Holiday (Madonna, 1983)—One of the few songs not co-written written by Madonna (writers Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens), it was the third single from her debut album that launched her career. The lyrics celebrate brotherhood. Disco/funk and 80s techno-bass cross-fertilize the arrangement to produce a satisfying link between genres.
Into the Groove (Like a Virgin, 1985)—Two years later, Madonna shed her disco roots for an infectious arrangement that is pure 80s (heavy snare reverb, synth bass). The lyrics playfully use dancing as a metaphor for budding romance. The song also featured in the movie “Desperately Seeking Susan.”
Vogue (I’m Breathless soundtrack, 1990)—Arguably the best dance song ever written (Slant magazine listed “Vogue” number three on their list of the 100 greatest dance songs). The music celebrates a dance style from New York’s underground gay drag scene. The lyrics celebrate dancing as a form of self-expression and escape, but with more sophistication and style than the typical “get up on the dance floor” lyrics. Complex harmonies mix major and minor, and an effective spoken word breakdown recites classic Hollywood icons of style.
Erotica (Erotica, 1992)—Complex, dissonant accompaniment with a vaguely ominous, sensuous groove lift this song out of the orindary. A perfect evocation of eroticism.
Bedtime Story (Bedtime Stories, 1994)—Written by Bjork, Hooper, and Marius De Vries, this offbeat trance track at first just sounds strange. But it grows on repeated listens. The quirky melodic phrases and arrangement reinforce the lyrics, striving to go beyond words into the realm of the unconscious.
Ray of Light (Ray of Light, 1998)—On this album Madonna collaborated with William Orbit. An interesting alternation between major and minor suffuses the arrangement, with spacey sci-fi sounds.
Music (Music, 2000)—Celebrates the power of music as a vehicle to bring people together. Vocoder chants and analog synths round out the electro-pop arrangement.
Get Together (Confessions on a Dance Floor, 2005)—Apparently inspired by the 1998 dance hit “Music Sounds Better with You” by Stardust. The lyrics quote a melodic snippet from the 1980 disco hit “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” by the SOS Band. Cross-rhythms periodically weave through the song, creating a rhythmically rich effect.
Jump (Confessions on a Dance Floor, 2005)—I love the way the verse builds emotionally, moving into the climactic chorus. Deceptively simple, but the effect is powerful.
Candy Shop (Hard Candy, 2008)—Co-written with Pharrell Williams and filled with playful double entendres with candy as a metaphor for sex. The song blends elements of hip-hop and R&B, eschewing the usual EDM tropes.
- Burning Up
- Dress You Up
- 4 Minutes
- Human Nature
- I Love New York
- I’m Addicted
- Lucky Star
- Sky Fits Heaven
- Thief of Hearts
You can listen to all of the tracks mentioned in this post on my Spotify playlist Madonna’s Best Dance Tracks.