Very little has been consistent in the life of the chronically self-reinventing Queen of Pop, but one thing she will do almost without fail is turn out a number one hit.
While Madonna’s outsized influence on the landscape of pop music is inescapable, she has had no less powerful a presence in dance and house music.
Given how much she owes to a genre and culture that she has done so much to shape in turn, it should be no surprise that she has chosen to celebrate her career through the artists who have remixed and reinterpreted her iconic catalog through the years.
Arriving the week of her 64th birthday, Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones (★★★☆☆) commemorates her 50th time at the top of the dance charts, making her the first and only artist to hit that milestone on any Billboard chart.
Presented as a curated selection of Madonna’s personal favorite remixes and remasters, the 50-track collection is the deluxe edition of a 16-track version that dropped back in June.
That shorter edition is a fun, eclectic compilation in its own right, but both the scope and selection of remix tracks it presented made it feel a little anemic, given the overwhelming volume and diversity of Madonna remixes out there.
Passing over some remarkable and rare cuts for more pedestrian late-career work, to say nothing of editing down some of the remixes, presumably to appease the streaming algorithms, begged the question of who exactly the album was meant for.
50 Number Ones manages to skirt around that question by giving us an extensive tour of the dancefloor afterlife of Madonna’s songs. Some of the more jarring choices in the 16-track can be more easily overlooked when they are buried among so many excellent remixes, and her most devoted fans will appreciate that almost half the tracks are rarities that are (at least officially) seeing a digital release for the first time.
Madge’s personal curatorial touch mostly serves the collection well, and there is a good mix of straightforward and bold, ranging from edits that retain the original structure and feel of the song to the complex house remixes that reimagine her tracks with bold and captivating additions and flourishes.
It’s disorienting to be reminded that some remixes like Junior Vasquez’s take on “Secret,” the Thunderpuss Video remix of “Don’t Tell Me” or the Deep Dish Dot Com radio edit of “Music” made for richer experiences than the originals. By their nature, most of those remixes haven’t had anything close to the same staying power, and Madonna deserves credit for putting them back in the spotlight.
A handful of more widely-known remixes seem to have been included as a matter of course. Tracks like the underground club mix of “Erotica” or the Miami mix of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” will be immediately familiar even to casual fans, and while most of those better-known tracks hold up, there seems to be little reason for their inclusion in 50 Number Ones other than to finally have them in one place.
As timeless and unimpeachable as they are, the remasters of the 7″ versions of “Holiday,” “Like a Virgin,” and “Material Girl” that kick off the album, serve as reminders this is a collection aimed squarely at collectors and enthusiasts.
That said, the album is probably most interesting to die-hards and lay fans alike for collecting tracks from off the beaten path.
Had Madonna decided not to bother with the deluxe edition and instead limit herself to 16 tracks, Richard Humpty Visson’s house remix of her already out-of-left-field cover of “American Pie” would never have made the cut.
Another standout, the Pet Shop Boys’ intense and trippy take on “Sorry,” might have gotten passed over altogether despite easily being one of the strongest remixes in the collection.
50 Number Ones marks a unique achievement in a truly iconic career. Its sheer scale reflects the impressive breadth of Madonna’s own career, and the diversity of selections is a sign of her respect for the artists who have reinterpreted her material as much as for the wider dance music scene that she came out of.
Still, it is hard to escape the feeling that having so much material to work with allowed her to make less careful curatorial decisions than she otherwise might have.
The remastered rarities and standouts are enough to excuse a few forgettable, unimpressive or boring tracks, but their presence still makes the collection seem just a bit more gimmicky than it needed to be.
Madonna’s Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Onesis available in 1-CD, 2-LP, and digital versions . Visit www.madonna.com.
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