Madonna’s 10 most underrated songs
”Think of Me” (Madonna, 1983)
You probably composed more complicated synth lines on your Casio back in 10th grade, but darned if that monotonous bleep-bleep-bleep doesn’t provide a rock-solid foundation for young Miss Ciccone’s game warble. The song’s message of demanding respect in a relationship is just as simple, and equally timeless. But if there’s any doubt about the decade Madonna produced this confection, the righteous sax solo near the end is as effective as carbon dating.
”Over and Over” (Like a Virgin, 1984)
Admittedly, there are as many clichés as there are beats per minute on this unrepentantly sunny number. But, singing with an enthusiasm that borders on scary, Madonna sells the message — ”I get up again, over and over” — completely. Spin it liberally…for inspiration.
”More” (I’m Breathless: Songs From and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy, 1990)
”Nothing’s better than more,” Madonna sings, channeling her Breathless Mahoney character from Dick Tracy. And indeed, when it comes to the movie’s soundtrack, nothing really is better than ”More.” Just when you think Stephen Sondheim’s rapid-fire wordplay is about to get away from her, Madonna pushes through, proving she’s got a stronger instrument than a lot of critics would like to admit.
”Waiting” (Erotica, 1992)
Who knew Hip-Hop Madonna was such a complicated gal? Sing-speaking over a spare beat, jingly piano, and sinister bass line, Madonna at first conveys a desperate, aching longing for her no-good lover, but gradually shifts to a mood of icy disdain, culminating in a scathing closing line that’s not fit for print on a family website. Wicked, and wickedly good.
”Bedtime Story” (Bedtime Stories, 1995)
It may be one of Madonna’s few singles from the ’90s that didn’t crack the Top 40 (it peaked at No. 42 on the Billboard charts), but you’ve got to admire her for foisting a zesty, Björk-penned electronica track onto the airwaves. Coupled with an eye-popping video that had Madge free-falling through the galaxy and popping doves out of her stomach, ”Bedtime Story” will always be a smash hit, at least in the minds of her loyal fans.
”Buenos Aires” (Evita, 1996)
Ambitious girl arrives in the big city with even bigger dreams. It’s a story Madonna knows all too well, and, not surprisingly, she infuses Andrew Lloyd Webber’s frantic show-stopper with a palpable hunger. ”Give me credit, I’ll find ways of paying,” Madonna demands. Far be it from us to make the lady ask twice.
”Drowned World/Substitute for Love” (Ray of Light, 1998)
Listening to superstars ruminate on the trappings of fame and fortune is usually a pretty tedious exercise, but here, Madonna breathes new life into the idea that ”some things cannot be bought” by giving one of the most nuanced vocal performances of her career. The submerged soundscape gives the impression she’s singing from the bottom of the ocean, but as she crescendos to the climactic mmm-mmm, it’s clear Madonna’s also singing from the bottom of her heart. ”Drowned World” may not have been released as a single in the States, but the fact that Madonna chose it as the name of her 2001 tour tells you it’s one of her favorites too.
”Shanti/Ashtangi” (Ray of Light, 1998)
What is Madonna singing about on this hypnotizing little ditty? Beats the heck out of me, but the whirling percussion, layered vocals, and flourishes of flute take me somewhere distant and sublime — the Ajanta Caves, perhaps, or maybe the Kabbalah Centre?
”I Deserve It” (Music, 2000)
Forget about co-producer Mirwais’ whirs and whistles: At its heart, ”I Deserve It” is a soulful acoustic track that, lyrically and melodically, ranks as one of Madonna’s loveliest compositions.
”Nobody Knows Me” (American Life, 2003)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, American Life was too preachy for its own good, and this song was among the primary offenders. (Sample lyric: ”I don’t watch TV. I don’t waste my time, reading magazines.” Gah!) Still, if you treat Madgebot’s vocoder-enhanced instrument as just another space-age effect, the message dissipates into the larger surround-sound spectacle, and you’re left with a track that’ll give you a workout on the dance floor or the treadmill.
What are your favorite underrated Madonna songs?