I've paid entirely too much attention to Madonna since the age of six, when I stood in front of a neighbor's TV, captivated by the "Lucky Star" video. And, no matter how annoying and schoolmarmish the artist has become in her 40s and 50s, part of me will always stop and stare when she's in my line of sight. I'd make fun of myself for this, but I don't have to. I've got a lot of company.
There are millions more life-long Madonna fanatics who wince and grimace at their icon's haughtier moments, but manage to forgive her in the end. That fact alone grants her the opportunity to play the Super Bowl this weekend. Despite the media's subtle, ongoing rejection of her, Madonna's still a touchstone of sorts. She's got scads of radio hits, but there's enough non-radio-friendly material to go deep. Like, psychotic deep.
So, instead of speculating endlessly about what her halftime show will entail (Quick prediction: Crappy new song, "Express Yourself," "Vogue," "Ray of Light," "Holiday," hundreds of cheesy fan-cers doing choreography on the field), let's listen to some of her lesser-known tunes and album tracks. Some musical context via my Spotify playlist might help you better appreciate the artist on stage Sunday, rather than obsessing over how much Botox she got pre-game. Happy listening!
The 20 Best Material Marm songs you won't hear at the Super Bowl (Listen on Spotify -- Madonna's Greatest Non-Hits)
1. "Everybody" (from Madonna) After all these years, her debut single remains one of her purest, most groove-addled dance tracks. Practice your best breathy "yeah" while listening.
2. "Spotlight" (from You Can Dance) Consider this song the bastard brother of "Into the Groove." It's just as infectious, but it didn't get the support it deserved -- or the prime placement in the endlessly stylish Desperately Seeking Susan movie.
3. "Where's the Party" (from True Blue) It's one of Madonna's favorites to perform, but you could hardly consider it a surefire bet for the Super Bowl set. I guarantee you it'd go over better with a fuckin' gigantor stadium of half-drunken football fans than "Vogue." Or would it?
4. "Burning Up" (from Madonna) Another early hit that easily outpaces most of what came after it. It's the best version of '80s Madonna: Rock 'n' roll, dance pop and New Wave doin' it and making a baby.
5. "Fever" (from Erotica) The Erotica album got a raw deal, thanks to the ridiculous Sex book and title single that distracted from the rest of the record's seedy substance. Her version of "Fever" is subtly soulful and custom made for Madonna's pre-vocal-lesson voice.
6. "Forbidden Love" (from Bedtime Stories) Who knew Madonna and Babyface would sound good together? He makes this song, and it's sultrier and darker than the massive hit from that album, "Take a Bow."
7. "Forbidden Love" (from Confessions on a Dance Floor) I always picture her telling her producers, "I can write another song called 'Forbidden Love' if I want, because I'm Madonna. Now, go and fetch me a coconut water." Seriously, though, this shit is magical, especially if you're me on an elliptical machine.
8. "Skin" (from Ray of Light) Ahh, one of the greatest tracks from Madonna's Grammy-winning "comeback" album. The chorus melody's sufficiently weird, and Madonna's faux-British accent actually works for her. Go figga.
9. "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" (from Like a Virgin and Something to Remember) One of those Madonna ballads that, when you really examine it, is sung quite terribly. But it still works. Shrug.
10. "The Look of Love" (from the Who's That Girl soundtrack) I don't remember what scene this accompanied in the movie, so I just picture tacky Madonna chewing gum, petting her tiger (you know, Murray) and sulking.
11. "I'll Remember" (from the With Honors soundtrack) OK, I realize we've drifted into cheesy summer camp territory. But I was once a cheesy summer camper, and I refuse to deny my past. Wait, I forgot this was a blog post and not a journal entry.
12. "Beat Goes On" (from Hard Candy) Time to dance again. And you need to hear the Kanye West rap at the end of this tune. It's greatness. And nobody heard it because the Hard Candy album was otherwise a giant ball of suck.
13. "Dress You Up" (from Like a Virgin) I wish all my suits were custom-made in London. Actually, I wish I owned a suit.
14. "Runaway Lover" (from Music) An undeniable dance track that should've been pumped up as a single instead of some pointless "American Pie" cover or Austin Powers anthem.
15. "Nobody Knows Me" (from American Life) Maybe the strangest song Madonna's ever done, and one of the most honest as well. Gotta love French producer Mirwais for convincing her to take some chances in the studio. Too bad she doesn't do that much these days.
16. "Till Death Do Us Part" (from Like a Prayer) A frenetic song about divorce that always makes me think of Sean Penn. Could you imagine if they were still together now? All they'd do is lecture each other.
17. "Rescue Me" (from The Immaculate Collection) I'm talking. I'm talking. I believe in the power of love.
18. "Paradise (Not for Me)" (from Music) One of Madonna's best songs, period, mostly because of the track backing her. Score another point for Mirwais.
19. "Drowned World/Substitute for Love" (from Ray of Light) The perfect opener for that album, it signaled a newly introspective and less vocally challenged Madge. I remember getting high with my college roommate, this song on surround sound. Gangsta.
20. "Bedtime Story" (from Bedtime Stories) Madonna should have written an entire album with Björk, if y'ask me. In my fantasy Super Bowl halftime show, this would be the closer, with the Icelandic pixie suspended 200 feet above the stage, overseeing the whole affair.