Madonna's Erotica album continued to crank out hits, even though the vibe at the time was that she was overexposed (literally and figuratively). Rain showed a little of the range she was to show in her eclectic song choices during her big push at movie stardom. In fact, that started before the Erotica album, and I forgot about it in last week's edition. This Used to be My Playground from A League of Their Own was huge, as was the movie (a rarity for Madonna).
I'll Remember followed, from the movie With Honors. A new maturity was evident in Madonna's music, at least I thought so. The 1994 album Bedtime Stories continued in that vein, with a lot less pop confection, and a whole lot more complexity. Secret was the first big hit, though they did manage to remix it for the dance floor.
Take a Bow was a full-on ballad, a duet with Babyface. But follow-ups from Bedtime Stories were a bit odd, and started a trend I think, of Madonna albums with two solid hits and a bunch of more experimental stuff thrown in. Human Nature--the album track--contains the words "bitch" and "shit," and had an entirely different radio edit.
From there, Madonna seemed to be on a long audition for the lead in Evita with songs showcasing her voice, not her pop. That culminated--of course--in her landing the role, most famously singing Don't Cry for Me Argentina (which has a fantastic dance mix, by the way). But she got back to the studio for the Ray of Light album, which produced a couple of hits, including the title track.
This began though, for me, a lessening of my enchantment with Madonna. I began to look back fondly at the early-to-mid career stuff, and started enjoying the current stuff less. This may be a function of my age, I realize. But where I can listen to Erotica or Like a Prayer all the way through, by Ray of Light, I'd skip to my favorite tracks. But I loved the movie tracks, Beautiful Stranger from Austin Powers in The Spy Who Shagged Me, and American Pie from The Next Best Thing (and if Don McLean likes it too, you can't hate on me, right?).
2000's Music once again featured two fantastic pop ditties, the title track and Don't Tell Me (my favorite Madonna song since Vogue).
After that, I'll be honest with you, there are only two more Madonna singles that make my "favorites" cut. The entire American Life album is skippable. I liked Die Another Day from the James Bond movie, and one song from Confessions on a Dance Floor: Hung Up. Even though 2008's Hard Candy is very likely the last CD I've bought at the store, I can't recommend it. I'm not saying it's bad, only that it isn't for me.
Madonna is seven or eight years older than me, but I think she's aiming a lot lower than that, and hopefully for her, she's hitting the target. But give me 1983-1990 Madonna most days, with a sprinkling of 1990-1994 and a dash of those videos on this page. I'll probably be playing those when I'm well past Madonna's current age.