From “Madonna” to “MDNA”: All 12 Of Madonna’s Albums Ranked By Greatness

Madonna-album-covers-MDNA-580x435The internet went crazy yesterday with news that Madonna had completed work on her 13th studio album. In the wee hours of Monday morning, Fashion photographers Mert and Marcus posted a picture of the Queen on Instagram, along with the caption: “In my room listening to the NEW ALBUM!!!!! Im DYING!!!!!! LET ME LOVE YOU FROM INSIDE OUT ???????? @madonna”

There’s no denying Madge’s greatness has diminished somewhat in recent years, but we’re not convinced she’s completely lost her magic touch. We know there’s still a masterpiece or two left in her. And we can’t wait to hear what she has in store.

In anticipation of her new release, we’ve ranked all 12 of the Material Girl’s albums in order of greatness. We can’t help but wonder where her 13th effort will fall on our chart.

Scroll down to see our official ranking. And let us know where you think in the comments section below.

12. American Life (2003)


It’s probably safe to say that everyone — including Madonna — would like to forget that 2003’s American Life ever happened. The Kabbalah-inspired acoustic/electronica disaster features Madge/Esther awkwardly rapping about “drinking a soy latte” and “getting a double shot-ey” that “goes right through her bod-ey,” among other things. The album failed to spawn any memorial singles and remains her lowest-selling to date.

11. MDNA (2012)

Perhaps no other Madonna album inspires as much divide among fans as 2012’s MDNA. Some love it, others loathe it. This was Madonna’s first album post-Lady Gaga, post-divorce from Guy Richie, and post-menopause. Turns out those three things combined were a recipe for disaster, which, in hindsight, really isn’t all that surprising. MDNA was panned by critics, suffered one of the largest sales drops in Billboard history between its first and second weeks, had virtually no impact on radio, and was even trashed by its own producer, William Orbit. In all fairness, had it been released by another pop artist — perhaps someone younger and less established — it may have fared better. But coming from an icon like Madonna, it was, put simply, a disappointment.

10. Hard Candy (2008)


In its defense, 2008’s Hard Candy had big shoes to fill. It followed one of the Material Girl’s strongest late-career albums to date, Confessions on a Dance Floor, as well as her critically-acclaimed, sold-out world tour. Miss Ciccone paired up with producers Timbaland, Pharrell Williams and Justin Timberlake in hopes of cashing in on their popular, of-the-moment sound. The only problem: She was about two years behind the trend. Hard Candy sounded dated before it was even released. On top of that, it featured one of the most cringe-worthy songs from Madge’s entire catalog, Spanish Lesson, in which she assaults listeners’ ears with incorrect Spanish-to-English translations for three and a half minutes. We still haven’t totally forgiven her for that.

9. Bedtime Stories (1994)


While we love 1994’s mid-tempo, R&B-infused Bedtime Stories (it makes for great sex music), the cold, hard truth is, it didn’t have nearly the same impact as many of Madonna’s other efforts. Sure it spawned one of the biggest singles of her career (Take A Bow spent seven weeks at #1) as well as the iconic S&M-themed Human Nature music video, but in terms of cultural causatum, it didn’t offer much. Not even a tour. But we heart it anyway.

8. Like A Virgin (1984)

We debated listing Like A Virgin at #8 since it was an important album in Madonna’s career and we love it to death. It features two of her most memorable early hits — “Like A Virgin” and “Material Girl” — and solidified her status as a cultural force to be reckoned with. However, if we’re being really honest, the album kinda sounds like an extension of her previous one — 1983’s Madonna — only without as many good songs. Like A Virgin has as many mediocre tracks as it does good ones. Does anybody even sing along to “Shoo-Bee-Doo,” “Over and Over,” “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” or “Pretender” anymore?

7. Erotica (1992)


When Madonna’s fifth studio album Erotica (or as we like to call it Eroti-ca) was first released in 1992, it shocked the world. So much so that it was banned in several countries. Critics were divided over the album’s quality. Some called it the pop star’s most ambitious to date. Others said it was nothing more than pornography for the ears. The album contains one of our all-time favorite songs, the bitch-slapping, club-banging Thief of Hearts. Seriously, why wasn’t that track made into a single?

6. Music (2000)

Madonna celebration 12th album music review cover

2000’s Music followed Madonna’s multi-Grammy Award-winning magnum opus Ray of Light, and, frankly, she couldn’t have done a better job. After the whole Earth-Mother-Spiritual-Y0ga-Goddess phase, she decided to let her hair down and have a little fun, and the end result was 44 minutes of pure pop perfection. This is the album (and supporting tour) that made Madonna the official Queen of Pop. Music offers the perfect balance of pop songs, dance tracks, and mid-tempo ballads that still make for a throughly enjoyable listen nearly 15 years later.

5. True Blue (1987)


This album single-handedly defines ’80s music and remains one of the best-selling albums of all time more than 25 years after it was released. With songs like “Papa Don’t Preach,” “Open Your Heart,” “La Isla Bonita,” “Live to Tell” and “True Blue,” Madonna’s third studio effort is jam-packed with hits. It’s no surprise it reached #1 in 28 countries and spent 34 consecutive weeks at the top of the European Top 100 Albums chart, longer than any other album in history. It’s one of Madonna’s most pure fun albums and we continue to blast it regularly to this day.

4. Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005)

Madonna - Confessions On A Dancefloor

Perhaps her last truly great artistic achievement to date, Confessions on a Dance Floor is Madonna’s late-career, disco-infused, infectious masterpiece. It’s the album that reminded us why we fell in love with her in the first place. The Queen paired up with producer Stuart Price to create 12 dance songs that flowed seamlessly together. Then she slipped into a pink leotard and roller skates and started grinding on a boombox. Seriously, how could anyone not love everything about that? Our only criticism is the song “I Love New York,” in which Madge rhymes “New York” with “dork.” But by 2005, a bad rhyme or questionable lyric here and there had become a staple item in every Madonna record.

3. Ray of Light (1998)


Oh boy, we’re down to the top three… There’s no denying Ray of Light was Madonna’s most inspired album — lyrically, musically, thematically. It’s also the album that won her her first Grammy. And it proved that she could actually — well — sing. Her voice was in top form after Evita. Madonna has often called the Ray of Light-era her favorite, and we can understand why. It’s the album that finally got people to take her seriously as a musician. It’s also the album she’s never been quite able to match. Was it just a stroke of genius? Or does she have another Ray of Light in her somewhere?

2. Like A Prayer (1989)

Madonna celebration 12th album like a prayer review cover

The title track alone is what lands Like A Prayer in the #2 spot of our list. To this day, every time it comes on the radio, we can’t help but turn it up. The album, too, is pretty damn good. Madonna tackles some rather lofty themes — the Catholic church, her divorce from Sean Penn, her mother’s death — but songs like Express Yourself and Cherish keep the mood from getting too heavy. All in all, Like A Prayer is probably one of her most personal albums. And it achieves subtle greatness without trying too hard.

1. Madonna (1983)


In the beginning, there was MadonnaThe Queen’s self-titled debut comes in at #1 on our list because — well — it’s the album that started it all. Without Madonna there would be no Madonna. On top of that, the songs are pretty dope. This is the album that brought us “Holiday,” “Lucky Star,” “Burning Up” and “Borderline.” But, truthfully, every song is good. It’s crazy to think this album turned 30 last year. Here’s to 30 more! L’chaim!

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  • retrocub

    Um, MANY Madonna fans, and music critics for that matter, all see “American Life” now as a lost masterpiece, and many of us have always loved it. Speak for YOURSELVES. As for “MDNA”, it was NOT critically panned- it actually received many excellent reviews upon its release. “MDNA” also had the #1 grossing tour of the year, beating Lady Gaga’s stupid tour. You failed to mention that.

  • kfitz421

    Uhhhhh, this is way off.

    American Life is great from beginning to end. When she’s rapping in the title song, American Life, she’s being ironic. Also, she was a middle aged blonde white woman at the time and she obviously knew that rapping would piss people off so that was just another reason to do it. American Life has seriously great lyrics, i.e. intervention, nobody knows me, nothing fails, x-static process and love profusion to just name a few.

    Hard Candy is lyrically fun and inspiring, especially Incredible. She was just dancing and having fun “I know that you think I’m crazy and I don’t want you to save me I have never felt this free” – and yall think she’s crazy.

    MDNA – awesome. amazing tour.

    Bed Time Stories is more than just an album to have sex to. Great lyrics about the loss of love ones, staying true to yourself, expressing yourself and not repressing yourself and saying fuck off to someone you were in love with. IF ANYTHING, this is not the album to have sex to, I guess you just think all R&B-ish sounding things equal sex.

    Putting True Blue before music is fucked up, so is making MADONNA #1???? WHAT?
    MADONNA is a great album, but I think number one is wayyyyyyyy out of line.

    I don’t think it is quite possible to compare all her albums because they are all so different, I think everyone has a favorite based on what phase in their lives that they are at. Currently, I would say that Bed Time Stories is my most listened to but I am always changing which of these GREAT albums that I listen to on repeat.

    I’ve never had the urge to sign in and write something until I saw this post.

  • Michael

    Why is it when ever fans here negative comments about MDNA they always bring up the bloody tour that supported it? What, the gross made it a better album? We’re talking about a studio album that was rushed, for the most part infantile, and far beneath her proven high standards.

  • TysDaddy

    Like a Virgin made Madonna Madonna more than Madonna did. Music is WAY too high on this list. Bedtime Stories should also be higher. Good thing this is OPINION not FACT!

  • lykeitiz

    I’m shocked at how much of this list I DO agree with. Art is subjective, and at least this was written with thought. However, I still think there’s no way “Madonna” is #1, or that “MDNA” is #11. No way.

  • KingEidilleg

    Suppose it’s a matter of taste….but like retrocub mentioned MDNA was NOT critically panned. ‘Some’ guys/girls on the internet were very vocal about their dislike of it though. Most critics liked it, but didn’t love it. My least favourite album is Hard Candy, and by a longshot I might add.
    Might as well give my top 12:
    1 Ray Of Light
    2 Confessions On A Dancefloor
    3 Like A Prayer
    4 Music
    5 True Blue
    6 American Life
    7 Erotica (You’re absolutely right about Thief of Hearts!)
    8 MDNA
    9 Madonna
    10 Bedtime Stories
    11 Like A Virgin
    12 Hard Candy

    To be honest the rankings differ from day to day, all depends on my mood …. except for number 1 and number 12, they’re pretty much set in stone.

  • Blackceo

    Ok I will be busting out the Madonna tracks for my evening run tonight thanks to this article. But, umm…(and I know that music is subjective…but)where is Something to Remember on this list. Granted I love the pop stuff, particularly from the 80s period, but I loved the album Something to Remember. It was that period where she was criticized for not having ballads and not really being a great “singer”. When I’m not in the mood for the pop stuff, I love the laid back flow of Something to Remember.

    I Want You, I’ll Remember (which was the theme and song from my senior prom for which I had major influence since I was senior class president), Take a Bow, This Used to be my Playground, Something to Remember, and Rain are my favorites from that album. I just love that album so much.

    Probably won’t get much agreement but my all time favorite Madonna song and video remains “Bad Girl” from Erotica. The musical arrangement and lyrics are just haunting and actually reflect a brief period in my life (slutty and high risk behaviors, drugs, smoking) that I can relate to. I think it is one of Madonna’s most underrated songs and it is my favorite music video of hers. She was so beautiful in it and I just loved how that video was directed.

  • MMDD

    I know it’s a soundtrack, but I’M BREATHLESS should have made this list.

  • DistingueTraces

    Music should be way higher, and Ray of Light is obviously #1 by far in terms of quality, if not necessarily cultural impact.

  • WhyteRabbit

    i think it should look much more like this…
    12 Hard Candy (2008)
    11 MDNA (2012)
    10 Music (2000)
    09 True Blue (1987)
    08 American Life (2003)
    07 Madonna (1983)
    06 Bedtime Stories (1994)
    05 Like A Virgin (1984)
    04 Erotica (1992)
    03 Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005)
    02 Like A Prayer (1989)
    01 Ray of Light (1998)

  • WhyteRabbit

    and “I’m Breathless” (as it was a studio album) should be about #5


    I hadn’t realised just how bad and dated her album art is particularly for one so steeped in the visual, arguably her chief claim to fame, other than fucking her way up and then back down again. So in that spirit here is my Madonna cover art rundown:

    1) Erotica — Simple and effective and still looking fresh.
    2) True Blue — strong visual. Classic.
    3) Madonna — okay
    The rest are not worth discussing, with their wishy-washy insipid palettes (when they’re not sickly garish), graceless overfussy typefaces and complete absence of the visually arresting or of having any claim to that timelessness as seen in the work of some of her peers. There’s an obvious read across to the music. Put simply: a hack.

  • southsam7

    I don’t agree with the rankings but any Madonna publicity/news is good.

    The author left out several albums: Something to Remember, GHVII, Immaculate Collection, Dick Tracy and several others.

  • wooly101

    Gee, must have been a slow day for news.

  • erikwm

    “Like a Prayer” — and the Blond Ambition Tour that followed it — was the pinnacle of Madonna’s career. She was never better than in that moment.

    “Like a Prayer” was her best album, but the Blond Ambition Tour was her greatest masterpiece. Rolling Stone ranked it the best tour of the 90’s. The video for it won a Grammy. It was chronicled in the immensely entertaining “Truth or Dare” documentary. It was unlike anything done before and has been the template for all other pop stars since.

    Blond Ambition was Madonna’s moment — a masterpiece.

  • Nixter

    @erikwm: Sure, but not for me-it was her WHO’S THAT GIRL tour- wow!Loved it! I was smitten!

  • Nixter

    @WhyteRabbit: TRUE BLUE #9?! Are you crazy??!!

  • QuintoLover

    After reading this list, I decided to actually listen to all of Madonna’s albums (mostly just familiar with singles). Listening to them in order and… Okay, I gotta say I am liking Madonna so far but there is NO WAY this can be her BEST album. Lucky Star is even more inane than todays pop trash. Love most of the other songs but… there’s only 8! Loving most of the songs shouldn’t be very difficult with such a small track list.

  • IvanPH

    EROTICA is just number 7?! Seriously, bottom half? What an abomination. It has some of her most creative and catchy songs ever like EROTICA, RAIN, FEVER, BAD GIRL, DEEPER & DEEPER. It should be on top, if not, in the top three with Ray of Light and True Blue.

  • jonjct

    I am NOT a fan. For many, many reasons, but I’ll skip that right now. I was surprised that she has just 12 albums/CDs, I thought that after a 35 year career that there would be more. Ray of Light has to be #1.

  • middleagespread

    Burning Up and Vogue are still my favorite songs after all these years. Burning Up says it perfectly for me about how I am in when I first meet a guy. Vogue takes me back to the fun times with my best friend.

  • Madonnaids

    This is the woman who started AIDS. She is RESPONSIBLE for it. At least Gaga can sing and dance .

  • trelin

    @Blackceo: Bad Girl is probably the BEST video of her career.

  • FLUO

    @retrocub: @retrocub: Damn right! What about ‘Mother and Father’ ? ‘Easy Ride’? Also, ‘Hollywood’ is one of her criminally underrated singles

  • Blackceo

    My partner was giving me the stank face wondering what the hell was up with the all Madonna songs last night and today. I said blame Queerty. I hadn’t listened to some of her stuff in awhile and I was up so late jamming last night and was in my office at work just raping the replay on Bad Girl and Live to Tell. Good times. Thanks Queerty.


    Yeah I agree. It is ashame Bad Girl is so overlooked because the song and video received positive reviews. I’ve read that at the time of its release people were sort of over the over sexualized Madonna videos and her sex book was also out around that time. However, Bad Girl as far as I know is the only video I can think of where she really tells a story. It was just so artistically beautiful. She only performed that song live once; on Saturday Night Live. It was her best live vocal performances in my opinion.

  • danemichael

    Hated Erotica. As a matter of fact it is the only Madonna CD I got rid of within a month of having it. Madonna and Like a Virgin is the my two favorite.

  • hotshot70

    12 albums? She is too damn old to continue. GRANDMADONNA should stop trying to be relevant and get dentures to replace that horrid grill, eat prunes and take geritol. No one cares about her anymore, except as the joke she has become. “Oh, look, Madonna’s crashing the awards show again! She wants to be Lady Gaga!”

  • newecreator

    Confessions is the best in my opinion.

Comments are closed.