With Madonna’s 12th studio album MDNA coming out next Monday, we’ve been thinking a lot about her Madjesty lately. After all, she’s one of the few pop stars you can call a genuine cultural force without risking hyperbole. Plus, she has dozens of songs—like dance music's definitive call-to-action “Into the Groove”—that make people without a musical bone in their body want to get up and shake.
In anticipation of her latest release, let’s take a look at Madonna’s 12 chart-topping singles. Surprisingly, her list of No. 1 hits doesn’t include some of her signature songs—“Material Girl” made it to No. 2 and “Ray of Light” to No.5—but it does somehow include “Who’s That Girl,” the theme to a panned 1987 movie she starred in.
Here are Madonna’s dozen No. 1 hits in chronological order:
“Like a Virgin" (1984)
The key word here is “like.” As in, “Similar To A Virgin.” But in 1984, at age 26, most definitely not.
“Crazy for You” (1985)
This gently come-hither ballad was one of two songs Madonna sang in her major film debut, Vision Quest.
"Live To Tell" (1986)
Madonna debuted her first major makeover in this music video, losing her street-chic jewelry and opting for a natural approach to beauty she said was inspired by Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe.
“Papa Don’t Preach” (1986)
It’s hard to understand why a song about “keeping my baby” got pro-lifers so riled up, but it’s easy to see why this string-laden dance single went No. 1.
“Open Your Heart” (1986)
Easily one of her most joyous hits, the video finds Madonna introducing a young rascal to the dubious pleasures of peepshows while exploring the roles of the watcher and the watched.
“Who’s That Girl” (1987)
Even though this song from the screwball comedy film of the same name hit the top of the pops, Madonna declined to include it on The Immaculate Collection. But it's better than that slight would lead you to believe.
“Like a Prayer” (1989)
Another controversial song that got religious groups fightin’ mad is now a universally beloved pop hit.
Aside from Golden Age Hollywood stars, the song was inspired by a dance craze in the New York gay underground club scene. In case you couldn’t tell from the video.
“Justify My Love” (1990)
MTV’s well-publicized ban on the S&M-filled music video sent this Public Enemy-sampling song—co-written by Lenny Kravitz—to the No. 1 spot.
“This Used to Be My Playground” (1992)
This ballad was her musical contribution to A League of Their Own, one of her best-received acting roles.
“Take a Bow” (1994)
Madonna’s longest-running No. 1 hit at seven weeks, and also one of her most gently vulnerable songs.
The last time Madonna hit the No. 1 spot was in 2000, when she had just given birth to her son Rocco. Oh, and Ali G is in the video, so apparently she was into him before it was cool Stateside.
Which is your favorite of the above tracks? I’d have to say it’s a toss-up between “Like a Prayer” and “Vogue” for me. What Madonna songs are you surprised to learn didn’t hit the top spot on the charts?