The Girl Material

SOMETHING TO REMEMBER (1995) Unfortunately, Madonna isn't a literal or nuanced enough singer to make this set of older ballads as convincing as her pop or dance cuts. But give her credit: It took guts for her to try. Grade: B-

EVITA (1996) She's the first person who didn't feel obliged to snarl her way through the title role. Aided by impeccable orchestrations (and some coaching), her vocals are years ahead of anything she'd sung before. Grade: A

RAY OF LIGHT (1998) The gooey ''spiritualism'' may make you gag, but at least when Madonna went electronica, she didn't leave her hit-making savvy behind. With the help of producer William Orbit, she propelled otherwise-arch genres like trip-hop and trance into the pop stratosphere. Grade: B+

MUSIC (2000) Who else could release their catchiest album nearly 20 years into a career? The title song recaptures the simple perfection of "Holiday," and brings her career full circle. For that, Madonna, take a bow. Grade: A

Originally posted Jul 27, 2001 Published in issue #606 Jul 27, 2001 Order article reprints

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