The premiere of Madonna‘s video for “Give Me All Your Luvin,’” the first single off her new album M.D.N.A., is today, children. It’s bound to be a little over-the-top and nutty, like the deranged song itself, and I assume it’s not going to live up to the greatest stuff in Madonna’s catalog. Then I remember: What does live up to the best stuff in Madonna’s catalog? Turns out, not much. Madonna’s repertoire is a varied and thundering collection of self-empowering pop ditties, soulful ballads, and kooky little anomalies. And they’re mostly all irreplaceable. In the tradition of Rolling Stone, who listed their 100 Greatest Beatles Songs a couple years ago, let’s reinspect Madonna’s complete history and name her definitive 100 jams. Ready? Start disagreeing NOW.
100. “Dance 2Night” from Hard Candy
Hard Candy’s most euphoric groove (and best dancefloor-filler) makes the stilted duo of Madge and Justin Timberlake seem like a proper dancefloor romance.
99. “Can’t Stop” from the Who’s That Girl? Soundtrack
Nobody croons about insatiability like Madonna, and this lesser-known track from the filmic milestone Who’s That Girl? was no doubt a help in winning over Griffin Dunne.
98. “You Must Love Me” from the Evita soundtrack
It’s an Oscar-winning ballad, but “You Must Love Me” is more notable as a showcase, paradoxically, both for Madonna’s headmasterly chill and surprising vulnerability.
97. “4 Minutes” from Hard Candy
While Madonna has enjoyed duets with more fitting partners, her collaboration with Justin Timberlake yielded this bumping, boinging precursor to Armageddon.
96. “I Love New York” from Confessions on a Dance Floor
The lyrics? Dorky. The street-tough grit? Contrived. But somehow Madonna’s renewed Danceteria chutzpah sells this piece of glitzed-out camp. It’s the Sex and the City 2 of Madonna songs – unforgivable, yet undeniably fun.
95. “Bye Bye Baby” from Erotica
A candidate for the frostiest song on Erotica, “Bye Bye Baby” is a hip-hop kiss-off with cabaret flair. And it made for a hell of a VMA performance.
94. “Nothing Really Matters” from Ray of Light
Copping both new-age maxims and Beatle sentiments (“Everything I give you all comes back to me”), “Nothing Really Matters” is as queer and curious as a red patent-leather geisha costume.
93. “Shoo-Bee-Doo” from Like A Virgin
“Shoo-bee-doo-bee-doo, baby!” should not work as a triumphant chorus, but Madonna delivers it with such a fierce, preteen urgency that its nonsense melodrama is downright moving.
92. “Super Pop” from Confessions on a Dance Floor, Bonus Track
Madonna’s megalomania is at peak insanity here, but she’s pretty damn provocative and nervy about it. After mysteriously namedropping Isaac Newton and Martin Luther, she throws down a few interesting and hilarious proclamations. My favorite: “If I was a song, I would be ‘Super Pop.’” Sounds like a decent epitaph from here.
91. “Love Profusion” from American Life
Cryptic though it may be to listeners, “Love Profusion” sounds like a moment of sweet clarity to its singer. When you start referencing Cole Porter lyrics (“I’ve got you under my skin”), you must be pretty stoked.
90. “True Blue” from True Blue
The title track off Madonna’s most celebratory album is a cutesy tribute to girl groups with one hell of a romantic swell. Her Annie-esque call of “The sun is bursting right out of the sky” hopefully melted Sean Penn a bit.
89. “Intervention” from American Life
If American Life had been an EP featuring the four-song sequence from “Love Profusion” to “Intervention,” I could possibly give it a sterling recommendation. As such, “Intervention” is a lovely anomaly on that misfired album in its hopeful and unpretentious message.
88. “How High” from Confessions on a Dance Floor
Madonna set out to make electronic music more accessible and cerebral on Ray of Light, and she continues in that tradition on Confessions’ “How High.” Her pulsing interrogations about fame, fulfillment, and meaning here are compelling and articulate.
87. “Jimmy, Jimmy” from True Blue
After her toast to James Cagney on “White Heat,” Madonna’s silly ode to a dangerous lover named Jimmy feels like an overjoyed bit of fan-fiction. But don’t we all want a man who cradles us in one arm while brandishing a tommy gun in the other.
86. “Why’s It So Hard” from Erotica
Like most great Madonna albums, Erotica features a plea for understanding and world unity deep into its second half. “Why’s It So Hard” is both trite and deeply sincere, and it’s always refreshing to hear Madonna – a middle child if ever one existed – call out to her “brothers and sisters.”