Madonna – “The Immaculate Collection”
By late 1990, Madonna had amassed seven years of global success and was well on the way to being crowned the queen of pop music. So it seemed like a good idea to take a look back, before continuing the new decade with new music and adventures. Her recent film, ‘Dick Tracy’, had produced two hit singles during 1990, but with an already mounting pile of hit singles to her name, many would not make the final cut of this ‘absolute’ hits collection, “Hanky Panky” included. Indeed, even some number one’s, “Who’s That Girl?”, were even omitted in favour of Madonna classics and best known songs since her arrival in 1984.
I guess you could argue for a double disc or a follow up collection of the rest of the singles, but “The Immaculate Collection” had that very title as it was THE immaculate collection of Madonna 80’s hits. For the very first, and as it turned out the very last time, “The Immaculate Collection” was recorded in Q Sound, giving each remastered track a 3D quality like never before. Quite why no future albums used this technology is unknown as it brings a completely different feel to the previous stereo quality of music and when heard through speakers, you really fall into every single track.
So let’s turn back the clock thirty years and revel in Madonna’s first greatest hits collection, her ‘immaculate’ hits as well a couple of new offerings to give us an insight to what Madonna music in the 90’s would be like…
US No.16, UK No.2
Madonna arrived in 1984 with this disco anthem that rarely moves away from one key as she tempts us to take a “Holiday” and we need a “Holiday”, sometime to celebrate…this thing writes itself! Simply written and conceived, “Holiday” was not an instant success and took some time before the world, and in particular her home country, warmed to it. But eventually it happened and when it did, we were all drawn into the world of a female singer, the likes of which had not yet been encountered.
2. Lucky Star
US No.4, UK No.14
Often confused as Madonna’s first hit, “Lucky Star” presents a more up-to-date mid-80’s synthwave-pop record in which we would come to recognise as a Madonna song of the first half of this decade. Like “Holiday” before it, “Lucky Star” was released in 1983, but wasn’t a hit until twelve months later, just as Madonna was putting the finishing touches to her second studio album. “Lucky Star” is a product of its time and would of sounded out of place in any other decade but for those still lost in 1984, it’s THE tune to move and groove to.
US No.10, UK No.2
Another different style of song was offered in 1984 itself with the pop-y and wistful “Borderline” as Madonna’s often difficult to replicate dance moves will get you slithering and working muscles you never thought you had! “Borderline” was the third hit from Madonna’s self-titled debut album, but such was the backlog of singles that had built up once success had come her way, “Borderline” came out at the time she was just about to release the first from the next album, nevertheless, it was a top ten hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
4. Like A Virgin
US No.1, UK No.3
While 1984 saw Madonna singles mount up one after the other as the hits started flowing the end of the year saw the first new material from the second album arrive and what an arrival. Her song till now had focused on the dance and the rhythms, but with this new song, it did nothing but shock…and the use of the V word too in a song title for the first time! This is something that Madonna would do time and time again with future releases but here, in 1984/85 it certainly caught the attention. It retrospect, “Like A Virgin” seems tame today but it’s raunchiness back then certainly helped it to the top.
5. Material Girl
US No.2, UK No.3
Madonna went back to something more wholesome with her next release and the infuriatingly catchy “Material Girl”. By now Madonna was here and she was defining herself as a ‘material girl’, something the media have used when discussing her for many years ever since. “Material Girl” fast became an anthem for girl power, which was on the rise during in the 1980’s. Indeed, Madonna was once described as a cross between Mae West and Margaret Thatcher!
6. Crazy For You
US No.1, UK No.2
Over the years, Madonna has recorded a number of brilliant ballads, but none of them match her first and biggest, “Crazy For You”. Recorded for the soundtrack to the film ‘Vision Quest’, “Crazy” is simply perfect in every way, as a down-tempo, Country infused pop ballad and also from Madonna’s pristine vocal notes at every stage of this sumptuous number. For a moment, the raunchiness and the dynamite shock tactics of the lead single from the “Like A Virgin” era were brushed aside for this ‘innocent’ classy love song, once that was played at many a school disco and nightclub as the last dance. I’m crazy for you.
7. Into The Groove
US No.1, UK No.1
Madonna went back to the sound of her first album with her next single, “Into The Groove”, the early 80’s disco-pop. The song was featured in her first film, ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ and would become her first number one in the UK. Again, those bendy-twisty dance moves pervaded the tone and pace of this song as Madonna temps you to ‘get into the groove’ with her. The synths are archetypal of the mid-80’s and though sound dated now, the song is still a welcome addition to this album and the time it is set.
8. Live To Tell
US No.1, UK No.2
No sooner had the “Like A Virgin” era drawn to a close, we were being offered new music at the very beginning of 1986, looking to the next album and Madonna’s growth in confidence as a writer. Now with a firmly established partnership with Patrick Leonard, the pair delivered another ballad, this time, harder hitting and with a more epic production than any of her previous songs. “Live To Tell” opens with a superb instrumental and continues with yet more outstanding vocals, deeper and more open, frank lyrics than we’ve seen before. This is still a must listen to Madonna song and one of her most accomplished.
9. Papa Don’t Preach
US No.1, UK No.1
The prelude to her third album that would become “True Blue” was “Papa Don’t Preach”, another frank and honest song, released in the Spring of 1986. Not the shock factor that “Virgin” had but with Madonna’s often gritty vocal, the song conveys its message very clearly. The soundtrack continues on from “Groove” and “Lucky Star”, refusing to leave the mid-80’s disco/pop sound behind just yet but adding additional instrumentation with stings and a Latin guitar, something that was well used throughout the new album. Madonna’s short hair and boyish outfits were a signal to all women that girls can do what they want to. They can wear jeans and cut their hair short(!)
10. Open Your Heart
US No.1, UK No.4
In the Winter of 1986, the fourth single from “True Blue“, “Open Your Heart” was released, giving Madonna a third number one from the album. This is one of the most powerful tracks on the album and was a sure-fire hit with a wicked soundtrack and an instantly singable chorus that makes you think of those 80’s hit films like ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ and the like. It’s a personal all time favourite of mine especially Madonna’s deep, smokey vocals she lifts from the very back of her throat.
11. La Isla Bonita
US No.4, UK No.1
The Latin guitars were in full force for this track which goes deep in Spanish territory again with a superb soundtrack to match that will make you want to put on your flamenco costume, grab some maracas and make you want to say “ariba, ariba” many times over. Note the reversal of chart positions between this and “Open Your Heart”, Madonna’s third number one from the album in the UK, while the previous single had given her a third chart topper in The States.
12. Like A Prayer
US No.1, UK No.1
A big gap now exits between “True Blue”, forsaking the “Who’s That Girl?” album, as we skip to 1989 and Madonna’s fourth album, which is lead by the title track. It may of been controversial to some when it came out, but “Like A Prayer” is nothing short of epic, both in scope and with its video, in which we see Madonna, now in her thirties, at the height of her powers and making that chart comeback after more than a year away. She needed something big to reassert herself and this song delivers. Having said that any of the tracks on this album would of done the same, larger than life and brimming with confidence as she strides out of the 80’s and towards a new decade.
13. Express Yourself
US No.2, UK No.5
With “Like A Prayer” still in the charts, Madonna followed the lead single with the seconds just two months later and a remixed version courtesy of Shep Pettibone which was more than welcome. Far stronger and meatier than the album version, “Express Yourself” sees Madonna cross over to the clubs and dancefloors withe the first of what could become a trio of Pettibone collaborations that would seriously ramp up the dynamics of a Madonna pop song in readiness for the new decade that was only months away.
US No.2, UK No.3
Just like the title track of the “True Blue” album was a wistful, joyous product, “Like A Prayer” got one too, amid all the mature and controversial, there lies “Cherish”, which bounces along with an innocence not previously heard. I could quote any number of lines, such as “Romeo and Juliet they never felt this way I bet” and “cupid please take your aim at me”, this is simply a marvel and a standout of the album and just cried out for commercial release as a single. Madonna proves she’s not all about the contentious but is capable of creating something so sweet as to put an endless smile on your face and a bounce in your heart. Ahh.
US No.1, UK No.1
Madonna’s first new tune of the 1990’s has already been covered by us in an earlier article but has to be included here as an iconic Madonna song a a massive global chart topper.
16. Justify My Love
US No.1, UK No.2
If you thought “Like A Virgin” was ‘racy’ then the Winter of 1990, Madonna turned the heat right up with a full-on sex fantasy. With breathy, pervy lyrics and a seedy soundtrack, “Justify My Love” just about shocked everyone. Madonna has filmed the video concurrently with her ‘movie’, ‘In Bed With Madonna’, which was a no holes barred look backstage on tour and into her own bedroom. “Justify” laid the foundations for more sex to come, two years later, once again with Shep Pettibone producing the very similar music score for the song (“Erotica“). “Justify” was, however, successful, giving Madonna another chart topper and a hit all around the world.
17. Rescue Me
US No.9, UK No.3
The other new song on this collection was something a bit more gritty and urbane and produced another top ten hit in the Spring of 1991, although the song was never planned to be released commercially at first until radio stations started playing an edited version in early 1991. “Rescue Me” could almost be called the natural successor to “Open Your Heart”, but with a more mature sound and very defined lyrics. Madonna now seemed to align herself with Pettibone for this period of her career, dispensing with the tried and trusted Stephen Bray and Pat Leonard.
“The Immaculate Collection”, as it was to be called, was released on 9th November 1990 and it was an instant runaway chart hit. Entering number one or making number one around the world, the best of was the biggest seller of the Christmas season and continued that trend into 1991. Oddly, the album missed the top spot in America, where it has only ever peaked at No.2, but with sales of eleven million copies, I doubt anyone really cared.
Internationally, “The Immaculate Collection” registered multiple Platinum discs in every territory, and continues to sell big, even thirty years on. In the UK it is TWELVE times Platinum certified with over 3.7 million copies sold. In every country, on every continent, “The Immaculate Collection” has become the biggest selling greatest hits album but a solo artist of all time and with a global total of more than 32 million copies, is also listed as one of the biggest selling albums in history. Madonna would never better this with any other studio of hits package and it’s doubtful she ever will.
Quite why any of her later best of’s were not called “The Immaculate Collection 2” or “3” is strange, but there is no denying the era which the majority of Madonna fans prefer to celebrate, and continue to celebrate. Q Sound still comes across as ever much sharper and clearer and its surprising this wasn’t adopted for future releases. “Ray Of Light” would of sounded amazing in this format. For now though, forget Millennium Madonna and go back to the very beginning and the hits that really made a difference and also made everything else possible. Madonna’s “Immaculate Collection” of ‘immaculate’ and enduring songs.
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