Madonna singles ranked

Ranked: The 50 greatest Madonna singles that prove why she’s forever the queen of pop

The only material gworl that matters

I think sometimes people of my generation and younger are quick to forget the influence and legacy of Madonna – an artist who changed what it meant to be a female pop star, and made superstardom a more accessible and tolerant place for female artists unafraid to sing about their sexuality and wear whatever the hell they want. Provocative, game changing and pioneering – in a career that’s spanned five decades, here are the 50 greatest Madonna singles ranked.

50. Take A Bow

After the outrage over her Erotica era, with Bedtime Stories Madonna sought to soften her image. The albums second single, Take A Bow, is that softening in full bloom. An orchestral mid-tempo ballad, Madonna’s vocals glide over strings and drama on a delicate single that although is gorgeous, does often feel quite safe.

49. Girl Gone Wild

MDNA is absolutely Madonna’s worst album – a tinny mess of soulless EDM that irritates more than it ever entertains. One of two exceptions is Girl Gone Wild – the stomping opener to the record and the second single, a pounding dance track with Madonna’s femmebot vocals taking you to the sweatiest of dance floors. Madonna maintains the ability to knock a euphoric banger out the park whenever she wants to.

48. Give Me All Your Luvin

The peculiar lead single to MDNA is the second of those exceptions, a bombastic surf rock number that combines with some cheerleading chants and bratty vocals to make a song that sounds unlike the rest of her discography. Madonna enlisted Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. to trade verses on the bridge and a Super Bowl themed video to compliment her headline spot on the year of its release. A bit underrated as far as I’m concerned.

47. The Power of Good-Bye

The fourth single from Madonna’s greatest album, The Power of Good-Bye is a Ray of Light highlight that does everything that record does so well perfectly. Career best vocals on the back of the extra training Madonna had for her role in Evita, she absolutely glides on the William Orbit production on one of the album’s softer moments.

46. Nothing Fails

Without a doubt the most underrated song from the misunderstood American Life – Nothing Fails is an acoustic guitar and gospel choir hybrid that’s superbly written and incredibly stirring – Madonna and Mirwais always made absolute magic in the studio.

45. Cherish

Although, obviously, the Dawn the Jockey version is clearly superior – Madonna’s Cherish is a sugary sweet 80s pop delight, and I love that she was still creating carefree songs like this on an album with titans such as Like A Prayer on the same roster. It’s saccharine in the best way.

44. Medellín

Medellín, Madonna’s most recent lead single, is the work of an artist with nothing to prove who’s just having a great time making music. Madonna and Maluma have crafted a Latin pop banger that’s understated in its greatness – slinky, sensual, well written and outrageously sexy. The two have chemistry that just crackles, and when she sucks his toe in the music video I get hot sweats. I would do anything to be her in that moment.

43. Everybody

Everybody is the first single the world got to hear from Madonna, and to this day it remains comfortably ranked amongst her very best singles ever. 80s post-disco dance magic – simple lyrics, infectious production and a star quality that’s hard to turn a blind eye to.

42. Give It 2 Me

Hard Candy was an album much maligned at the time for being “chart chasing”, naysayers were accusing an innovator like Madonna turning to popular sounds like the Timbaland / Pharrell production sound found on this record rather than defining the sound trends herself. The album sounds fresh as fuck to this day, and Give It 2 Me remains a bombastic highlight with some of the funkiest production of her career.

41. Living For Love

Sadly remembered more for the Brits fall than it is actually being a great track in its own right, Living For Love deserves a lot better. Rebel Heart is a bloated beast of an album, but when its at its most focussed it works so well. Living For Love is the perfect lead single, a house piano driven, Diplo produced banger that feels wonderfully 90s – the choir vocals are perfection.

40. Secret

Madonna’s embracing of R&B sounds doesn’t always work for me on Bedtime Stories, but on lead single Secret it is perfection. A simple acoustic guitar, drum beat and a sound that slowly creeps up on you, it was a complete departure from anything she’d ever done before.

39. What It Feels Like For A Girl

The Cement Garden quoting Charlotte Gainsbourg line sets this Music single off perfectly – an electronica mid-tempo sound that I just love Madonna doing. It suits her vocals so much.

38. 4 Minutes

4 Minutes, an apocalyptic, horn blaring duet with Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland production is the first time Madonna had an artist featured on one of her singles in a 25 year career, and despite the fact naysayers say it sounds like she’s the feature on her own track I still think it deserves its place ranked amongst the best. Perhaps its because it came out when I was 12 and soaking into that late 00s pop sound as much as I could, but I just have always thought 4 Minutes is an uncomplicated hoot.

37. Material Girl

The original material gworl, Material Girl is a signature song for a reason. It’s a song so big it’s synonymous with the decade its from – a sugary, baby voice vocals pop smash with a video that the majority of the planet could visualise in an instant. It’s songs like Material Girl that quickly cemented Madonna as a pop icon. And it was produced by NILE RODGERS!

36. Die Another Day

Straight men and old fashioned James Bond fans have gaslit you into thinking Die Another Day was a misfire. I’m telling you now that it’s quite the opposite. Bizarre, campy, stupid, fun and futuristic – it’s a relic of 00s futurism that’s an absolute robotic romp. Sigmund Freud, analyse THIS!

35. Live To Tell

Live To Tell was the first real Madonna reinvention, a maturer direction with the blonde hair to back it up. Live To Tell is a sprawling ballad that many hail as her very best – it really hits its special stride when she comes in with the “if I ran away…” bridge. I would do unspeakable things to get a Lana Del Rey cover.

34. Holiday

Madonna’s first album remains one of her best – a perfectly mixed 80s dance record that never lets up on its groove. Holiday is still a strong centrepiece – Madonna’s first ever hit single and one that gets every generation tapping their toe. And that’s just what pop music sometimes should be all about, isn’t it?

33. Bedtime Story

A complete departure from anything Madonna had ever done before, and one of the singles ranked here that foreshadowed her progression into electronic music. I think electronica Madonna is the best Madonna of all – and this Björk penned hypnotic single is strange and entrancing.

32. Lucky Star

The opening track of Madonna’s self titled debut, Lucky Star’s sparkling production never fails to put me in the best mood imaginable. I love her songwriting on this track – something that can’t always be said from an artist who wrote lyrics such as “My father used to go to work / I used to think he was a jerk”. Just 80s Madonna bliss.

31. Bitch I’m Madonna

I hope there are Madonna purists recoiling in horror at how high I’ve placed Bitch I’m Madonna over some of her bigger and more commercially well known hits, but I truly believe that it deserves to be ranked amongst her most pioneering singles. Madonna working with Diplo and an uncredited SOPHIE on a ludicrous hyperpop banger featuring a Nicki Minaj verse is kinda what I live for. The girls that get it, get it.

30. Hollywood

Best remembered for that showstopping VMAs performance with Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears and *that* kiss, Hollywood deserved to be a big commercial hit. American Life was laughed off at the time, but remains a fan fave for a reason. The folktronica sound was ahead of its time, and Hollywood is a satire of the location its named after and a takedown of greed and capitalism. Is it successful in that goal? No comment. But does it bop? Absolutely.

29. American Life

There’s only so high you can put American Life when getting Madonna singles ranked considering it has the worst rap verse in the history of music sitting within its five minute run time, but LOOK, I have a soft spot for it. The rap verse is so bad that it’s high camp greatness. “I drink a soy latte / I get a double shottay” is scripture to me, and “I drive my Mini Cooper and I’m feeling super-dooper” is gospel. Hated at the time, hated by many now, loved by anyone with the sensibility to embrace its ridiculousness.

28. Express Yourself

Yes, I find myself often walking around my house and shouting to myself “Come on girls, you believe in love?” And what about it?

27. Burning Up

I absolutely love when Madonna leans into a rockier sound, and Burning Up is one of the highlights of her early career by a mile. A snarling and bursting with attitude track that she sells the absolute hell out of.

26. Love Profusion

It’s a shame that the ridiculousness of American Life as a lead single put a bad taste in the public’s mouth about the album, because songs like Love Profusion sit amongst the track list and deserved the acclaim. Madonna and Mirwais fusing folk and acoustic sounds with electronica just still sounds so good. The juttering production on this is beyond.

25. Jump

There’s something about Jump that makes me feel like I’m in a video game – it’s got an urgency, a movement, a flow that makes me feel like I’m levelling up every time I play it. She chose the singles from Confessions so perfectly – Jump is an absolute blast. The Stuart Price production is simply untouchable.

24. Beautiful Stranger

Beautiful Stranger is a perfect bridge between the Ray Of Light and Music eras – a psychedelic disco track that won a Grammy for a reason. It’s so likeable, so fun. I can’t think of anything else it really sounds like – the production so infectious and the lyrics so catchy. “To love you is to be part of you”.

23. Get Together

A Grammy nominated trance banger from Confessions on a Dancefloor, the record’s third single is a slightly more lowkey affair on an album of back to back bops mixed into the DJ set from heaven. There’s a cathartic euphoria to Get Together – a warehouse filled rave of sweat and MDMA-fuelled bliss.

22. Oh Father

One of the most emotional songs in Madonna’s catalogue, Oh Father details the singer’s relationship with her father Tony. Madonna’s mother, who she’s named after, died when she was five and she’s said many times that her relationship with her father soured following it. It’s a mature baroque pop moment that you can tell really comes from the heart.

21. Dress You Up

Nile Rodgers joined Madonna on the guitar again for Dress You Up, a song not written by Madonna but chosen and loved by her because of its lyrical content. “Gonna dress you up in my love” is a great hooky lyric to define a chorus with, and Dress You Up is one of the standouts of Madonna’s sophomore album.

20. La Isla Bonita

I have never gone on holiday in my life without listening to La Isla Bonita on the beach or by the pool. Despite literally having a hit single called Holiday, it’s La Isla Bonita that the real ones know is Madonna’s real vacation anthem. It’s a sunset in a song, a glass of sangria and some reasonably priced tapas. “I want to be where the sun warms the sky!” – me too, babe.

19. Crazy For You

THEE Madonna 80s ballad. Your mum’s favourite, by a mile. There’s something so breezily charming about Madonna’s first ever ballad. It’s that second part of the first verse that really lets you know we’re in for something special “I see you through the smokey air / can’t you feel the weight of my stare?” We’ve all been there. Bliss.

18. Like A Virgin

There’s a reason Like A Virgin is in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame – it’s a song that defined the genre and made Madonna a superstar, no small thanks going to the iconic live performance in the bridal wear at the VMAs that is unquestionably one of the most famous of all time. I can’t imagine a single artist singing Like A Virgin the way Madonna did – in her hands, it was magic.

17. Papa Don’t Preach

There’s a theatricality to Papa Don’t Preach that I’m a sucker for – it’s got a fully thought out narrative and a steady build that satisfies on every listen. I love how the character Madonna is singing as gets more impassioned through each part of the song. I turn a blind eye to anti-abortion groups who chose to hear this song as some kind of pro-life anthem, and think more on Madonna’s statement on it: “To me it’s a celebration of life. It says, ‘I love you, father, and I love this man and this child that is growing inside me’. Of course, who knows how it will end? But at least it starts off positive.”

16. Erotica

“My name is Dita – I’ll be your mistress tonight”. Erotica is a song that the first time I heard it I’d never heard anything comparable to it. It’s one of the sexiest songs of all time, in my opinion. Its spoken word composition, the moans, the Shep Pettibone production, the ode to S&M and the banned music video? Just delicious. Madonna is the ultimate provocateur.

15. Into the Groove

Just pure pop perfection. From start to finish. “Music can be such a revelation” is a call to the dance floor enough in itself, and that’s before we get to the chorus. It’s one of the most fun Madonna singles ever – ranked comfortably amongst her best for over 30 years. I can’t imagine a time where I wouldn’t be in the mood for it. It’s sublime.

14. Justify My Love

The precursor to Erotica – a spoken word, sensual ode to sex, bisexuality, sadomasochism done to a trip-hop production that sounds timelessly inviting and fresh. It was the lead single from The Immaculate Collection – and it’s one of the signature songs of Madonna’s entire career. You can feel the risk and the reinvention crackling off it, it’s by far one of the more unique of all Madonna singles ranked here. Obsessed.

13. Deeper and Deeper

The true star of Erotica – and kind of like Vogue 2.0. Deeper and Deeper is a dance CLASSIC. It’s one of Madonna’s best songs but one of the ones you’d never hear on the radio – just in the clubs that know how great it really is. Critically acclaimed, infectious, house anthem.

12. Don’t Tell Me

Honestly, the looped guitar motif in Don’t Tell Me is not just one of my favourite music moments in Madonna’s catalogue, it’s one of my favourite production moments in music history. It absolutely slaps – a wonderful country-electronica hybrid that still sounds as fresh as it did over 20 years ago. The live performance with Miley Cyrus is magical.

11. Open Your Heart

Honestly, Open Your Heart is probably one of, if not thee, most straightforward and simple pop bops out of all the Madonna singles ranked here. And yet, in a sea of risk and provocation, it still stands amongst the best. It’s just *so* fun – incredibly likeable, great chorus and proof that you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel to make some of your best work.

10. Music

“Hey Mr DJ, put a record on – I wanna dance with my baby.” I was born in 1996, and Music is the first visual memory I have of Madonna. When you’re as young as I was then, you can’t really get to grips with the cultural relevance of the pop star you’re watching strut about with a pimp cane – but even I on some level knew I was watching an icon iconning. Music remains to this day one of my favourite Madonna singles and I will always get it ranked accordingly. Incredible production and robotic vocals – the most perfect way to kick off the top 10 methinks.

9. Human Nature

Every second of Human Nature is a second not wasted – an iconic kiss off anthem to any critics. It’s an absolute annihilation of Madonna naysayers. The lyrics bite, the production crackles, the message permeates. She is absolutely untouchable. Madonna at her most powerful.

8. Drowned World/Substitute For Love

I would go as far to say that this is the best album opener… ever? Yes, ever. It’s the ultimate moodsetter for Madonna’s greatest artistic achievement. Her magnum opus. It’s so wonderfully ambient, and the whole thing feels blue, feels oceanic. I know that sounds stupid, but the song really SOUNDS blue and watery to me. It’s so deep and dense – her vocals are absolutely heavenly. It’s just so special. Lyrically, vocally, instrumentally wonderful.

7. Borderline

There’s something in Borderline. It is laced with joy. It’s one of the most instant serotonin rushes you can have. Doctors should prescribe it on the NHS. Pure, unfiltered happiness – pop perfection, excellent vocals, the most immaculate of vibes. Untouchable.

6. Sorry

In film terms, Hung Up is Alien and Sorry is Aliens. How do you follow Hung Up – a career best and one of her most commercially successful singles in years? With Sorry – a throbbing sequel that builds on its predecessor with a darker edge. If I had my way, Madonna and Stuart Price would be making dance pop this perfect from now til the end of time. It followed Hung Up to the top of the charts in the UK – and its Pet Shop Boys vibes are immaculate.

5. Ray of Light

The Grammy award winner for Best Dance Recording says hello to you, and what an absolute rammer it is. Ray Of Light shines as bright as the album that’s named after it – a song of freedom, of hope, of euphoria. Her vocals are astronomical – trained within an inch of their life and the best they’ve ever sounded. She’s never sounded more like the past, present and future of pop than she does here.

4. Frozen

A masterpiece. From beginning to end. Swooping, cinematic, orchestral, electronic and above all, chillingly as icy as the title suggests – it’s one of the most special songs Madonna has ever done and one of the defining songs of the 90s. Although I’m slightly fatigued by the new viral remix of it that’s had a recent release in the last year or so, I’m grateful that a TikTok audience are gaining an appreciation for the original’s masterful mood building and spectacular production.

3. Vogue

You know when sometimes you listen to a song and it feels so culturally relevant and massive you can’t quite comprehend an artist actually has it in their discography? That’s how I feel when I listen to Vogue. It’s one of the Madonna singles ranked here you think of as soon as her name is mentioned – and with good reason. It’s a thumping anthem of a generation, bringing Harlen house ball culture into the mainstream with a strut and choreography burned into everyone’s brain forever. The Hollywood icon namedropping bridge is too iconic for words.

2. Hung Up

It takes a special kind of balls to sample Abba, because the chances of them actually saying yes are practically nonexistent. Famously, Abba do not let their music be used for samples. Madonna did it anyway, and begged within an inch of her life to be able to use it. Thankfully, Madonna has an abundance of those special kind of balls – and thus we received Hung Up, the best dance track of her career and a song that sits with Toxic by Britney as one of the best of the entire decade. 25 years into her career and Madonna was sat at the top of the charts with one of the greatest she’d done yet. It’s a song that proved her relevance whilst almost being a loveletter to her disco dance roots at the start of the 80’s. Phenomenal.

1. Like a Prayer

Like a Prayer is not just the greatest of all the Madonna singles ranked here. It’s not just the greatest of all her songs, singles or not. It’s sitting quite comfortable amongst the greatest songs of all time. It is endlessly special. There is such grandeur to Like a Prayer – a rock / pop / gospel track that is epic on a level most could never even dream of getting to. As soon as it kicks in with that guitar you know you’re in for something special – a song that knows when to be loud, when to be fragile and when to push buttons. It’s the perfect blend of controversy and genuine excellence – pissing off religious groups whilst alighting the charts and pushing pop culture forward. It is what consolidates Madonna as the greatest female artist of all time – a game changing artist that took every controversy, every misogynistic tabloid piece declaring she was too old to be carrying on, and made new and more exciting art with it. And is STILL going.

It’s the enduring legacy of songs as special as Like A Prayer that mean Madonna’s legacy continues to push on.

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