Madge offers fans her ultimate collection of hits – minus a few songs

LUCKY STAR | Madonna’s retrospective of hits is as much a dance party as it is a reminder of her huge impact on pop music.

4.5 stars out of 5
Sire Records

For the average fan, Celebration will be welcomed as a satisfactory collection of hits spanning Madonna’s early, rag-tag days to her current status as pop music icon. That fan might consider Celebration as a complete and thorough retrospective of her musical career.

But it may not satisfy the die-hards.

Madonna’s double-disc of 34 hits has some minor misses. In fact, any criticism of Celebration might just sound nitpicky, but being the premiere artist she is, why not offer one huge collection of all her singles? No one is claiming this is a definitive greatest hits CD, but its marketing onslaught sure makes it feel like one.

The usual suspects are all present, while surprise inclusions like "Burning Up" and "Die Another Day" give the album some nice flavor. But if those songs are making the cut, couldn’t she have given us "Spotlight," "Angel" and "This Used To Be My Playground?"

See what I mean? Nitpicky.

It’s not a slap in the face to omit songs like "Causing a Commotion" or "You’ll See," but if you have her first two greatest hits and her ballad collection (Something To Remember) … well, you’re kind of set.

These songs are digitally re-mastered and her older work benefits beautifully from it. The string intro to "Papa Don’t Preach" is pristine and morphs into a song with more musical complexity than it ever let on. The bassline and keyboards in "Borderline" now give the song a lush depth whereas before it sounded like a song on a budget.

"Justify My Love" doesn’t retain its QSound 3D music effect from its original 1990 version but that’s no matter. The brilliance of the song’s construction still keeps it steamy and it’s re-mastering enhances the bass beat any hooptie with an upgraded subwoofer would be proud of.

Her songs aren’t laid out chronologically — an unusual choice. Part of what makes The Immaculate Collection great is hearing Madonna mature over the course of the tracks. Her GHV2 was a horrible mess of chopped down versions; "Ray of Light" and "Frozen" moved over to Celebration in the same form. Heck, "4 Minutes" isn’t even that long.

But the two new songs included here, "Celebration" and "Revolver," are just what she needed. Madge was verging on desperate with her last album, Hard Candy. With these songs, she delivers solid trademark dance songs.

Madonna started out as the dance pop princess. Here, she reminds us that she’s the queen.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 2, 2009.
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