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Album of The Day: Madonna – Celebration
Album of The Day

Album of The Day: Madonna – Celebration 

PhotobucketCelebration is a 2xCD Madonna compilation and her final album under Warner Bros Records, home to Madonna’s 25+ years career. (She later signed a record-breaking 10 year exclusive deal with Live Nation label).
This hit collection is Madonna’s third (fourth if you count the ballad-only collection Something to Remember). Unlike 1990’s The Immaculate Collection (TIC) which tracks were sequenced in chronological order, tracks in Celebration are not sequenced in any particular order. But the tracks are not totally random. The first disc is focusing more on the bigger and uptempo hits, while the second disc is housing some mid-tempos and ballads. There are 2 new songs which sounds unlike each other , put evenly one on each disc. Madonna released over 60 singles in her illustrious 27 years career, it would be a daunting task to choose just 34 of them. It was said that these 34 are selected by Madonna and her fans, although i didn’t think that was necessarily the case as the selection process was never made public. Nevertheless let’s get into what the final selections are and how they are put in each disc.

The first disc opened up strongly with 4 massive hits : the 70s disco romp Hung Up, French electronica Music, the evergreen house track Vogue (strike a pose everybody!) and the most recent hit 4 minutes which was Madonna’s foray into the current r&b/hip-hop territory. Next up is the cult classic Holiday (trivial fact : Madonna sang this song in every but one of her tour), and her debut single Everybody. And then along came her first US #1 Like a virgin followed by her first UK#1 Into the Groove, the ever controversial dance-rock-gospel number Like a Prayer quickly follows (the Pope was so shocked and angered by the video in which Madonna made love to a black jesus on the church altar and sang in front of burning crosses).

Next are Ray of Light , Sorry and Express Yourself The CD continues with another two 80s hit : Open Your Heart and Borderline. Now this is where it goes interesting : the last 4 tracks are the sex inspired tracks. Secret is where Madonna allegedly sang about masturbation (happiness lies in your own hands), Erotica is the underground house track in which Madonna portraying Dita Harlow doing S&M and while the more controversial Lenny Kravitz-produced Justify My Love is more implicit lyrically, but it was the explicit content of the video that made the video banned on MTV. The last track is the new track called Revolver, an urban-influenced dance-pop number featuring Lil Wayne, this track is sunnier and more blatant than the previous 3 (My love is a revolver/my sex is a killer).

Overall the first disc is satisfying, it captured some of the most extravagant and danceable moments in Madonna’s career. But there are some issues here, most of them are the strange placings of songs, for example the fluid and smooth Vogue is sandwiched between the flat funky electronic sounds of Music and the alternating honking horns of 4 Minutes. Ray of Light’s mixing sound so muffled when it was listened between Like a Prayer and Sorry ( even if the mastering has already much improve the then soft recordings). There are some uppers in the first disc, Like a Prayer is presented here in the original album mix, not the remixed version of TIC. So this will be the first time ever the remastered album version is released on a CD. To put Erotica and Justify my love back to back is clever, not only the similarity is in the sexual-inspired contents, but it was the fact that this song have the distinctive sing-speak style of Madonna from that famous ‘Sex’ era.

The second disc is a more confusing, if not scattered affair. It includes more songs with slower tempo although it isn’t consistently so, because to be fair, Madonna has more uptempo songs that it would not be enough to put ballads on an entire disc . The second disc starts strangely with 8 tracks that comes from 83-87 starting from Dress You Up, the song that gave her the nick Material Girl, flamenco-influenced La Isla Bonita, the sad dance song about the teen pregnancy Papa Don’t Preach, followed by 2 self-written songs Lucky Star and Burning Up (hey does anybody remember she used to write songs too!), the then-sweet-now-cheesy ballad Crazy For You and songs that was criminally left from TIC Who’s that girl. After that the atmosphere shifts to a more melancholic mood with next 4 songs: the cinematic electronica Frozen, sensitive number Miles Away, oriental-tinged r&b slow jam Take a Bow which is Madonna’s biggest US hit to date and then Live to Tell. Until this point, even with the mood changes, the flow is still steady, but unfortunately soon it will be distracted by 6 random songs put together. This last 6 really felt like leftovers, those songs that fitted nowhere in the album. Isn’t it rather strange to put the kitschy 60s-revival Beautiful Stranger after a gothic ballad? 3 Mirwais-produced songs follow: Hollywood, Die Another Day and Don’t Tell me. Again, the 3 songs do not flow in the same vein as Beautiful Stranger as they are darker and sadder. The misstep occurs again with Cherish, the silly girly lovey-dovey song, not only the nature of the song but the sound is also so misplaced after the 3 Mirwais songs. The whole set now is closed by Celebration. This song is produced by Paul Oakenfold , it is the first time he produces a Madonna track (he remixed some Madonna songs in the past, but never produced one). Celebration the song is a club-ready track that sounds like it is produced in the late 90s (ATB anyone ??), the era which Madonna is in the peak of her more artistic works (William Orbit-produced masterpiece Ray of Light album). And also considering that in TIC she include Justify My Love and Rescue Me which are the ideas of the future Madonna sounds then, the inclusion of a 90s euro trance-pop in a 2009 project is definitely a setback. But that doesn’t prevent anyone to enjoy this dancefloor burner as a solitary track. The best thing about the second is it includes Who’s that girl in the remastered version.

What I can say about this overall track selection is: Can’t please everyone ! Half of the album are from the 80s, and it includes only 6 tracks from the 90s, there are even more tracks from the 00s ! It is disappointing to ignore the 90s as it is a better decade musical-wise than the 00s. Songs from Evita are not included at all, the David Foster megahit You’ll see is not either, the adventurous trip-hop sound of Bedtime Stories is forgotten, and my personal favorite Nothing Really Matters is not even considered (it is also not included in the 47 track DVD edition) The 80s selection is not thoughtful either, there are 5 songs from The First Album, and there are 4 from Like a Virgin, again, for the fourth time they left the UK#1 True Blue. Die-hard fans will scream : where’s Angel ? Causing a Commotion ? Keep it Together ? The 00s selection did not include the angry track American Life and choose Miles Away over Give it 2 me, the later is a bigger hit and her mega-tour showstopper. I also have mixed feelings about the tracks not being sequenced in chronological order, the advantage is it shows Madonna’s versatility and the disadvantage is listener will not be able to discern how Madonna evolved musically through the years. And of course there will be another 1000 reasons to disagree. So let’s stop all the raves and rants and answer the most important question : Why releasing this CD at all ? Is it just a forced project for Madonna because the contract required one more album to be released ? is Madonna trying to stay relevant in the youngster-dominated music scene and please her fans with this CD ? Is this CD worth it ?

I think this CD, whether you view it as a contractual obligation or fans necessity ,serves as a memoir, an illustration and a celebration of her 27 years long (or is it short ?) career. For casual music listeners or newbies is a cheap way of obtaining Madonna’s back catalogue on a single unit. For casual Madonna fan this is a way of revisiting and refreshing the past and completing the missing materials in their collection. For die-hard fans , it would be a delightful addition to their already vast Madonna collection. And for everyone, this is a celebration of some 36 of the greatest pop songs ever and a solid tribute to pop music culture itself.

p.s.: as a bonus you got an exquisite booklet designed by pop artist Mr. Brainwash displaying Madonna’s iconic images over the years. Go celebrate !

Track List:
Disc 1
# Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. “Hung Up” Madonna, Stuart Price, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus Madonna, Stuart Price 5:38
2. “Music” Madonna, Mirwais Ahmadzaï Madonna, Mirwais Ahmadzaï 3:46
3. “Vogue” Madonna, Shep Pettibone Madonna, Shep Pettibone 5:16
4. “4 Minutes” (featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland) Madonna, Timothy Mosley, Justin Timberlake, Nathaniel Hills Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Danja 3:10
5. “Holiday” Curtis Hudson, Lisa Stevens John “Jellybean” Benitez 6:08
6. “Everybody” Madonna Mark Kamins 4:11
7. “Like a Virgin” Tom Kelly, Billy Steinberg Nile Rodgers 3:10
8. “Into the Groove” Madonna, Stephen Bray Madonna, Stephen Bray 4:45
9. “Like a Prayer” Madonna, Patrick Leonard Madonna, Patrick Leonard 5:43
10. “Ray of Light” Madonna, William Orbit, Clive Muldoon, Dave Curtis, Christine Leach Madonna, William Orbit 4:34
11. “Sorry” Madonna, S. Price Madonna, Stuart Price 3:59
12. “Express Yourself” Madonna, S. Bray Madonna, Stephen Bray 4:00
13. “Open Your Heart” Madonna, Gardner Cole, Peter Rafelson Madonna, Patrick Leonard 3:49
14. “Borderline” Reggie Lucas Reggie Lucas 4:00
15. “Secret” Madonna, Dallas Austin, S. Pettibone Madonna, Dallas Austin 4:28
16. “Erotica” Madonna, S. Pettibone, Anthony Shimkin Madonna, Shep Pettibone 4:30
17. “Justify My Love” Lenny Kravitz, Ingrid Chavez, additional lyrics by Madonna Lenny Kravitz 4:54
18. “Revolver” (featuring Lil Wayne) Madonna, Carlos Battey, Steven Battey, Dwayne Carter, Justin Franks, Brandon Kitchen Madonna, Frank E 3:40

Disc 2
# Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. “Dress You Up” Andrea LaRusso, Peggy Stanziale Nile Rodgers 4:02
2. “Material Girl” Peter Brown, Robert Rans Nile Rodgers 4:00
3. “La Isla Bonita” Madonna, P. Leonard, Bruce Gaitsch Madonna, Patrick Leonard 4:04
4. “Papa Don’t Preach” Brian Elliot, additional lyrics by Madonna Madonna, Stephen Bray 4:30
5. “Lucky Star” Madonna Reggie Lucas 3:39
6. “Burning Up” Madonna Reggie Lucas 3:45
7. “Crazy for You” John Bettis, Jon Lind John “Jellybean” Benitez 3:44
8. “Who’s That Girl” Madonna, P. Leonard Madonna, Patrick Leonard 4:00
9. “Frozen” Madonna, P. Leonard Madonna, William Orbit, Patrick Leonard 6:19
10. “Miles Away” Madonna, T. Mosley, J. Timberlake, N. Hills Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Danja 3:45
11. “Take a Bow” Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Madonna Babyface, Madonna 5:20
12. “Live to Tell” Madonna, P. Leonard Madonna, Patrick Leonard 5:51
13. “Beautiful Stranger” Madonna, W. Orbit Madonna, William Orbit 4:22
14. “Hollywood” Madonna, M. Ahmadzaï Madonna, Mirwais Ahmadzaï 4:24
15. “Die Another Day” Madonna, M. Ahmadzaï Madonna, Mirwais Ahmadzaï 4:37
16. “Don’t Tell Me” Madonna, M. Ahmadzaï, Joe Henry Madonna, Mirwais Ahmadzaï 4:12
17. “Cherish” Madonna, P. Leonard Madonna, Patrick Leonard 3:52
18. “Celebration” Madonna, Paul Oakenfold, Ian Green, Ciaran Gribbin Madonna, Paul Oakenfold 3:34

Review By Musicholic

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