The Queen of Pop’s upcoming Greatest Hits package is an education in pop-music history, revealing the power of the remix and inspiring a dance music revolution for the ages that paved the way for all the “wanna-bees” that followed!
Dance and sing get up and do your thing! With those opening lines, Madonna inaugurated her way onto the pop music charts and set the pace for the legitimization of dance music. The verse was from her first hit single “Everybody” released on Sire Records on October 6, 1982, and it would be marketed without an image on the album sleeve, leaving many to wait and wonder just who this “Madonna” was. The public wouldn’t have long. Birthed in Michigan, emerging out of the Downtown New York City art scene, and exploding out of the underground club circuit, Madonna arrived and much celebration was soon to follow.
Thanks to MTV (the launch of the Music Television network in 1981), the enigma of Madonna would become emblazoned across all our consciousness including the teasingly revealing midriffs, the black bangled bracelets, and signature sunglass, barely coifed blonde locks tied back with a ripped stocking and her street urchin styling would immediately become something her audience identified with and branding them “wanna-bees”. By the summer of 1983, Madonna’s radio takeover with hits like “Borderline,” “Lucky Star,” and “Burning Up” guaranteed that she was on a trajectory to stardom.
Madonna knew her audience and would make the rounds of the club scene, most adoringly grabbing the attention of the DJs with her wild gyrations on the dance floor, but ultimately courting the gay crowd and bringing them into her camp. She premiered her tracks at venues like Danceteria and debuted a performance of “Everybody”.
Though it is often overlooked Madonna wrote all the tracks on her self-titled debut album, produced by Reggie Lucas, it’s impossible to recognize that the track that would ultimately be most identified with the artist was produced and remixed by John “Jellybean” Benitez. “Holiday” would propel Madonna to the next level, charting as one of her biggest hits and would transcend from radio,, onto the club scene. Benitez, a prolific remix producer and DJ known for residencies in some of NYC’s most well-known hot spots became intimate with Madonna, and the pair would collaborate often, including on the hit single “Sidewalk Talk” written by Madonna, who also contributed vocals.
Touched For the Very First Time
By the fall of 1984, the world was in the throws of Madonna-mania, and in order for her to gain a footing in the market and also demonstrate a level of versatility, she sought out Nile Rodgers to produce her second album, the aptly named Like A Virgin. Rodgers’s machinations as the heart and soul behind the R&B/Disco group CHIC matched the musical sensibilities Madonna was chasing after. She figured herself as an artist that could toe the line between pop and R&B, perhaps because many in the industry thought Madonna was actually a black singer before her image proliferated bedroom walls and all the latest pop-music magazines.
With his intuitive dance roots, Rodgers crafted a genius sound that elevated the album’s titular track to a level that would potentially eclipse the popularity of “Holiday”. “Like A Virgin” became an instant radio hit and its amped-up 7” Version became a dance floor favorite. While the song continued to rise on the charts, its follow-up “Material Girl” again would burn itself onto Madonna’s catalog of fan favorites, and in the summer of 1985 she would set the soundtrack of the summer with the infectious hit “Into The Groove”. The song wasn’t even intended for herself, she had written it for Mark Kamins before deciding to perform it as the lead single for her big-screen debut in Desperately Seeking Susan.
Only two years into her pop-culture rise and Madonna had established herself as a formidable performer, with a knack for truly capturing the attention and a keen instinct for getting her music not only made to play for radio but easily accessible for the re-emerging club culture that was gaining stateside traction largely in part to Euro-pop and UK artists that were into more synth sounds and electronic production, a growing phenomenon that was not going unnoticed by Madonna, though we’d still have to wait a couple more years for that interest to bear some fruit.
You Can Dance
Madonna would follow the success with Like A Virgin with her first live concert and then her next projects were more conceptional. True Blue has been considered a major departure from her previous works in that the songwriting displayed a much more evolved and thoughtful messaging. Among the setlist, was the hit “Open Your Heart” which would also prove the opening number of Madonna’s first world tour which also promoted her starring in the film Who’s That Girl? In the fall of 1987, Madonna reunited with “Jellybean” Benitez to properly (re)introduce the “remix” to the consumer market, re-editing and revisiting tracks from her first three full-length album releases for a non-stop dance mix.
You Can Dance is considered one of the first remix dance albums of its kind. The public was largely unaware of the concept of the remix, and Madonna was often disappointed with how some producers who could access her masters, rework her music and deliver arrangements that didn’t appeal to her sensibilities. The studio technology had advanced, and the idea of a “remix” intrigued Madonna enough that she pitched the remix project to her label Warner Bros. who immediately got on board with the idea. Among the other returning producers who worked on the project along with Benitez were Kamins, Rodgers, and also an aspiring remix producer named Shep Pettibone.
It wasn’t long before the rest of the music was catching the heat, and other artists started following suit with “extended” 12” versions of their radio hits or punched-up reproductions that the label would circulate to producers to issue as B-sides to singles. The success of You Can Dance also gave rise to copy-cats, with pop acts releasing remix EPs along the same vein, but none would match the lucrative success of Madonna’s remix project. It would also mark a tenure in Madonna’s career where her stardom eclipses her art and the perpetual Mother of Reinvention as due for a renaissance.
Enter the Icon
In 1989, when Madonna emerged from her chrysalis the seismic shift was immediate! Her personal life was splattered across every newspaper and tabloid, and the artist looked inside in order to reclaim the narrative and define her mission. The result was Like A Prayer her most personal piece of work to that point, and with MTV at its height, Madonna would capitalize on the network to make her intentions clear. She released the album’s lead single, “Like a Prayer” which was introduced with the controversial music video, and while the iron was hot, followed up with “Express Yourself”. The video was a provocative visual feast and one of the most expensive videos of the time.
But the remix for “Express Yourself” which was retooled by Shep Pettibone and was startlingly different from the album version, repurposed the track and reinstated Madonna’s claim to the dance floor. Pettibone would also be instrumental to remix another single from the album, “Keep It Together” which plays a significant part in Madonna’s next tour, the endeavor she entitled the “Blond Ambition” Tour. Madonna was on the make and unstoppable and would go into 1990 delivering one of her most prolific works to date that would lead to a phenomenon: strike a pose!
“Vogue” co-written by Shep Pettibone was almost side-lined to emerge as a B-side to “Keep It Together”, but was recognized as a hit by her label and held in reserve. The track would set the summer of 1990 on fire! The single for “Vogue” would emerge as one of the most lucrative tracks of the year, and would become a staple of the club scene inspired by the underground ballrooms that gave rise to the dance form.
Madonna was a master of all media, on top of her game. Her athleticism on stage put her in a class all of her own, as a provocateur and activist, she would emerge the icon that her fans were well aware she was destined to be. An unparalleled performer, Madonna would redefine the live pop concert experience, whose own persona often overshadowed her music, and the controversies would continue to eclipse her limitless talent and instincts. That would change…although pushing people’s buttons was something that Madonna couldn’t help herself from practicing.
A greatest hits package was inevitable, marking the “era of the icon”. The Immaculate Collection featured remastered versions of her chart-toppers, and crescendoed with an extended remix of “Vogue” and two new singles, including the seductive “Justify My Love” and the club-thumper “Rescue Me”. Closing the chapter on the 90s, the icon settled back, surveyed the landscape and decided that her next album project would elaborate on her recent successes. Erotica, her fifth full-length studio album also featured collaborations by Shep Pettibone, tracks that were built for the club scene.
With the dance club scene and house music on the rise, Madonna was perfectly positioned to transcend and come full circle. The pop act that emerged from the pulsing beats and disco lights of the hallowed hideaways of New York City, was again at the center of the culture that ignited her interest in music in the first place, and her remixes on the dance floor would become defining musical moments and the soundtrack of the seasons, on a fast-approaching new millennium that would once more inspire a new era…one of reinvention.
Check out the music video to “Deeper And Deeper” (David Radio’s Edit) remix here:
The Greatest Hits compilation will be available in various collectible formats including a digital album release on August 19. A 3-CD set ($29.98) and limited edition, 6-LP on vinyl ($149.98) is exclusively available for pre-order. A 16-track version of Finally Enough Love will also be released. The full-length 50-track edition boasts more than 220 minutes of remixes spanning Madonna’s career and productions by some of the most influential DJ/remix producers of all time including Shep Pettibone, William Orbit, Honey Dijon, and Avicii, and collaborations with Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, and Justin Timberlake
FINALLY ENOUGH LOVE: 50 Number Ones | by Madonna | is available now for pre-order on iTunes. Download from iTunes here. The album will be released in multiple formats on August 19, 2022.
Disc One of the 3-disc set covers Madonna’s formative years, a first decade (1983 – 1994) of ground-breaking dance hits that begin with the signature track “Holiday” (7” Version) and culminates with 1994’s “Secret” as remixed by the legendary DJ Junior Vasquez. With remixes for “Vogue” and several of her earliest works edited out for the first time from the remix album You Can Dance, the sixteen tracks on this first disc illustrate Madonna’s influences that extend from pop radio and elevated the 90s dance floor turning the genre into a mainstream that re-inspired the club scene.