A Pop Music Feature
Halfway into the first decade of the new millennium, the unparalleled Queen of Pop sought to redefine the pop music landscape, examine all-new collaborations, and still found the time to reflect on her own career as a musical tour du force!
Five years into the new millennium, Madonna continued to push the boundaries of popular music. After the critical success of 1998’s Ray of Light the Queen of Pop innovated and followed up with more daring musical productions that included Music and the prolific American Life. Both of those follow-ups featured collaborations with William Orbit (extending from their previous work) and Mirwairs Ahmadzaï thematically exploring serious notes; stark contrasts to the nature of pop music at the time which was mostly dominated by frothier productions.
While Madonna explored elaborately evolved instrumentation and complex narratives on her albums, the remixes transcended the club scene and delivered some of her biggest hits including “Don’t Tell Me”, “Hollywood” and “Music” which earned a place as one of Madonna’s new anthems, demanded by fans performed in her live set on tour. Most notably, the era was also earmarked as remixer Tracy Young’s introduction to the Material Girl’s pantheon of most favored remix producers. With the landmark “Reinvention Tour” in the rearview, Madonna reflected on her career as a dance act.
It’s significant that Disc 3 of Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones opens with a track that harkens back to dance music while evoking Madonna’s next evolution as a musical artist. “Music” may have punctuated Madonna’s ode to dubstep/electronica, but “Hung Up” from 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor existed as an homage to dance/pop from the artist who helped mainstream the genre. The Confessions era also benefitted from the growing popularity of nu-Disco, which was a hybrid of contemporary dance, with stark influences of disco baked in.
Change the Future
Remix producer Stuart Price, Madonna’s musical director during her previous two live tours, collaborated with her on Confessions and actually was instrumental in solidifying the classic ABBA sample that made “Hung Up” such a generational hit. Madonna and Price played homage to the band and reached out to them personally with the promise that their contribution will be the innovative ingredient that turned the track into one of clubland's most enduring anthems. It wasn’t the album’s only remarkable hybrid, as the Pet Shop Boys elevated “Sorry” to a euro-pop conviction.
Inspired by the successful reception of Confessions on a Dance Floor, Madonna decided that for the follow-up she would do something that she often has said she’d never do, and that was look back, and only forward. Pop superstar, Justin Timberlake, and super producer Timbaland instituted a flurry of new sounds on their album projects and Madonna was eager to dive into the pool. She aligned herself with Justin, Timbaland, and Pharrell Williams for the Hard Candy album, which reflects on the r&b riffs and beats that were popular during Madonna’s early career, and incorporated into the new tracks.
It took “4 Minutes” about that long to sink in with Madonna’s diehard fans and featured tempestuous vocals from Timberlake and Timbaland, while “Give It 2 Me” danced enthusiastically to the top of the dance floor charts. The track produced by Pharrell Williams had among the most diverse remixes circulated throughout the club market, the high-tempo song also served as the final song in the setlist for the “Sticky & Sweet” World Tour, the highest grossing tour in Madonna’s live show repertoire. Achieving a new wave of relevancy, in the saturated pop medium, Madonna had a lot to celebrate.
Coming out of the first decade of the new millennium, the Queen of Pop took the opportunity to reflect on her then-two decades in music, the landmark career induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and released the more comprehensive greatest 2-two greatest hits package Celebration that featured two new tracks. The Lil’ Wayne collaboration “Revolver” and the straight to club thumper by Paul Oakenfold “Celebration”. The Benny Benassi Remix of that new track immediately caused reverberations throughout club land and would signal Madonna’s circuit season reentry.
Always the Rebel
Madonna has often remarked in interviews that she hesitates to look back, especially when it comes to her music or her career choices, but she has often demonstrated a unique innate ability to reference herself in her work. After the cleansing of the palette that the close of 2010 appeared to have offered her, she turned a hard-edge drive and drew inspiration from the EDM music scene that was commandeered by the electronic beats of Avicii, Benny Benassi, and Martin Solveig. For 2012’s MDNA she threw herself into the circuit scene and delivered the anthem “Girl Gone Wild”.
Lady Gaga and Britney Spears may have been grabbing all the headlines, but the Queen of Pop was relentless and pushed the capacity of speaker systems with a danceable setlist that featured collaborations with Nicki Minaj on “Give Me All Your Luvin’” and a remix from Offer Nissim on “Turn Up the Radio” that enticed the drug-inducing effervescence of the song’s nostalgic glee to a whole other level of EDM! The rebellion continued three years later with the rise of Revel Heart which premiered with the dance floor ready “Living For Love” and capitalized on her most eclectic tastes.
The album was co-produced with Diplo and Avicci (among one of the legendary DJ/producer’s last works) and is defined by the lead track “Living For Love”, with its gospel chorus and rave feel that was meant for the club scene (which was all but gone and forgotten by 2015) and replaced by the festival circuits of the summer months. Rebel Heart didn’t register as expected with critics; many cited that the album lacked cohesion and was among Madonna’s most creatively complicated. Her decision to work with multiple collaborators presented problems, and Rebel Heart was also leaked before its release.
In true Madonna fashion, she didn’t allow the largely disappointing reception of the album to detract her from launching another world tour, and Rebel Heart yielded the artist her 46th #1 Dance Club Song on Billboard with “Bitch I’m Madonna” another collaboration with rapper Nicki Minaj. Not necessarily with a need to set a precedent after this last foray, Madonna settled for taking the time to recharge her creative battery leading her to turn her attention to more universal inspiration. On Madame X the tracks are infused with a world of sounds from her time spent living in Portugal.
Never bound by the constraints and limitations of commercial acceptance, Madonna has found redemption in authentically exploring music with the translation of moving the needle of pop sounds, exposing the myriad sonic dimensions of all genres. She’s endeavored to prove that music is above all universal and that at its most primal connects us more effectively than divides us. Madame X is the best example of the opening of that heart with the promise of letting the world in. Marrying Latin pop, indoctrinating Fado and Batuka into the same setlist that hints of disco and deep house.
FINALLY ENOUGH LOVE: 50 Number Ones | by Madonna | is available now on iTunes. Download from iTunes here. The album will be released in multiple formats on August 19, 2022.
Disc Three of the 3-disc set enters into Madonna’s “Futurist Spirit” from 2006 through 2022 with greatest hits remixes of tracks featured on Confessions on a Dance Floor, Hard Candy with Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, and Pharrell Williams in the studio with and her most elaborate compositions from the EDM induced MDNA to the new world order of Rebel Heart and her most recent full-length work Madame X.
The Greatest Hits compilation is available in various collectible formats including a digital album release on August 19. A 3-CD set ($29.98) and a limited edition, 6-LP on vinyl ($149.98) is exclusively available online. A 16-track version of Finally Enough Love will also be released. The full-length 50-track edition boasts more than 220 minutes of remixes spanning Madonna’s career and productions by some of the most influential DJ/remix producers of all time including Shep Pettibone, William Orbit, Honey Dijon, and Avicii, and collaborations with Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, and Justin Timberlake.