en: Madonna (Madonna album) [info]
Released to coincide with Madonna's latest album MDNA, this set compiles the singer's preceding 11 studio collections at a very affordable price (generally around the £25 mark). It's a no-frills affair - CDs are housed in cardboard sleeves that won't stand up to house-party punishment - but for the value it represents, The Complete Studio Albums is something of a no-brainer purchase for the Madonna newcomer.
If such a pop fan exists, that is; a more likely customer for this set is someone whose Madonna collection exists largely on vinyl and cassette, and who can now upgrade for a minimal outlay. Those wanting a greatest hits package are advised to stick to the tried-and-tested Immaculate Collection of 1990, with its pair of compilation-exclusive singles (Rescue Me and Justify My Love) and the Dick Tracy soundtrack cut Vogue - these three singles are absent here. Those searching for Into the Groove, from Desperately Seeking Susan, will come away disappointed too.
But to focus on what's not here is to miss the point: this is pop history, a document of the most powerful female force in the music industry as she began her ascent, achieved superstar status, overcame a couple of hiccups, and ultimately landed in the 00s as every fledgling pop idol's ultimate mother figure. Holiday (from her eponymous debut album, listed to the left) was her first track to break the UK charts, in 1983, and did so in style, stalling just a single slot shy of the top spot.
Madonna's bubblegum charm, balanced by an innate sexiness that'd become a little too brazen on a couple of LPs, continued from 1984's Borderline to 1989's Express Yourself, the latter from the Like a Prayer album. It's this record which truly marks Madonna's progression from bouncy pop pin-up to credible artist able to breach multiple demographics, as Oh Father presents a richer vocal and confessional, emotionally wrought lyricism.
Only 1998's William Orbit-helmed Ray of Light, with its fantastic lead single Frozen, touches Like a Prayer for consistency; but there are great moments spread across her 00s albums. Music's title track is a radical reinvention piece of grinding future-funk - some achievement given Madonna has never slouched in adopting a chameleonic approach to her craft - and Hard Candy's 4 Minutes proves that a then-50-year-old Madonna can more than hold her own against a younger, hipper star like Justin Timberlake. Evergreen and always evolving, this dynamic talent is likely to forever be essential.