The Immaculate Collection
Like A Virgin
Crazy For You
Into The Groove
Live To Tell
Papa Don’t Preach
Open Your Heart
La Isla Bonita
Like A Prayer
Justify My Love
Released: November 13, 1990
The Royal Box
On January 1, 1991 a box set entitled The Royal Box was released which included either a Cassette/VHS (US-only) or Satin CD Digipak/VHS (US, Germany/UK) with additional postcards and poster. The VHS version also included the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards performance of “Vogue”; this was not included on the regular VHS release.
By the late 1990s, and after twenty million copies had been sold, the Guinness Book of World Records declared The Immaculate Collection to be the biggest selling ‘hits’ compilation album by a solo female artist and was placed in several “albums of the millennium” lists. In 2003, the album was ranked number 278 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In November 2006, the album was confirmed by the British Phonographic Industry to be the biggest selling album by a solo female artist in British history, and the tenth biggest selling album of all time in the UK by any artist.
Singles & Album Artwork:
The Liner Notes: Gene Sculatti
“The Coolest Queen of White Heat”…”An outrageous blend of Little Orphan Annie,Margaret Thatcher and Mae West”…”Narcissistic, brazen, comic…the Goddess of the Nineties…” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s been said about Madonna since she arrived in 1983. The complete press file would probably yield enough recyclable pulp to keep what’s left of the Amazon rain forest from the saw for several months. And yet, in all that ink and column inches, most of what’s been written has addressed the she looks, acts, earns, and conducts her personal life.
A breathless TIME cover story, for example, concluded with four pages devoted to Madonna’s comments on 22 pithy topics the magazine had chosen -everything from Fame to Femininity to Parents, Virginity, Catholicism and Belly Buttons. Apparently, TIME’s editors didn’t think anyone cared to read what Madonna had to say about her specialty, the preeminent thing it is that she makes: Music.
In the years since, the ensuing hoopla has fogged the issue of Madonna’s music. It’s easy to forget that before her hit singles become Events, they were great records, the best of which hit pop’s cosmic G-spot, got a groove, and literally shook the world. Collected in one place and listened to as a body of work, those records 1) document the musical career-in-progress of an artist with an uncommon capacity for growth and change, and 2) sound as good as, and often immeasurably better, than ever.
The party started officially in October 1982, when Sire Records released a 12-inch of “Everybody.” (Those who choose to see Madonna as a self-image mongerer might be surprised to learn that her likeness doesn’t even appear on the sleeve of this first record.) It wasn’t until almost a year later that Madonna really “broke”, with the joyous “Holiday.” Cougar and Culture Club were hot, the Police and Abba were cooling, and the marriage of New Wave and disco, hastily arranged by England’s New Romantics, was on the rocks. Onto this scene burst the two records that, by and large, invented what came to be called Dance Music: Shannon’s “Let The Music Play” and “Holiday.” The former turned the beat around with tough poly-rhythms, and the latter simply rocked – gently but insistently – with melodic sweetness and a “girl” playfully sending out party invites (“Everybody spread the word…we’re gonna have a celebration”). A synth burbles like some like some superfresh tributary of the Fountain of Youth and the girl, sexy and sure of herself, beckons us to “take one day out of life” ’cause we need that holiday, “Oh yeah, oh yeah.”
It’s irresistible pop, and easily one of the most persuasive Let’s-get-lost songs ever sung. “Holiday” and the string of Madonna dance classics that followed – 1984′s sinewy, astro-bodied “Lucky Star” and “Borderline” (at Number Ten, her last single not to go Top Five) and 1985′s 12-inch anthem, “Into The Groove” – virtually defined the Eighties’ emerging sound. It was black-rooted, dressed sharp in custom production, physically attractive. “Star” and “Groove” and “Dress You Up” and the rest forced radio to devise a whole new format to accommodate them (“Hot” or “Power” Radio, depending on where you listened). As Power flowered, the arrival of each new Dance Music hitmaker raised audience expectations about the genre’s prime mover and shaker: what would Madonna do next?
Her first Number One single, crowned the third week of November ’84, gave an unequivocal answer. “Like A Virgin” shocked some, intrigued others, and succeeded so thoroughly as an across-the-board pop smash (six weeks at the top) that it rendered the whole competition issue moot. From now on, this “shiny and new,” coolly understated single announced, Madonna records would confound all expectations, including those set by previous Madonna records. Like “Material Girl.” The infectious, neo-Blue Beat romp resembles no other Madonna music before or since. Here, she comes on at once coquettish and self-determined, hence tantalizingly unreadable. Which probably explains the intense heat the disc drew once it hit (i.e., considerably more than Randy Newman’s unmistakably facetious “Short People” encountered a few years earlier). What to make of “Material Girl”‘s bucks based dialect? It’s anyone’s guess, but we ought to note that by third verse she’s counting her wealth in “experience,” and that the end toward which she’s been justifying her means turns out to be pretty benign and thoroughly pop: Boy Attraction (“and now they’re after me”). Roots bonus: when she chirps “That’s right!” and “No way” on the second and fourth verses, she sounds uncannily like Lou Christie fading on “Two Faces Have I”(1963)
“Material”‘s unlikely follow-up, the VISION QUEST ballad “Crazy For You” that Madonna treats with exceptional tenderness and a tinge of Country, presages a quartet of innovative, radiantly sung singles from her underrated 1986 TRUE BLUE album. She had a hand in writing all four highly dissimilar tracks. “La Isla Bonita” is as light and wistful as “Open Your Heart” is taut and determined. Both pivot from the subtlest of hooks into killer choruses, the former swelling and ebbing like some Tropic tide, the latter driving like hard rain: “Don’t try to run,” she warns the unresponsive guy of her dreams, “I can keep up with you…” While the majestic “Like A Prayer” dwarfs it for sheer scope, “Papa Don’t Preach” certainly ranks as one of Madonna’s most compelling dramatic performances. She flat-out sells the song – from the inside – in a way that would have been unthinkable a year earlier. A new maturity is evident too in “Live To Tell.” Her voice, full with loss and longing, sweeps across the stark arrangement of distant synth chords and lone guitar figures, seeking, holding secrets. “…It will burn inside of me….”
Nearly two years pass between 1987′s “Who That Girl” and the three LIKE A PRAYER hits. The album, which critics waste no time in proclaiming Madonna’s most frankly personal, even “confessional,” yields more surprises-foremost among them a head-on confrontation with Catholicism and re-embracing of her R&B roots. The title track doesn’t just appropriate religious images: the words, and Madonna’s impassioned delivery, actually sound Spirit-driven, rising from a whisper to a wailing soundwall. It keeps on pushin’. Only Madonna and co-writer Patrick Leonard know whether the song’s theme is the redemptive power of romantic love or the Holy Ghost gig, or both (check the video). Either way, “Like A Prayer” Takes You There.
Madonna has called “Express Yourself” a tribute to Sly & The Family Stone, and it’s surely her deepest soul dig since “Lucky Star.” “You don’t need a diamond ring /Or 18 carat gold,” the one-time Material Girl sings, recommending truth and self respect (“Don’t go for second best , baby”) as infinitely better investments. “Cherish,” the third single from LIKE A PRAYER, simply swings. Credit Madonna’s sunlit vocals and valentine lyrics. The Shirelles and Chiffons never had benefit of a better couplet than “Romeo and Juliet/They never felt this way I bet.” A true tonic, “Cherish” bounces along as if it had the power to lift the darkest heart. If there’s ever a successor to YOU CAN DANCE (the seamlessly segued anthology of Madonna dance mixes from ’87), “Cherish” belongs there, in perpetual play, a joyous little whirl without end, amen
Originally, the stylish “Vogue,” her most recent Number One, was to have closed this collection. Of course it’s here: the epochal dance-pose track is still inspiring musically (and video) imitations even as we write. Fittingly, the final honors now go to two just-cut Madonna originals, the dark and hauntingly poetic “Rescue Me.” Writer-singer Lenny Kravitz was Madonna’s partner on “Justify My Love.”
Putting a lid on a collection of Madonna’s greatest hits is a risky business at best. Like no other singer (or writer or producer) in recent memory, she continues to demonstrate an uncompromising commitment (hell, maybe an obsession) to never stay put. The experience of honoring that commitment has made the Material Girl “rich.” It has also enriched popular music as a whole – pushing it to new limits, pulling apart preconceptions about what it can say and do. Best of all, there’s our experience of the music she’s made, itself so rich in wit and emotion, and so abundant with the undisguised joy she has taken in making it. That’s one secret she’s never been able to keep.
allmusic.com — by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
On the surface, the single-disc hits compilation The Immaculate Collection appears to be a definitive retrospective of Madonna’s heyday in the ’80s. After all, it features 17 of Madonna’s greatest hits, from “Holiday” and “Like a Virgin” to “Like a Prayer” and “Vogue.” However, looks can be deceiving. It’s true that The Immaculate Collection contains the bulk of Madonna’s hits, but there are several big hits that aren’t present, including “Angel,” “Dress You Up,” “True Blue,” “Who’s That Girl,” and “Causing a Commotion.” The songs that are included are frequently altered. Everything on the collection is remastered in Q-sound, which gives an exaggerated sense of stereo separation that often distorts the original intent of the recordings. Furthermore, several songs are faster than their original versions and some are faded out earlier than either their single or album versions, while others are segued together. In other words, while all the hits are present, they’re simply not in their correct versions. Nevertheless, The Immaculate Collection remains a necessary purchase, because it captures everything Madonna is about and it proves that she was one of the finest singles artists of the ’80s. Until the original single versions are compiled on another album, The Immaculate Collection is the closest thing to a definitive retrospective.