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Old 11-02-2010, 01:49 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Immaculate Collection - Madonna

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Madonna

The Immaculate Collection


A bit left of centre maybe, and not the kind of noise that will appeal to blokish rock snobs, but I was listening to 'Holiday' the other night and I pretty much become a teary wreck. Considering this rarely happens even when listening to my favourite miserable bastards (R.E.M., Camera Obscura, The Bends) I felt compelled to write about this masterpiece.
This 1990 collection covers Madonna's 80s hits, along with a few new tracks she released that year. There's a couple of tracks missing (Who's that Girl? How am I supposed to know, she ain't here) and some have complained about the digital remastering of the songs (shortened to fade outs, widened panning etc) but these really aren't issues and, although she's done some worthy stuff since, this really is the best of Madonna.

Now I'm not going to go into a biography of the singer because, unless you've been living under a rock, that's buried inside a mountain on the floor of the deepest of seas - on an undiscovered planet - chances are you'll have heard of dear Madge.
Now back to my emotional experience with 'Holiday'. You see lyrics like "It's time for the good times, forgot about the bad times oh yeah, one day to come together to release all the pressure" would sound tripe in the hands of Coldplay, but when backed by an infectious disco beat, it perfectly evokes being on the dance floor, surrounded by friends and dancing them pesky troubles away. It's darn right life affirming.
Ok, I'll come clean. I'm not the biggest disco fan - the all inclusive message in the music is often betrayed by the ultra slick musicianship and impossibly brilliant vocalists - but here Madonna sounds like she's one of us. Yeah that doesn't make sense now, but in the 80s Madonna seemed ordinary - a street girl from Detroit, desperate for fame, dressed up in a junk shop, awkwardly dancing to her disco ditties and singing like a chipmunk. You can almost see her on your local club dance floor, straggling about with cheap Champagne. But despite and because of all this, I dig this album, deep. It's pop at its best.
Representing disco Madge, the aforementioned 'Holiday', 'Lucky Star', which has a splendid intro with a twinkling, ascending synth that evolves into the baddest bassline this side of 70s funk, and 'Get Into The Groove'. Madonna's ode to dancing is full of vivid imagery of her alone, dancing in her room waiting for a lover to step up to the plate. Most memorable is the way her voice drops when she sings, "at night I lock the doors, and no one else can see". By the time the second chorus is over she's no longer alone and she demands, "live out your fantasy here with me, let the music set you free. Touch my body and move in time, now I know your mine", which is dance -as- sex metaphor at it's best, as Madge's ecstatic voice threatens to pierce right through the mix.

Talking of sex, Madonna was confidant enough in herself to use sexuality -as -weapon from the very start. The Nile Rogers produced 'Like A Virgin' has dated, but the content (A filthy, perverted bassline and Madonna at her helium voiced best singing, "like a virgin, touched for the very first time. Feel your heart beat, next to mine", and the orgasmic croons, "aaahh") invented the concept of music moguls dressing down their pop females into school uniforms, feigning innocence and suggesting sex to the salivating masses (Britney Spears, Tatu etc). Equally dated and equally Niles Rogers produced, the new wave pop of 'Material Girl' is again, still fresh in it's content. Not only a fine artifact of the yuppie 80s, but a neat satire on the Reagan/Thatcher era. Madonna would regret this track upon her discovery that irony and pop as subversion doesn't work in the mainstream. But it's a double edged sword, as the sureness in her performance of her self control over useless men, practically invented 'girl power'.

'Borderline' is a gem and features the type of perky synths that todays hip young things like Neon Indian couldn't live without. Musically, the most interesting track here is 'Live To Tell'. The stalking synth riff in D minor suggests something sinister hiding in the shadows until the change to A#Major, which along with the background "ooohhs", brings temporary sense of relief. There's also some nice reverb stained guitar power chords and slap bass, which give this otherwise unspectacular track bonus points. The underrated, Spanish styled 'La Isla Bonita' goes beyond being a lame Ricky Martin type parody through the sheer force of it's chorus. When a inspired Madge sings, "tropical the island breeze, all of nature wild and free, this is where i long to be. . . And when the samba played, ring through my ears and sting my eyes" above some seductive backing harmonies, you can almost feel the soft breeze drifting across your hair, and the sun burning your skin. Apparently Michael Jackson turned down the offer of this song before Madonna accepted it, but I doubt even he would have sounded so impassioned, and then bothered to add lyrics of beautiful sun burnt imagery. Madonna was never a great singer by any means, but her greatest vocal performance, on the classic 'Papa Don't Preach', is truly striking. It's a tale of teenage pregnancy and moral dilemma that Madonna pulls off effortlessly. Her voice is mature here and has a new found soulfulness, full of the empathy needed to relate to a teenage girl in the same situation. Her pleas of "I need your help daddy please be strong" and "What I need right now is some good advice" pack more emotional weight than a thousand wailing Whitney's or Maria's. When she reaches the chorus she has the gravely Earth tones of Tina Turner, especially the line "But I've made up my mind, I'm keeping my baby", which cuts through daytime radio like a knife. I always thought Suzanne Vega copped the melody line off the chorus for 'Luka' which, as it turns out is equally as morally conflicted. 'Cherish' threatens to be the fluffiest of pop fluff, but is redeemed by the way Madonna raises the note and lingers on the last word when she sings, "Don't underestimate my point of vieeeewww", which is glorious. And I always thought the chorus was interesting, the way after, "Cherish the thought of always having you by my side" she sings, "Oh baby I . ." and later ". .You keep bringing it . ." It's as if she's trying to squeeze as many melodies out of the chord sequence as possible.
I've never been a big fan of 'Like a Prayer', but it's notable for its video, which features Madonna shagging a black priest and caused uproar among the American Christian right. Which is always good. It was also the first sign of Madonna's increasing boldness and lack of fear in stirring **** up.


The last three tracks on The Immaculate Collection, 'Vogue', 'Justify My Love' and 'Rescue me' are the weakest, and a sign of the new (age) Madonna that now lives amongst us. By now Madonna had been the most famous person in the world. But that was not enough. Madonna wanted to be taken seriously by her public, a quest that continues today (see - the unconvincing Erotica album, the Sex book, various failed film roles, all that new age yoga 'Earth Mother' guff, writing books for children, adopting black kids). What should be taken seriously however is this record.

Madonna is full of all the contradictions and controversies that make her the ultimate figure of what she does best; being a pop star. So loosen up, lower your Rockist defenses, be happy with your lot in life and enjoy pop at its transcendent best. (9/10)





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Last edited by Badlittlekitten; 11-02-2010 at 07:32 PM.
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Old 11-02-2010, 02:16 PM   #2 (permalink)
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AHHH! Do these videos ^ appear for every one else? I can see other peoples videos but mine never seem to load. What am i doing wrong?
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Old 11-02-2010, 02:29 PM   #3 (permalink)
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AHHH! Do these videos ^ appear for every one else? I can see other peoples videos but mine never seem to load. What am i doing wrong?
You're including the whole address. To make it work just include the random string of characters that come after the "?v=". I went ahead and fixed all of these for you, but for future reference that's how you make it work.
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Old 11-02-2010, 02:43 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Superb. Nice one matey.
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Old 11-05-2010, 11:30 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Old 11-10-2010, 03:51 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Love Madge and all albums including upcoming...
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Old 03-14-2011, 01:23 PM   #7 (permalink)
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'Borderline' is a gem and features the type of perky synths that todays hip young things like Neon Indian couldn't live without.


The tempo of the original may have been slightly quicker on the single, making it full of pure 80s dance energy.
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Old 03-23-2011, 04:52 AM   #8 (permalink)
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This is a superb and well-written review. Very disappointed that it's not received more love, actually. It obviously took a lot of time and effort to write.

Seriously, top notch review. I'm actually going to dig in my CDs and try to dig this one out - I know I have it, just haven't listened in years!
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Old 03-23-2011, 08:27 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I only really like the debut and "Into the Groove".

I have heard the comp, there's something missing in her later songs....
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Old 03-23-2011, 08:30 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Of the later ones I think La Isla Bonita is good.
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