It opens with a rave horn. Does anything else need to be said? Well, maybe only that’s one of Madonna’s snarkiest ever songs, as she lines up female archetypes before knocking them down over thick electronics and muddy beats. “Some girls are not like me” – truer words were never spoken. A basic bitch takedown anthem.
9. Turn Up the Radio
Taken out of context, the chorus could sound plodding and uninspired, but when pieced together as part of this cleverly-constructed track, Turn Up the Radio is irresistible. It’s a sweet and oddly poignant escapist fantasy: when life is shitty, everything will be fine if we can just turn up the radio. Which, thankfully, is something Madonna has never had trouble making us do.
10. Gang Bang
Thunderous, ridiculous and brilliant. And co-written by Mika! Only Madonna.