Sifting through more than 80 singles, 14 studio albums, countless soundtracks and compilations, selecting the best Madonna songs isn’t for the faint-hearted. The mistress of reinvention is an accomplished balladeer, an indisputable dance legend – she’s enjoyed no less than 50 Billboard Dance Club No.1s to date – and the ultimate genre chameleon, always with one eye on what’s happening next and how it might serve her.
At her peak, the pace was giddy. Name any other artist that would – or could – release singles as diverse as the whimsical Dear Jessie, the anthemic Vogue, the swing pastiche of Hanky Panky and then the steamy Justify My Love in just a 12-month stretch? While her vice-like grip on radio-play and the international sales charts might have faltered in recent years, she appears finally to be taking stock and letting her legacy do some of the shouting.
With a self-produced biopic seemingly in the works, it simply must include these 20 best Madonna songs.
20: Like A Virgin (1984)
Forever earning its place among the best Madonna songs, this Nile Rogers-produced slab of 80s dance-pop shot Madonna’s career into the stratosphere. It had been 24 months since the release of her first single, the club hit Everybody, and the subsequent breakthrough of singles like Lucky Star had built her profile nicely. But a frothy, irreverent live performance of this about-to-be-released track at the first MTV Video Awards, in September 1984, is the stuff of legend. America – and then the rest of the world – started to take serious notice. By Christmas 1984, Madonna was enjoying her first stateside chart-topper, with Madonna-mania just around the corner. 1985 was going to be her year.