It’s hard to believe that at the beginning of 1982, the world didn’t know who Madonna was. She would soon come to dominate the next three and a half decades, changing the landscape of pop music with her chart-topping singles, boundary-pushing music videos and Broadway-caliber concerts. Indeed, 35 years ago it all started with Madonna’s first ever single, “Everybody.” To celebrate its anniversary, L.A. Weekly has chosen the Material Girl’s top 20 best singles. (Ed. note: The list is not based on chart success.)
20. “Miles Away” (2008)
The third single from Madonna’s Hard Candy album may not have gotten much radio play, but it is quintessential Madonna. Co-produced and co-written by Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, the song foreshadowed things to come in Madonna’s marriage to then-husband Guy Ritchie. “When I’m gone, you realize/That I’m the best thing that happened to you,” she sings atop one of Timbaland’s signature beats.
19. “Ghosttown” (2015)
The second single from Madonna’s most recent album, Rebel Heart, is a beautiful, edgy ballad with a chorus so catchy it’ll be stuck in your head for days. The song surely would have been a huge smash for a younger pop star, but alas radio showed it no love. Even Diplo, who co-produced “Rebel Heart” but not “Ghosttown” (Jason Evigan helmed this one), told Rolling Stone, “No one seems to want [Madonna] to succeed. … ‘Ghosttown’ was a guaranteed No. 1 for anyone else but she didn’t get a fair shot.” The music video, which featured a beautiful tango with co-star Terrence Howard, just adds to the majesty of the song.
18. “Papa Don’t Preach” (1986)
While “Like a Virgin” definitely stirred some controversy two years prior, no one was expecting pop music’s It girl to release a song about a woman telling her father that she’s pregnant and choosing (key word) to keep the baby. As Madonna told Rolling Stone in 2009, “[The song] just fit right in with my own personal zeitgeist of standing up to male authorities, whether it’s the pope or the Catholic Church or my father and his conservative, patriarchal ways.” Produced by longtime collaborator Stephen Bray and released as the first single off the True Blue album, “Papa Don’t Preach” showed the world that Madonna was ready to talk about more than being a Material Girl.