Thursday, December 13, 2007
No. 278: The Immaculate Collection
Album: The Immaculate Collection
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Madonna was the preeminent female American pop singer for the majority of the 1980s, so a retrospective of her hits up until 1990 was probably smart.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: The songs were all remixed for the album. Most got a slight reworking (editing here and there), but a weird version of "Like A Prayer" doesn't do the original justice. The two new songs weren't anything to write home about.
Best song: For my money, the single best Madonna track is "Material Girl." It is followed closely by "Like A Virgin."
Worst song: I can do without "La Isla Bonita" entirely. "Crazy for You" is pretty crappy.
Is it awesome?: Yes it is!
We know my feelings on greatest hits collections, so I won't rehash them here. If I was making this list, I would go with "Like A Virgin" as the second Madonna record. Not only because it was the first real controversial Madonna record (and what is Madonna without controversy), but also because its four singles are brilliant ("Dress You Up" and "Angel" missing from "The Immaculate Collection").
Nevertheless, what can you say about the 1980s version of Madonna (this is pre-sex book, pre "Erotica," pret-motherhood, pre-Kabbalah and pre-writing around as a middle-aged woman with camel toe)? Believe it or not, she was mildly sexy -- even in 1990 -- and she hadn't quite worn out her welcome as a shocking person.
Case in point: The "Justify My Love" video. The song was one of the two new originals for the album and the video was a big deal. Madonna wasn't messing around with crosses or anything (I guess she got tired of that during "Like A Prayer"), but she was close to having sex in the video. It was a minor controversy, as MTV and Canadian MuchMusic banned it. But, looking back now? It's like Elvis' hips. So, there are some gay dudes in bondage gear in the video. Madonna sorta touches her crotch? She's in her bra? Big whoop.
(Maybe I'm just desensitized to that stuff. I imagine that video may still shock some people. because of the Internet, I've seen some some pretty, uh, gross stuff [*cough*2girls1cup*cough*], so nothing really shocks me.)
Nevertheless, whoever was in charge of putting together Madonna's music and lyrics in the 1980s was, needless to say, pretty awesome. Save for the totally midguided "La Isla Bonita" and "Crazy For You," the album has nary a bad song (the new songs aren't great, but they're not bad). "Live To Tell" is a little preachy, but somewhat heartfelt. The three singles from her debut ("Holiday," "Lucky Star" and "Borderline") are remarkable in their 80s-ness. However, I'd suggest we've reached a point in our culture were 80s camp is totally acceptable. So, really, if I was at a disco (I don't go to discos, but just play along for a minute) and I heard "Borderline," I wouldn't think much of it. That's all I'm saying.
And, if you'll indulge me, I wanted to sing the praises of "Material Girl." Madonna's ode (sort of, until the final verse) to flat-out greet is based around a guitar riff that's nothing short of awesome. In a time when guitar music was not really popular in dance music, the "Material Girl" riff is up there with "Beat It" for great danceable guitar sounds.
The lyrics, of course, are pure "Wall Street" (the movie, not the actual financial sector), in that Madonna suggests that "only boys that save their pennies make my rainy da-ay" and that "the boy with the cold hard cash is always mister ri-ight."
Also, um, a great video (save for the Robert Wuhl appearance at the beginning)
After all, we're just living in a material world. And I, Ross Gianfortune, am just a material, uh, girl. I guess.
"Like a Virgin," in fact, is the album by which I will always judge and remember Madonna. "The Immaculate Collection" is "Justify My Love" Madonna, I prefer "Material Girl" Madonna.