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Madonna's «Celebration» a fine collection, but not perfect recollection

MadonnaOctober 05, 2009

To act like 27 years of work can be put into one or two discs of material is easily one of the most fruitless and soulless exercises the record industry has ever come up with. The very nature of the term «greatest hits» says that certain songs are lesser, but who judges the greatness of the song? Sometimes it is the artist who chooses his or her own «greatest hits.»

Through that process, the artist admits some of the songs are meaningless, didn't have their complete effort or just aren't as good as their other material. Most of the time, the label chooses an artist’s «greatest hits», by virtue of their sheer success at making people dance.

I guess this is fruitless to talk about when bringing up Madonna's final release for her longtime label Warner Bros., the greatest hits compilation «Celebration,» which comes in single-disc and two-disc deluxe edition forms. After all, Madonna's whole nature was to make songs that did not relate to her but related to her audience. This became the nature of pop music, of course, and it became the nature of Madonna's own many shifting personas, each with a representative track on this collection.

There is of course the simple post- Michael Jackson pop of her 1980s work, with songs like «Like A Virgin,» «Holiday» and «Material Girl» running on such a simple palette that they became staples of an era. While they are hardly brilliant songs, they are relics of a different time and place.

In 2009, these songs are a bit tiring, though. «Holiday» runs six minutes in length in both album skews, way too long for an era where even «Thriller» was edited down in length for radio play. Other than «Like a Prayer» transforming her into a controversy queen, not much of this era might be worth remembering.

The 1990s were both the most fascinating era of Madonna's music and, arguably, the best.

While her 1980s material was fanciful pop, the 1990s really showed a push in boundaries for the artist.

She also made an obvious push for sexuality in the 1990s, but this push is conspicuously absent from the single-disc skew. Presumably, this omission was made to avoid isolating cheap buyers who want to skip the overtly sexual «Erotica» and «Justify My Love».

However, the late 90s gave us a Madonna complemented by gorgeous instrumentation. The video for «Frozen» famously shows a nearly 40-year-old Madonna dancing in a black dress with dyed black hair on, well, a frozen landscape. Madonna, the woman who had given us pop that was way too innocent and overt, had grown into a chameleon who favored dark-tinged dance songs that she even semi-betrayed with her new millennial output.

So, naturally, only one of these mature numbers is on «Celebration.» Sure, there is «Ray of Light», the title track of the same album that gave us «Frozen», but «The Power of Goodbye» is absent, which is strange when «La Isla Bonita» does make the listing.

While both skews are fine, something about these collections rings hollow. There's so much work that legitimately deserves to make it, namely Madonna's work from «Evita» or the aforementioned song from «Ray of Light». Simply put, it is a fine collection of songs and you will enjoy it, but you can't put Madonna's 27 years of work into two full discs. It feels less like a celebration and more like a final cash grab.

Madonna's «Celebration» is a competent compilation, but it is missing much of her most mature, best work.

Source: cw.ua.edu