Some of you may have been shocked or surprised that Madonna is in cohorts with Avicii but you really shouldn’t be. Madonna has always been on top of whatever way the tide is turning and always enlists the trendiest or relevant producers. She’s the ‘Queen of Pop’, as in she’ll try to be the best in whatever everyone is listening to. But at the end of it all, Madonna has been rocking the 4-on-the-floor before most of you were even born. So, in preparation for whatever Avicii and Madonna are working on, here are some of her most memorable forays into the world of dance music.
It’s 1983 and everyone is still coming down from disco fever. Technology for producing music has never been better and easier to use; synth-sheened pop has saturated the charts, with some critics now calling the period post-disco. Among this transitionary period, which ultimately led to the birth of house and techno, you can find fledgling dance-pop artists such as Madonna. Obviously Madonna isn’t responsible for house music, that’s not the point, but her instantly recognizable single Holiday is a fine example of post-disco.
One of her most enduring records from this era (who doesn’t know the line, “HOLIDAAAAY!”), it reached No.1 on the US Billboard Dance chart and she still performs it today at her live shows. The single contains a fine disco beat, a superb bassline and most importantly, memorable simple lyrics. Holiday was a firm establishment of what Madonna had set out to do before everyone else and it’s still popular, today.
Like A Virgin
With her second album Like A Virgin, Madonna effectively upped the ante in regards to contributing to that unique 80s sound. From the beginning she knew who would help her achieve her vision, and who on earth could produce catchier dance-pop than… You probably guessed it: Nile Rodgers. Together, along with Stephen Bray, they produced a collection of feverish dance-pop anthems that still endure today. The quintessential and eponymous Like A Virgin, contains a perfect, lively and stacatto performance from Rodgers on the guitar.
It also features a ‘no holds barred’ Madonna, who sings sultry lyrics that are perfect for the sexually charged atmosphere of the dancefloor. Some critics were not ready for this sort of sexual freedom just yet, feeling that it was unsuitable for children to be exposed to ‘a whore’. If only they knew what was coming.
You Can Dance
It’s 1987 and while Madonna is now a certified superstar, certain genres of music were now beginning to establish themselves. After several unsatisfying remixes of her singles, Madonna decided to produce her own remix album and create something she was happy with. Although remixing technology wasn’t particulary great at the time, Madonna was fascinated with the opportunity to chop up her vocals and most importantly, extending her music for the dancefloor.
The mix comes in at around 1 hour and 8 minutes, making it perfect for parties. In fact, while the remix album wasn’t a particular hit with the critics, it remains the second best selling remix album of all time. Highlights include an exhilarting rendition of Into The Groove, which contains a fine piano solo, and even Marshall Jefferson would be happy to lay credit to it.
Madonna and Aphex Twin (Yes, this nearly happened)
Madonna truly does like to keep up with whatever and whoever’s trendiest at the time. After Aphex Twin’s immense success in the 90s, Madonna was desperate to hook up with the illusive ‘Come to Daddy’ star and produce something that would have sounded, probably very weird. One of his ideas included a psychedelic, acid style track that included Madonna making a series of farm animal noises. Somehow, I don’t think that would have sounded as catchy as her previous material. Along with a series of grunts and moans, the collaboration proved too much for Madonna, and she decided to focus on her next single. Even though she was, “sort of into it.”
Obviously there is no track to play (thankfully), so enjoy Rhubarb.
Madonna Steals an ABBA Sample
Pop music is a ruthless business, and right from the beginning, Madonna had quickly adapted to be able to pursue what she needed. She normally gets what she wants and the story behind Hung Up is one of those times. ABBA, while being one of the most successful pop groups of all time, aren’t so keen on sharing the wealth and glory. There was only one time before Madonna where Benny and Björn had agreed to allow an artist to sample their work. To get past this impenetratable, Scandanavian wall of ice, Madonna went ahead and sampled Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!.
She sent a copy to Benny and Björn and a letter, which proclaimed a love for all the music they made. They took some time thinking about it and well, we know the result. The duo said, “We get so many requests from people wanting to use our tracks but we normally say ‘no’. This is only the second time we have given permission. We said ‘yes’ this time because we admire Madonna so much and always have done. She has got guts and has been around for 21 years. That is not bad going.”
Cue a full-on dance and disco throw-back that dominated the charts and rejuvenated the pop-star’s fan base.
So there you have it. In the words of ABBA, “that is not bad going.” In fact, there are so many moments it would take far too long to list them all. Singles like Vogue, Papa Don’t Preach and her electronic-pop masterpiece Ray of Light, have been delighting dance floors and fans alike for decades now.
Even her recent album MDNA created a bit of a storm… All thanks to the help of William Orbit, Benny Benassi and Martin Solveig. There is no end to Madonna’s attempts to get with the crowd, and although I’m personally not a huge fan of her music, the oncoming Avicii collaboration should be one to watch.
Hopefully, country and barn-yard noises will be kept to a minimum.