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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