Madonna’s Albums Ranked From Worst To Best

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WHAT!? Madonna albums on a movie blog? Yes I know it’s a jarring tonal shift but on this blog, on this page, I. AM. GOD! You might be surprised to find out that I have a rather large passion for old divas as well as strange and disturbing horror films. It’s a bit of a strange combination, but I never said that I was normal.

One of my favourite artists of all time is Madonna. She is the unadulterated queen of pop and quite possibly the most famous woman in the world. She has sold over 300 million records worldwide (the most by any female artist), won almost 300 awards including: 7 Grammy awards, 16 Guinness World Records and 2 Golden Globes, and has embarked upon 10 world tours. At 58 years-old she’s showing no signs of slowing down and is a true ground-breaking talent.

It’s interesting for me because I started getting into Madonna’s music a couple of years ago upon the release of her latest album, ‘Rebel Heart’. I saw her fall down those stairs at the Brit Awards and fell in love. So I have been able to judge each album objectively and with no previous attachment to any. To me, all of these albums are new as I’ve just discovered them! So let’s explore my extremely biased thoughts on the astounding 13 albums by Madge.

13) Erotica (1992)

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Picking the weakest Madonna album is like saying that ‘Following’ is Christopher Nolan’s worst film. It might be true, but that’s not to say that it isn’t in any way good! For a lot of people, Erotica is their favourite Madonna album and I can see why. It caused an almighty stir upon its release thanks to the album coinciding with Madonna’s ‘Sex’ book (basically a high-brow celeb porn mag masked as art) and its liberal attitude towards sex. Madge even created an alter-ego for the album in the guise of Mistress Dita, a masked dominatrix with a penchant for whips and orgasms (so basically just Madonna herself then). However, for me the album has aged poorly with its 90’s electronica beats and cheeky lyrics which sound tame compared to the filth on the radio of today. Aside from a couple of terrific bangers and some surprisingly good covers, most of the tracks are flat and forgettable.

Best song: Erotica
Album Rating: 6/10

12) Bedtime Stories (1994)

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After a spout of number one albums, ‘Bedtime Stories’ ended up being one of the queen’s lowest charting albums and unfortunately it’s not all that hard to see why. Madonna collaborated with a slew of R & B producers which resulted in a nice album but a little bit too mellow to what we’re used to. In terms of reinvention, it’s fantastic as you’d never think of putting Madonna and R & B together, and it does work surprisingly well. There are also some classic tracks in here including Take A Bow (one of her biggest ever hits) and tour favourite, Human Nature which sees Madge as the unapologetic bitch we all love her for. The Bjork-penned title track is also too deliciously weird to miss out on!

Best song: Human Nature
Album rating: 7/10

11) Like A Virgin (1984)

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It might seem like sacrilege to place such an iconic album at the bottom of the pile but that’s just a testament to how strong Madonna’s output of music has been. It has an extremely strong 80’s sound to it and features some of the decade’s biggest hits with Material Girl and Like A Virgin despite both of them not being written by the queen herself! Unfortunately (and somewhat shockingly) all of the songs written by Madonna are the weakest and contain some of the fluffiest lyrics. There’s no denying the infectious catchiness of it all though and it still remains as one of the best follow-ups to a debut album of all time.

Best song: Like a Virgin
Album rating: 8/10

10) Madonna (1983)

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This is the one which introduced the world to arguably the most famous name in the world. It took over a year and a half for the album to turn gold, but thanks to the enduringly catchy tunes and iconic music videos, ‘Madonna’ solidified itself as one of the most influential albums of the 80’s. With only eight tracks on the album, there’s barely any room for a weak song so pretty much any one of them will get you dancing. Upon release Madge was likened to sounding like “Minnie Mouse on helium” and many critics cited her as being a mere “one hit wonder” but little did they know, eh?

Best song: Lucky Star
Album rating: 8/10

9) Music (2000)

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How does one follow up a ground-breaking critical smash hit like ‘Ray of Light’? With a dance/country/electronica beast like ‘Music’ of course! The material girl evolved herself beautifully from the gorgeous stripped-back sounds of ‘Ray of Light’ to something a little more experimental and playful. It’s still an intensely personal album which provides some lovely ballads, although Nobody’s Perfect and Paradise (Not for Me) are a little dreary in comparison. Everything else is a winner though, particularly the hit title track which reached number one in 25 countries and is still incredibly danceable almost 20 years later!

Best song: Music
Album rating: 9/10

8) True Blue (1986)

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If anyone was still in any doubts about Madge being a young flash in the pan then ‘True Blue’ showed them that she was here for the long run. Selling 25 million copies worldwide and providing the world with anthems such as Papa Don’t Preach and Live To Tell, Madonna proved that she was a true talent with superstar quality. A lot of the songs were inspired by her marriage with Sean Penn so there’s a wonderfully romantic, upbeat quality to the album as a whole. It proved to be a monstrous hit with critics and audiences alike and saw her transforming into the queen of pop we know her for today.

Best song: Live To Tell
Album rating: 10/10

7) Hard Candy (2008)

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For many, ‘Hard Candy’ represents a low point in the queen’s career and I have to admit that when I first heard it, I wasn’t a huge fan. The hip hop beats and R&B collaborators didn’t sit well with me on the initial playthrough. However, when I heard it again, it all clicked for me and there isn’t a song which I don’t love. Now I consider it one of my favourite Madonna albums and one of her most underrated efforts. The album has an incredibly cool sound to it and features some fantastically sassy dance numbers such as Candy Shop and Beat Goes On, as well as some surprisingly powerful ballads in Miles Away and Devil Wouldn’t Recognise You. Even the much criticised Spanish Lesson is infectious and could be read as a tongue-in-cheek sequel to La Isla Bonita. Thankfully the album was a huge hit and supported the biggest selling tour by a female artist of all time, ‘Sticky & Sweet’.

Best song: Miles Away
Album rating: 10/10

6) Ray Of Light (1998)

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Often referred to as ‘the comeback’ album even though Madge didn’t really have anything to ‘come back’ to! She was hotter than ever in the 90’s, with two chart-topping albums and massive ground-breaking concerts in ‘Blond Ambition World Tour’ and ‘The Girlie Show World Tour’ Madonna was at the height of her powers. This only increased when Alan Parker’s ‘Evita’ was released, earning the queen of pop a well-deserved Golden Globe award. ‘Ray Of Light’ was undoubtedly a terrific reinvention though. It saw Madonna sporting her best vocals ever, earning her numerous Grammy awards, as well as her most open-hearted, personal lyrics. William Orbit’s distinctive stripped-back production was also pretty innovative and still sounds fresh today. It shows Madonna as a more mature artist and remains as one of the very best albums of the 90’s.

Best song: Drowned World/Substitute For Love
Album rating: 10/10

5) American Life (2003)

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Another terribly underrated album which was met with mixed reviews from the critics. There’s no denying that this album is a masterpiece though, for Madonna fans at least. Not only is it a terrific concept album with an innovative electronic acoustic sound running through the record, but it also shows Madge bearing her soul and being vulnerable for once. All of the songs are incredibly personal and the ballads are downright beautiful, especially the Stuart Price produced X-Static Process which features some heart-breaking and powerful vocals from Madonna. There’s also some cheeky fun to be had with the title track and Hollywood which raise interesting questions about the American dream and materialism. ‘American Life’ is Madonna at the height of her song writing powers here, it’s just a shame that no one else quite got it.

Best song: X-Static Process
Album rating: 10/10

4) MDNA (2012)

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OK call me crazy but I honestly think that ‘MDNA’ is one of the best albums she’s ever done. At 53 years-old Madonna proved that she could still outdo her peers by releasing a thumping EDM-inspired record designed to blow your socks off. Despite lukewarm reviews, ‘MDNA’ debuted at number one worldwide making Madonna surpass Elvis in the UK for having the most number one albums for a solo artist. From the infectious Girl Gone Wild opening right through to the reflective Falling Free, ‘MDNA’ is a consistently strong and surprising record which never fails to get your hips moving on the dance floor. Tracks like Gang Bang and Love Spent also show an experimental side to the songstress which suitably expresses her anger towards ex-husband Guy Ritchie, whilst Golden Globe-winning Masterpiece shows a more tender side.

Best song: Girl Gone Wild
Album rating: 10/10

3) Rebel Heart (2015)

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It’s criminal that ‘Rebel Heart’ didn’t receive more attention than it should’ve done. The fact that it got leaked days before its release might have had something to do with the lower sales, but there’s no denying that the record is terrific. It showcases every glorious side of her and her music. There’s the fun, the sexual, the serious, the playful, the egotistical, the vulnerable and the humorous. It’s also her longest album (I’m counting the deluxe as the definite version) which proves that even after almost three decades Madge is still at the top of her game and can create a banger of a song. How Living For Love didn’t become a monster Hung Up level hit still puzzles me to this day. Ghosttown and Joan Of Arc also serve as two of the material girl’s most powerful ballads. It’s an almightily solid record.

Best song: Living For Love
Album rating: 10/10

2) Like A Prayer (1989)

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After breaking records with ‘True Blue’ Madonna followed it up with this iconic work of art. ‘Like A Prayer’ exposes Madge’s soul and is less interested in producing fluffy pop songs. She had a lot more creative control over the record and it’s all the better for it. It opens with not just the best Madonna song but arguably the best pop song of all time and follows it up with the remarkably catchy and empowering, Express Yourself. Promise to Try, Oh Father and Spanish Eyes all show off the extraordinary song writing talents of Madonna as well as some powerful vocals. Madge has always been criticised for her voice and it might not be the strongest, but you can really hear the raw emotion on this record, it’s impossible not to get moved by it. She really doesn’t put a foot wrong with this one, it’s simply extraordinary.

Best song: Like A Prayer
Album rating: 10/10

1) Confessions On A Dance Floor (2005)

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Now this is how you do a concept album! If the world didn’t quite embrace the stripped-back quality of ‘American Life’ then a dancetastic 70’s inspired floor filler is definitely what the world needed. Madge evolved herself seamlessly into a disco goddess and showed that after 22 years of great music, the best was still yet to come. In her forties, Madonna was the best she’s ever been and ‘Confessions On A Dance Floor’ became an instant critical and commercial smash hit, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Sampling ABBA and Donna Summer, Madge resurrected the golden age of pop whilst putting her own unique modern twist on it. It’s quite simply one of the greatest dance albums of all time and features some of the greatest pop songs Madonna has ever produced. It was also followed by a stunning record-breaking world tour which served as a powerful warning to her younger peers. You think you can follow this?

Best song: Hung Up
Album rating: 10/10

Whiplash (2014)

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Director: Damien Chazelle

Stars: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist

Black Swan for drummers

The types of films I love the most are the ones with a real raw intensity. Black Swan is definitely the most intense film experience I’ve had with Darren Aronofsky’s chaotic direction becoming almost suffocating at times. It’s a film which I endlessly admire, as is his second feature, Requiem for a Dream which features a similar intensity with an added emotional punch to the ribs. Whiplash is a film with that same kind of intensity. It’s rare to find a film which grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until the credits, but Whiplash manages to do more than that. It actually tightens the grip as the film goes on until you’re just about choking by the end of it all!

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Whilst I don’t think that Whiplash is quite the perfect masterpiece many people have made it out to be, there’s no denying that it’s an absolutely stellar and riveting film. It does for drumming, what Black Swan did for ballet. Imagine if Natalie Portman wanted to be the most perfect drummer in the world and Vincent Cassel was a shouty and overbearing bully pushing her way beyond the limits of human capacity and you have Whiplash.

The film relies a lot on Damien Chazelle’s exhilarating direction. He manages to bring scene after scene of gripping intensity which seems to build and build until the electrifying finale. He directs the drumming performances with lots of close-ups and quick cuts which end up leaving you feeling completely exhausted. On top of that you’ve got JK Simmons shouting at the top of his lungs at the students and wearing them out until they physically bleed. There’s a scene early on where he picks on someone who’s out of tune and it almost made me want to cry like the poor kid he was picking on.

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JK totally earned his Oscar here. It’s a frightening and wildly intimidating performance full of passion and force. His presence fills every scene he’s in and dares you not to take your eyes off of him. Miles Teller, who plays the protagonist drummer boy, is also very good in the role. He manages to be very convincing and you can’t help but root for him to do well. He has an infectious passion for the drums and an admirable ambition. Although, if I was in his shoes I’d kick the drums into touch and take that girl and run!

The idea of watching a film about an ambitious drummer trying to make it in a jazz band isn’t an appealing one. It’s down to Damien’s superb directing and writing skills which make it utterly compelling. It’s also incredibly unpredictable. There are so many twists and turns in the final 20 minutes that you have no idea how it’s going to end. I also quite liked how it ended fairly ambiguously. The final scene is truly extraordinary to watch and extremely similar to Black Swan’s final scene. It’s so intense that it has your fingernails digging into the person you’re sitting next to and your heart thumping like a steam train.

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There are a couple of problems which stop it from being perfect. I thought that the plot lacked more focus which could’ve added to the intensity of it all. In Black Swan we’re made very aware of the days passing to the final performance and so when it arrives we feel almost as nervous as Nina! With Whiplash, it wasn’t made clear as to what the jazz band were working towards half the time. At one point I didn’t even realise that they were performing in front of an audience! There also felt like a lack of character development. However, ultimately these problems don’t detract from the overwhelming experience the film offers.

Whiplash is a masterful little film. Made for only one million dollars and shot in less than 30 days, Damien Chazelle has showed the world that he possesses an undeniable talent for filmmaking. It’s a sensational debut and I defy anyone not to come out by the end of it feeling exhausted. It may not be everyone’s idea of entertainment, but for those who are into dark, psychological and intense films then Whiplash is the film to see. I really look forward to going through it all again.

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