Friday 3 August 2018

The Immaculate Collection

Is Madonna's The Immaculate Collection the most appropriately named 'best of' collection of all-time? 17-songs of immaculate pop are collected in one place; taking in Holiday and Lucky Star, early singles from 1983 through to 1989's Cherish and Express Yourself with 2 new songs coming in the shape of the lush, seductive and sexual Justify My Love and Rescue Me.

Madonna was exceptionally prolific through the 1980's, the quality and quantity of her modern pop mixed with her looks, personality and media manipulation propelled her to become one of the most famous people in the world.

The Immaculate Collection is an album I own on vinyl and it is one of the few records never to have strayed from my DJ bag - an essential album with songs guaranteed to bring smiles to faces and feet to the dancefloor.

Like A Prayer is my all-time favourite Madonna song and one that I regularly played near the end of nights that I used to put on, I'd turn down the mix at times to listen to people singing a-long to the euphoric chorus.

I rarely DJ these days, but it is still there. My friend Craig's 40th a couple of years ago just highlighted the power of this song and the power of pop. Someone else had been on the decks and had played a wildly eclectic mix of techno, dub and reggae before I took over. They had also virtually cleared the living room.

My own sets can be quite eclectic too but I like to try and keep people dancing and there is a pop element in virtually everything I play - hooks matter. Don't bore us, get to the chorus.

The girl DJ-ing raised an eyebrow and even said really? when she saw me queueing Like A Prayer up on the turntable. I smiled and dropped the needle but even I was taken aback by the crowd of people that came racing through from the kitchen to dance and sing. The girl joined in too.

Like A Prayer is a glorious melting pot of gospel, pop and electronic music coming together to create something really special. It came out in March 1989, just after I had turned 13, and my teenage hormones went into overdrive as I watched Madonna dance and groove in the video, with the dress straps falling down her shoulders. She smouldered; looking incredible and oozing confidence as she danced in front of burning crosses.

Listening back to The Immaculate Collection is like a lesson in pop music. The groove, hooks and choruses all get hammered home, repeated again and again. All the songs have an energy about them, like a forcefield. There used be an advert for Fruit Pastilles with the challenge 'I bet you can't put a Rowantrees fruit pastille in your mouth without chewing it'. Well I bet you can't listen to The Immaculate Collection without singing or dancing to it.

Holiday is sensational good time pop music celebrating the joy of having a holiday to look forward to - we need a holiday -aayy It was Madonna's breakthrough single, her first hit (third single) and no wonder - she uses every trick in the book to get it. Something everyone can relate to, hooks and choruses galore.

Lucky Star is over 7-minutes of pop electro brilliance, written by Madonna with the intention that it would be played at New York City's famed Danceteria club and that comes across, especially in the 7-minute mix that is rightly included on The Immaculate Collection rather than the radio edit.

Then we have Borderline, probably my second favourite Madonna song. It was the fifth single to be released from her eponymous debut album and noted by the likes of Seymour Stein as the song that made her a star. More complex and lyrical than the likes of Holiday and Lucky Star, Borderline is a pure pop rush of a song from start to finish. Madonna's voice sounds better than ever, listen to the way she pushes herself at times.

Something in the way you love me won't let me be
I don't want to be your prisoner so baby won't you set me free

Did I mention a pure pop rush - then jeez, times that by 10 for Like A Virgin! This was the lead single and the title of her second album. It is almost bubblegum pop, but then bubblegum pop could also be clever and enjoy a little innuendo.

Innuendo, that doesn't describe half of it. Like A Virgin was cheeky, suggestive, implicit and completely perfect for Madonna. Written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, originally conceived as a ballad, Madonna knew she could make it a hit as soon as she heard it.

The fact that Nile Rodgers came on board as a producer helped - but he didn't like it at first and thought Madonna was taking things too far. It was only afterwards, when he realised that he couldn't get the song out of his head, that he fell for the song. I would highly recommend Nile's Le Freak autobiography for his full take on working with Madonna and other legendary artists. It was Madonna's first number one single.

Material Girl was also lifted from the Like A Virgin album and it captured the 80's perfectly and Madonna lived out her Marilyn Monroe fantasies in the video. More perfect pop - play this to someone who has never heard it before and they will be singing a-long before the song finishes.

Even the slower songs have a sense of euphoria thanks to Madonna's powerful and soulful voice, just listen to Crazy For You.

You want a statement of intent -  you can dance for inspiration - is the opening line of Into The Groove and that is exactly what Madonna does as the beat kicks in. It is a real groove, the song is like one big long chorus but it lifts even higher when Madonna reaches the choruses. The flow from start to finish is ....well....immaculate.

I'm tired of dancing here all by mself
Tonight I wanna dance with someone else
Get into the groove where you've got to prove
Your love to me

We do get a breather in the shape of Live To Tell which is a real 80's ballad from Madonna's True Blue album. Things pick up with Papa Don't Preach which begins with a glorious string section, Madonna's voice is rich and soulful, full of emotion. The bridge to the chorus is sensational, really lifting things to the inevitable brilliance of the chorus.

The one you warned me all about, the one you said I could do without
We're in an awful mess and I don't mean maybe, please

Papa don't preach, I'm in trouble deep
Papa don't preach, I've been losing sleep
But I made up my mind, I'm keeping my baby

La Isla Bonita was another huge hit, I vividly remember being entranced by Madonna in the video, the aforementioned Like A Prayer is divine pop, Express Yourself takes you on a trip to the dancefloor, whilst Vogue IS the dancefloor - a slice of club pop electro heaven all about getting lost to music on the dancefloor. The closing section riffing names and ending with the following lines is pop perfection, so cheeky, so cool, so Madonna.

Don't just stand there, let's get to it
Strike a pose, there's nothing to it

If Madonna flirted and tease with sex from the off, she goes for a homerun with Justify My Love which even now makes me flustered and in need of a cold shower! Madonna is literally breathless as she teases her audience about traveling, running naked in a rainstorm, making love on a train, wanting, needing and waiting ... you know the saying 'couldn't take my eyes off it'? I can't take my ears away from this, it is a big slice of sex on vinyl.

The Immaculate Collection is an immaculate conception of pop through the 80's by arguably the decades biggest star - only Michael Jackson could really run her close.

I hope this blog causes you to play the album or at least some of your favourites from it. Go on, have a dance and sing-a-long :-)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Love Madge. Still. Although I think the extended mix of Like A Prayer isn't a patch on the single version!