Image isn’t everything when it comes to music, but does it make a difference? Heck, yes! Some purists may decry and deny all they want, but hair, make-up, fashion, lighting, magazine covers, smiles, sneers, tattoos, and above all, VIDEOS have all contributed to our appreciation of popular music. Surely, nobody understood that better than the MTV Queen herself, the one and only Madonna.
Who can deny that Madonna is the quintessential video artist? You think of any of her big singles, and chances are, they bring to mind corresponding visual images that MTV has corroded onto your brain. “Like a Virgin”? She points directly at the camera–at YOU–as she’s standing on that Venetian gondola. “Material Girl”? She’s in her Marilyn Monroe get-up being flanked by a group of tuxedo-ed suitors. “Like a Prayer”? The burning crosses, the stigmata, the kiss on the altar, take your pick.
There’s no denying that much of Madonna’s appeal has been visual, her kaleidoscope of constantly morphing looks and styles adding an extra-sexy oomph to her often very-simple dance music. However, some detractors have gone further and argued that she would have been nothing if not for her videos, that she was all style and no musical substance. In that, I have to come to Madonna’s defense. And the evidence I present to them and to you is this list of Top 10 Madonna Songs Without Videos.
If it’s true that Madonna’s music was completely dependent on visual images, then it should correspondingly be true that her music would be irreparably reduced by a lack of such images (i.e. her video-less songs should pretty much suck). Keep an open mind and take in the songs on the list; you may be surprised.
10. Rescue Me – The Immaculate Collection has to be the most essential female greatest-hits collection in all of pop music. It’s hit after hit after hit. There is only one song on there that has never had a video made to it: Rescue Me (“Holiday” doesn’t count because a) it had a cheap video played at clubs & b) the Blond Ambition live performance was shown as a video on MTV and Vh1). Still, the angry, dissatisfied anthem was good enough to hold its own among the other pop classics.
9. Love Tried to Welcome Me – This one’s from the Bedtime Stories album, which was released after a horrible Madonna backlash went on as a result of the whole Sex book scandal (Body of Evidence and the whole David Letterman fiasco didn’t help, either). Madonna apparently tried to show a softer, gentler side of herself with the album, and with “Take a Bow” and this sad little gem, she succeeded.
8. The Beast Within – Okay, this one’s actually a remix of “Justify My Love” (a classic example of a rather crappy Madonna song given wings by an amazing video). But as it has very little in common with the original, I think it’s fair to consider it on its own. The song has Madonna chanting Bible verses over an ominous beat, and it’s awesome, mysterious and foreboding, and even kind of sexy in a decidedly non-Biblical kind of way.
7. Angel – I actually like this song even more than the iconic one-two punch of Like a Virgin and Material Girl from the same album. It’s just a simple slice of pop heaven, and her giddy laughter in the song is just irresistible.
6. Til Death Do Us Part – Despite widely being considered a media whore, Madonna has never really talked in depth about her marriage to Bad Boy Sean Penn, which was by most accounts as volatile as Hollywood marriages get. Instead, she chose to address it with this song. The stark, unflinching lyrics somehow manage to work with a decidedly upbeat pop backbeat. Truly impressive.
5. Skin – At some point in the 90’s, Madonna’s unerring judgment in choosing singles began to diminish. First, she wanted to leave “Vogue” as a “Keep It Together” B-side before being strong-armed by her record company. Then she chose to release the craptastic “Human Nature” as a single instead of the far superior “Love Tried to Welcome Me” or “Inside of Me.” Then in an even bigger mistake, she chose “Nothing Really Matters” instead of “Skin,” the sexiest song she had done in AGES. The end result? No video love for “Skin,” while “Nothing Really Matters” peaked at #93, an all-time Madonna low.
4. Gone – This song, from her ghetto-fabulous Music album, is a tough one to describe. It’s kind of a techno-edged hymn which Madonna sings absolutely beautifully. Let’s just call it subtle but awesome and leave it at that.
3. Nothing Fails – This was the one bright light among a sea of mediocre songs on Madonna’s much maligned American Life album. If she had released this instead of that listen-I’m-commenting-on-the-world-but-not-really-saying-anything title track or the Hollywood-is-good-but-bad-or-bad-but-good-who-knows track, the album might have had a hope and a prayer. Unfortunately, she didn’t, and the album sank like a stone.
2. Promise to Try – This has got to be the most heartbreaking song Madonna’s ever sung or written (rivaled only by “Bad Girl,” which had the help of an AWESOME video co-starring Christopher Walken). This is what I have in mind when I talk about how it’s more important to actually SING a song as opposed to just having a great voice. I’m sure someone like Danny Gokey can vocally blast this song into smithereens in a way Madonna never could. But could he break your heart and make you ache with each and every line the way Madonna does here? No way.
1. Amazing – This song had Number One written all over it, and it’s just mind-boggling how Madonna herself managed to sabotage it. According to accounts, her record company recognized its hit potential and wanted it as a single, but Madonna refused to make a video for it, as she wanted the cute but far inferior “Impressive Instant” released instead. Just to make sure that the record company wouldn’t have a live clip to use in place of a video, she then took “Amazing” off the setlist of her Drowned World Tour. Madonna may have been concerned that the song sounded a bit too similar to “Beautiful Stranger,” but really, she shouldn’t have been concerned. Although they’re both guitar-oriented, “Amazing” takes things up to a whole new level of pop-rock heaven and would surely have reached Number One. Oh, well; Madonna wouldn’t be Madonna without making a huge f#&%-up every now and then.