Madonna's 50 Greatest Songs - Rolling Stone
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Madonna’s 50 Greatest Songs

Definitive guide to more than three decades of dance-pop anthems, confessional ballads and boundary-breaking self-expression

Our list of the Madonna‘s 50 greatest songs is a fitting tribute to the 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, whose gift to songwriting is matched only by her skill for finding the right partners to unlock her creativity: Prince, William Orbit, Diplo, Justin Timberlake and more. The stories behind Madonna’s songs reveal the evolution of the only artist in the world who’s equally at home in the club, in the church and on the catwalk; there are psychosexual dramas, disco reveries, tear-jerking ballads and pop songs that unite the globe – all by an artist who has never risked making the same album twice. “I don’t think about my old stuff,” she told Rolling Stone in 2015. “I just move forward.” Madonna is as restless as she is relentlessly imaginative – and we just can’t look away.

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“Like a Prayer” (from ‘Like a Prayer,’ 1989)

Ever since her early days, Madonna has been obsessed with the taboo connection between sex and spirituality. She tapped into that idea for her greatest song, the 1989 gospel-disco smash "Like a Prayer." When Madonna testifies, "I'm down on my knees/I wanna take you there," she could be singing about praying or oral sex or – most likely – both. As she told Rolling Stone at the time, "I pray when I'm in trouble or when I'm happy. When I feel any kind of extreme." It wouldn't be Madonna's style to drop such a personal song without a huge scandal to go with it. But even by her standards, "Like a Prayer" stirred up some controversy. The song debuted as a soft-drink ad – except the entire ad campaign was instantly torpedoed once the world got a look at the video. It's a cleavage-and-blasphemy cocktail where Madonna visits a Catholic church, has hot sex with a black-saint statue, dances in front of burning crosses and experiences stigmata. Yet somehow, the video is nowhere near as shocking as the song itself – all of Madonna's musical and emotional extremes, packed into five roof-shaking minutes.

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