Friday, April 17, 2015


Picking between these songs is like picking which Kardashian or Duggar is the most revolting! Delving into Madonna's second decade as The Queen of Pop is an interesting adventure. Her sound continued to evolve with experimentation and changes in her personal and spiritual life. From the jazzy chanteuse of I'm Breathless, the oversexed vamp of Erotica, the soulful songstress of Bedtime Stories to the enlightened diva of Ray of Light, there was no shortage of revelatory singles and remarkable images. Her 90s output was eclectic, emotional and sexy. Here is my ranking of the lead singles from each of Madonna's 90s albums. Again, the rules apply: In determining this ranking I took into consideration not just which was my favorite song, but how well it represented what was in store for the album, sonically and tonally, and the impact it had on me personally during the era of Madonna's career it kickstarted. So take it in, y'all.
4. Vogue (I'm Breathless) - While Vogue is undeniably one of Madonna's biggest, brightest, most enduring hits, it really has little to nothing to do with the concept album I'm Breathless. Full of jazzy, Broadway-inspired numbers, including three by the King of Broadway Stephen Sonheim, I'm Breathless was inspired by the film Dick Tracy in which Madge played Breathless Mahoney, one of her most successful film roles. Vogue was written prior to the concept for the album even came about as a B-side to the Like A Prayer single Keep It Together. When record execs heard the amazing dance track they decided it was too good to throw away on a B-side (NO SHIT, SHERLOCK!), so Madonna and Shep Pettibone took it back, spruced it up and, to tie it into an old Hollywood theme, added the "rap" section, made possibly the greatest video of all time, and the rest is history. But, again, Vogue does not in anyway represent the tone of I'm Breathless, unlike second single Hanky Panky, so it's #4 on my list.

3. Secret (Bedtime Stories) - The three top songs on this list were hard to pick between. Each one is a perfect set up for the albums they promoted and each are very different. Secret is perhaps one of Madonna's most soulful singles ever, and Bedtime Stories in criminally underrated as an album. I guess that Secret did set up the album wonderfully, but there are also a few genres going on within Bedtime Stories. While Secret and it's accompanying Harlem-set video perfectly represent the soulful R&B of many of the tracks, there are also some hints of what was to come with Ray of Light in the songs Bedtime Story and Sanctuary and even some New Jack Swing on the excellent Human Nature. So Secret will sit at #3 on this ranking.

2. Frozen (Ray of Light) - Madonna discovers Kabbalah, becomes an evolved spiritual being and changes the music game in the process. Frozen was a revelation when it was released. Before Frozen and the album Ray of Light electronic music was confined to club and trance music. Madonna and William Orbit gave it heart, edge and even sorrow with their collaboration on Frozen. Electronic music is now as much a part of pop as anything else. The music incorporated some of the visuals of mysticism and Kabbalah as well, featuring dark, icy effects and Madonna dressed in black with dark locks. Frozen is easily one of Madonna's most dramatic and heartfelt efforts and opened the Ray of Light era with a bombastic array of sound and fury.

1. Erotica (Erotica) - I had never noticed that the lead singles from each of Madonna's 90s albums were all one word titles. Huh. Anyway, the best lead single from any of Madonna's 90s output, in my opinion, has to be Erotica. The album Erotica is an absolute masterpiece, untouched by any other album of its time, or pretty much anytime IMO, and the single Erotica set it up brilliantly. Cold, industrial and sexy all at once, Madonna coos over a hard beat and deep club sounds to bring out the dirtiest, darkest parts of our sexuality. The video gives a behind-the-scenes peak at the making of her SEX book, and it doesn't disappoint. The album supplied some of her best work ever and kept within the theme of icy sexuality even while bringing in the hidden longing of Rain and Waiting or the bitchy kiss-off of Bye Bye Baby. Erotica was the perfect opening for one of the greatest eras in pop music history, which is why its her greatest lead single of the 90s.

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