With the arrival of the new millennium, M's ability to pull out the hits was still assured.
But after a strong start with 2000's Music, her fortunes began to wane in the US, where she's managed to reach the top ten just six times in the past fifteen years.
There were all kinds of factors at play. The pulling of the American Life video, and the cool reception of the album harmed her brand. A new generation of acts less than half her age had also come along and usurped her, but the more worrying aspect of her music career was the inconsistency it seemed to have been marked by in this third decade.
Where Ray of Light succeeded because it sounded like an hour long series of meditations - each song working itself up into a frenzy and towards a climax - Music didn't have the patience to go through all of that navel gazing for the journey alone.
From 1984 through 1989, Madonna had a run of seventeen (17!!) consecutive Top Ten hits in the US. It was pretty much the same thing in other markets around the world - back to back top ten hits - in numbers large enough that she would often be recognised as the solo artist with the most top ten hits in history.
Until recently, M's run with singles has been so strong (over 80 singles released) that she's often cited as being more a singles artist rather than an albums artist.
I'm not here to refute that, but I am interested in looking beyond those hits to see where else she excelled over the years. Other people have done it before, but I'm not sure I agree with their choices. Instead, I'm offering up mine. So, here's the first of three posts: Madonna's eighties releases - and my picks for the best album tracks/b-siders of that period.
Some people scoffed when simple, catchy songs, some helium vocals and a lot of synth and chugging beats introduced the world to Madonna in 1983.
What some people didn't get was that Madonna wasn't a pop album. It was a club album, full of dance fare. And despite its simplicity, and the fact that it was a debut, it had a major hand in changing pop music tastes.
Sure, the banshee rock-pop of Burning Up and the melodies of Lucky Star-Borderline-Holiday are what enthralled pop lovers. But the heart of this album is not in its three hits. It's in the sly, slow burning grooves found throughout. And its on the closing tracks Physical Attraction and Everybody that they're at their most sophisticated and hypnotic.
To my mind, Physical Attraction is the best of the album tracks here- even if it was technically a Double A sider in some markets.
If Madonna shook things up, M's next album came in like the wrecking ball.
The marriage of an 80s urchin and the 70s funk masters (Rodgers and co) produced 1984/5's love child: the bastard you just couldn't ignore - the Like A Virgin album.
LAV was all about its hits - one defining moment after the other, aided and abetted by the movie hits - Into The Groove and Crazy For You - but despite its success, the furor and criticism it drew proved M was, as ever, the underdog, even if she was one of the year's biggest commercial successes.
Every underdog needs an anthem - and Stay was her's. It bounces along while its lyrics remind us that M was, despite her relative youth - anything but naive. If a Boy Toy needed a soundtrack to prove how much she knew about the world, even at that age, this was it.
Stay is like the darker, older sister of True Blue. The romantic big sis who still pushes forward but with one foot lodged firmly in her troubled past.
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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