Madonna is back on the Billboard charts this week, but don’t worry, you didn’t miss the release of a new single. In fact, the pop superstar’s latest hit is actually decades old.
“Gambler” debuts at No. 35 on the latest edition of the Digital Song Sales chart, Billboard’s weekly ranking of the best selling songs in America.
While that’s not a particularly lofty position, it’s important to remember that the track isn’t new. “Gambler” was first released more than 37 years ago, but since then, it has remained difficult to find and difficult to own or stream in almost any context — outside of YouTube, where the official video was available.
Unbelievably, “Gambler” is just Madonna’s ninth track to reach the Digital Song Sales chart.
This is due in large part to the fact that Billboard didn’t introduce the online sales-only ranking until after the singer’s heyday. The vast majority of Madonna’s work predated the ranking, so her performance on the list doesn’t really do her career justice.
“Gambler” was initially released in 1985, and while it was selected as a single, it didn’t receive that treatment in the U.S. The tune was sent to radio in dozens of other countries, and it performed notably well in most places.
The cut broke into the top 10 in markets like Australia, Ireland, Italy, and the U.K., where it peaked at No. 4 and was eventually certified silver. “Gambler” never reached the U.S. charts because it wasn’t sold as a separate physical single or sent to radio, which were required for Billboard placement at the time.
“Gambler” is one of two songs by Madonna featured on the soundtrack that accompanied the movie Vision Quest. The album, which also featured tunes by the likes of Journey, Foreigner, and Dio, was partially introduced to the public with another Madonna song, “Crazy for You.”
That track went on to become a global hit, rising all the way to No. 1 on the Hot 100 in the U.S. The smash was the talent’s second chart-topper in America, following in the footsteps of the groundbreaking “Like a Virgin”.
At that point in her career, Madonna was already a household name, but she was still on her way up and most of her biggest moments were still to come. At the time “Gambler” was released, the singer-songwriter was busy promoting another single, and she would soon be hard at work on finishing her next album.
As “Gambler” climbed the charts in other territories, Madonna was more focused on promoting “Dress You Up,” which eventually gave her another top 10 on the Hot 100. “Dress You Up” was the last single served from the album Like A Virgin, and by the time its run was complete, she was quickly on to the next.
Less than six months after “Gambler” dropped, Madonna released the single “Live to Tell,” which fronted her album True Blue. “Live to Tell” also bolted to the top of the Hot 100, and it was to be the first of five top 10s from that album alone. Clearly, she had other tracks to worry about, so, sadly, “Gambler” never received its moment to shine in the superstar’s home country.
Madonna fans are measurably thrilled that they can now purchase and stream “Gambler” without having to go through any loopholes. It’s been decades since many fell in love with the track, and clearly enough people are thrilled it is widely available, as it is one of the bestselling tracks in the largest music market in the world this week.
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