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Zephyr in the sky at night: My 10 favorite Madonna songs

2013 Billboard Music Awards: Arrivals and Backstage

Tom Donoghue/

Madonna backstage at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday, May 19, 2013, at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Madonna brings her “Rebel Heart Tour” to MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night, then follows the show hosting an after-party at Marquee Nightclub in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

At age 57, Madonna Louise Ciccone of Bay City, Mich., is every bit the rock-star icon and still parties like a rock star. Having seen Madonna maybe half a dozen times in concert, I can attest that she gives 150 percent in her live performances every time.

And unlike many of her counterparts, Madonna has been a chameleon nearly her entire 40-year career, reinventing her sound to adapt to trends, as well as to be ahead of the curve, from her Grammy Award-winning electronic and spiritual turns in the album “Ray of Light” to her Golden Globe-winning musical work in “Evita.”

In no particular order of favorites — but in order of most recent — here are my 10 favorite Madonna songs among her many, many hits (Madonna continues to amass No. 1 after No. 1 on the U.S. Dance chart):

    • Madonna American Pie

      “American Pie”

      Madonna’s remake of the 1971 Don McLean classic for her 2000 film “The Next Best Thing” — with co-stars Rupert Everett, Benjamin Bratt and Neil Patrick Harris — was widely derided. Remakes always have a tough go of it, and this was no different. But her “American Pie” is nostalgic, respectful and beautiful.

    • Madonna Music


      Don’t call it a comeback, but it had been four years since Madonna had charted a No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 until “Music” in 2000. Surprisingly, “Music” — which makes the people come together … to dance and enjoy life — remains her last chart-topper. Fifteen years is a long time, but never count Madonna out.

    • Madonna You Must Love Me

      “You Must Love Me”

      Fans, including yours truly, loved her work in helmer Alan Parker’s “Evita” alongside Antonio Banderas, and she was rewarded with a Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy or musical. The heartbreaking ballad would win an Oscar for Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, too.

    • Madonna The Power of Goodbye

      “The Power of Goodbye”

      Madonna doesn’t have the widest vocal range, but she more than makes up for it in emotion, as she proves repeatedly in her ballads. The sweeping and haunting vocals here are some of her best work, and the gorgeous video with Goran Visnjic is sweeping and haunting, as well.

    • Madonna Ray of Light

      “Ray of Light”

      This song would be selected as my all-time-favorite Madonna track. It’s celebratory, euphoric and life affirming all at once. The album would result in Madonna’s first — and deserved — Grammy Award wins. And I feel like I just got home — and it’s a wonderful feeling.

    • Madonna Frozen


      Repeat my comments from “The Power of Goodbye.” A spiritual and lush ballad from Madonna, her vocals have never sounded better. The classical training she had for “Evita” continued to pay off with more refined and vocal work with songs such as “Frozen.”

    • Madonna Justify My Love

      “Justify My Love”/“Erotica”

      Yes, these are two separate songs, but they’re very similar thematically. “Justify My Love” was one of the all-time controversial music videos — banned by MTV — and sold as a VHS (yes, I bought it). “Erotica” is outright sexual with all the moaning and groaning, and the album got me an “A” in Mass Communications.

    • Madonna Dress You Up

      “Dress You Up”

      This song is just pure fun and reminds of a Halloween in West Hollywood, Calif., with a group of (mostly) heterosexual friends dressed up as Gap Kids parading the streets, one with a boom box blasting “Dress You Up.” Maybe four people understood the group costume — and it was worth it.

    • Madonna Material Girl

      “Material Girl”

      It would become the career-long nickname for Madonna, one that she understandably reportedly dislikes, but the video is awesome — I mean, tuxedoed men galore, diamonds and fur — and the song is an undeniable representation of 1980s pop culture in America.

    • Madonna Like a Virgin

      “Like a Virgin”

      Yes, there was “Borderline” and “Lucky Star” before this, but “Like a Virgin” put Madonna on the map. It was her first No. 1 hit, and her MTV Video Music Awards performance writhing onstage in a wedding dress, and the music video complete with wedding dress and lion, are unforgettable.

    • Madonna Express Yourself

      Honorable Mentions: “Crazy for You,” “Into the Groove,” “Express Yourself,” “Vogue” and “Hung Up”

      In case you’ve forgotten, “Crazy For You” is her No. 1 ballad from “Vision Quest”; “Into the Groove” is her truly pop-dance song from “Desperately Seeking Susan”; “Express Yourself” is her girl-power dance song; “Vogue” is the song you dance to alone in your bedroom because nobody really knows how to vogue except for drag queens; and “Hung Up” elicits visions of roller skates, leotards and — for Las Vegas visitors and residents — the final song in the now-defunct “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood.

    Madonna’s “Rebel Heart Tour” is at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night.

    Don Chareunsy is the Las Vegas Sun’s entertainment and luxury senior editor and has been a journalist for nearly two decades.

    Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous fame” has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

    Follow Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at

    Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at

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