Welcome to the fifth and final installment of my Madonna series! For Part 1: An Introduction, click here. For Part 2: Tracks 1-4, click here. For Part 3: Tracks 5-8, click here. For Part 4: Tracks 9-13, click here.
Of course, Madonna is well-known for drawing inspiration from other people--Marilyn Monroe in the “Material Girl” video (Like a Virgin), Andy Warhol on the cover of True Blue, ABBA on “Hung Up,” and so forth. Why should she not also reference herself, then? After the success of Ray of Light, Madonna became much better at doing this, perhaps because she had integrated her previous work and was fully self-actualized for the first time in her life. Prominent examples show up in obvious places, such as when she was on The Confessions Tour and folded part of the chorus of “Where’s the Party” into “Music” (Music) for an interesting mash-up. Sometimes, though, it is harder to determine at first blush. There are not always easy answers, like when a semi-continuation of “Borderline” (Madonna) makes an appearance in “Push” (Confessions on a Dance Floor).
To this day, however, Ray of Light remains the best synthesis of Madonna’s early career as well as an indication of what would come in the future. Rich Cohen argues that “Fashioning images: images that riff on Scripture, images that riff on junk, images that riff on other images--that’s been her genius.” But for this listener, it is Madonna’s ability to riff on herself that defines her. Confessions on a Dance Floor may be the best distillation of her musical efforts, but Ray of Light is a greater definition of who Madonna is, has been, and will be.
Thanks for reading along! I hope you enjoyed this commentary, and I'd love to hear what you think about it. Comment below or e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org.