In 2012, to mark her 25 years a pop star, Kylie Minogue embarked upon a small tour of intimate venues playing only b-sides, album tracks and rarities. This ‘anti-tour’, was the complete opposite of anything Kylie, known for her wow-wow-wow-wow shows in huge arenas, had ever done before. Basically, it was a fanboy’s dream.
Since then, I’ve spent far more time than is probably healthy, thinking about what a Madonna ‘anti-tour’ should look like.
Madonna Louise Ciccone, is quite honestly the greatest pop star to ever exist. Her back-catalogue is unrivaled and her tours place her head and shoulders above pretty much everybody else.
As fans, we are lucky (stars) – not just for having such incredible taste in music – but because when Madonna tours, she’s usually promoting a new album and the setlists are very new song-heavy. More casual fans aren’t always happy but then quite frankly, if you’re at a Madonna concert to see Like a Virgin, you don’t deserve music, or happiness.
Because of this, Madonna, over her 32 years on top, has performed most of her songs, so my dream anti-tour focuses on ones she has never done or rarely revisits. I had one rule when creating this – the songs had to be available on Spotify, so that I could make a Spotify playlist to acompany this post. And here it is:
Best Night (Rebel Heart album)
“You can call me M tonight…” would be a brilliant opening line for a Madonna concert. For that reason alone, I’m starting with Best Night. I was surprised that she didn’t use this to open the Rebel Heart tour. Although the Iconic opening was iconic so I’ll forgive.
Cherish (Like a Prayer album)
This is my ‘absolutely must see Madonna sing it live at some point’ song. It is also the song I want as the first dance at my wedding. It used to be the Home and Away theme tune, but I recently saw someone on Don’t Tell The Bride have that, so now I can’t. So Cherish has been bumped up to the top spot.
No song in the world better sums up the pure euphoria of being head-over-heels in joyful love. “Romeo and Juliet they never felt this way I bet so don’t underestimate my point of view.”
One More Chance (Something To Remember album)
I’ve always imagined that this song was inspired by Princess Diana at her lowest point. I have no proof of that, but if they ever make a Diana film that isn’t terrible, they should definitely use this in a montage as she prepares for the Martin Bashir interview.
I debated a long time about whether to pick this or You’ll See. In an ideal world, she’d do both but the world is cruel and cold and full of Donald Trump and Brexit, so we don’t get nice things.
Ghosttown (Rebel Heart album)
Operator: “Hello Emergency Services, how can I help?”
Me: “I’d like to report a hate crime, please”
Operator: “What happened?”
Me: “Madonna did not include Ghosttown on the full set-list for the Rebel Heart Tour even though it is her best song and video since Hung Up and a high point of the album that she claims to be touring with.”
…is what I should have done until she was legally required to include it every night of the tour. Instead she did it sporadically in the ‘random amazing song’ spot. It deserved stability.
American Life (American Life album)
Dear Jessie (Like a Prayer album)
Don’t blame me for this. I asked Twitter which songs they’d put on a Madonna anti-tour set list and Dear Jessie was one of the most popular choices. So this is on you. Own your choices.
He’s a Man (I’m Breathless soundtrack)
Not all blonde pop-stars, famed for their constant reinvention can produce jazz-inspired albums and make them interesting and listenable. Luckily, Madonna can.
I’m Breathless is bonkers and brilliant and narrowing down just one song was more difficult than I’d anticipated. I went with He’s A Man because Madonna’s vocal is much stronger post-Evita and this revisited could be quite special.
Sanctuary (Bedtime Stories album)
If I could pick one Madonna album for her to perform from start to finish, it would be the massively slept-upon Bedtime Stories (pun very much intended).
It is the only Madonna studio album that did not get its own tour – or a starring role in another tour and I’m aggrieved. We’ve had Human Nature reappear regularly on Madonna setlists, Secret has popped up, and Bedtime Story has been interluded but Take A Bow (her longest running number 1 in America) was ignored for over 20 years and then only appeared once or twice, randomly on the Rebel Heart tour.
Before this becomes a #JusticeForBedtimeStories blog (which I’m sure will happen soon), I’ll talk to you about the song I’d most like to see on an anti-tour. Sanctuary.
Listening back with hindsight, Sanctuary was an early indication of the direction Madonna would take on Ray of Light and beyond. It’s a little bit Mer Girl, with a touch of To Have And Not to Hold, and there’s even a little bit of Frozen in there. It’s dark, reflective, ethereal and gorgeous.
Where’s the Party (True Blue album)
Like Sanctuary, Where’s The Party plays an important role in the evolution of Madonna. It was the first song she wrote and produced with Patrick Leonard. The two would go on to create some of the greatest music ever put to record – Like A Prayer, True Blue, La Isla Bonita, etc… For that alone, I want the opportunity to stand up and loudly applaud this song.
‘Til Death Do Us Part (Like a Prayer album)
‘Til Death Do Us Part encapsulates the Madonna magic. Seemingly throwaway, upbeat production and casual vocals, delivering intensely personal, dark and emotional content. It’s crying on the dancefloor beautiful in the vein of Dancing On My Own or basically anything ABBA.
Madonna and Sean Penn’s relationship always seemed dramatic. It was only when Madonna opened up on ‘Til Death Do Us Part that it became clear quite how dramatic it was; “The bruises they will fade away. You hit so hard with the words you say. I will not stay to watch the hate as it grows. You’re not in love with someone else. You don’t even love yourself. Still I wish you’d ask me not to go.”
The Like a Prayer album was once described by Rolling Stone as “…as close to art as pop music gets.”. With songs like ‘Til Death Do Us Part, it’s easy to see why.
To Have And Not To Hold (Ray of Light album)
There is a simplicity and innocence in this tale of longing that makes me desperate to see M sing it on stage, just her, a spotlight, and an acoustic guitar.
Rescue Me (The Immaculate Collection)
I bet you have a copy of The Immaculate Collection in your house. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody that doesn’t. It is probably the greatest compilation album of all time – even with some choice edits and missing bangers.
One of two new tracks on the album, Rescue Me was overshadowed by Justify My Love. It is time we gave it its moment in the sun – if just for those “hey hey” ad-libs at the end.
I F***ed Up (MDNA album)
Madonna is often introspective, often incredibly honest about her emotions, but very rarely does she admit that she was wrong.
The “we could have bought a house with a swimming pool, filled it up with bubbles, it would have been so cool…” is one of my favourite bits of any Madonna song ever and I don’t care who knows it. And when it finishes and Best Friend begins, it is too much for me to take.
Booty Pop (Madonna’s iconic Instagram account)
Madonna’s Instagram account is…. interesting. For one of the most photographed women in the world who has spent over thirty years controlling every element of her image, it’s endearing and infuriating to see her seemingly unable to know how to take a photograph. Still, there’s no way we could accuse her of having a digital comms agency managing her online presence.
But, it all became worth it on 20 June 2013 when Madonna decided to post a shaky 15 second video of herself dancing in her bathroom singing “booty pop, booty, pop, booty booty booty pop something something something addicted to sweat”.
Better than at least a third of Hard Candy, Booty Pop needs to be on the next Madonna album and the next tour needs this Instagram post repeated exactly as is.
Causing a Commotion (Who’s That Girl? soundtrack)
Every single tour, there’s talk about Causing a Commotion being included, there’s always a rumour that it’s being rehearsed, and then opening night comes and it is nowhere to be seen. EVERY. SINGLE. TOUR. For that reason alone, I need Madonna to stop teasing us and just do it.
Over and Over (Like a Virgin album)
Madonna often uses her music to give a big f-you to people telling her to quit, to put more clothes on, to act more ‘appropriately’ (whatever that means) but the more they do, the more Madonna she becomes.
Human Nature and Don’t Tell Me are the more famous, but Over and Over was the first. With lines like, “you’re never gonna see my standing still. I’m never gonna stop til I get my fill” and “you try to critise my drive, if I lose I don’t feel paralysed”, it feels more relevant than ever.
Promise to Try (Like a Prayer album)
There is a rawness and honesty that takes it from a beautiful ballad to a piece of art – seeing her perform this in an intimate setting would be something to remember, even if it wasn’t included on Something to Remember.
Madonna on Promise to Try serves the greatest vocal performance of any singer. Ever. Apart from potentially Victoria Beckham on Holler.
Bad Girl (Erotica album)
Madonna is queen of the pop ballads. Let’s never forget that. And Bad Girl is one of her best. It’s time she stopped ignoring it.
This Used To Be My Playground (A League of Their Own soundtrack)
When Madonna records a song for a soundtrack, you know she’s about to deliver. Crazy For You, Beautiful Stranger, Die Another Day, Time Stood Still etc.
This Used To Be My Playground is her best song for a soundtrack. And A League Of Their Own deserved all of the Oscars.
Like a Prayer (Like a Prayer album)
Whilst this mega-hit doesn’t fit into the ‘rarities’ category, it is THE GREATEST SONG OF ALL TIME and every Madonna concert should include it. Actually, all concerts should include Like a Prayer. In fact, let’s just get it over and done with and make Like a Prayer the national anthem.