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Madonna‘s had an impressive array of No. 1 songs, but she’s also had something rarer: an impressive array of No. 2 songs. Some of her defining hits just missed the top spot. Here’s a nostalgic look back at some of the Queen Pop’s best musical (and music video) moments.

1. ‘Material Girl’

Considering “Material Girl”‘s great new wave beat and iconic music video inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, it would have been a hit regardless of its lyrics. The song is a cute satire of Reagan-era values that’s light enough to be taken at face value. Because some listeners did take it at face value, the song has been used to paint Madonna as shallow and greedy.

The track hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. While the charts are never fair, that placement feels like a real insult. After all, what song defined the 1980s more than “Material Girl?”

2. ‘Frozen’

While Madonna initially became famous for bubblegum pop, her music only grew more mature with time. Case in point: “Frozen.” One of the most psychologically complex tunes of her career, the instrumentation is hauntingly beautiful. The full version of the tune is over six minutes long and it doesn’t waste a second. Sometimes, great pop songs need to be long to let listeners truly delve into their textures.

Any discussion of “Frozen” would be incomplete without mentioning its video. In one of her best moments, Madonna transformed herself into a mournful sorceress. While other 1990s groups were making hideous videos, “Frozen” belongs in the Louvre.

3. ‘Express Yourself’

Funk wasn’t a big part of Madonna’s sound, but the album Like a Prayer proved that Madonna knew her way around the genre. The singles “Express Yourself” and “Keep It Together” are two of her best. Of the two songs, “Express Yourself” has a broader appeal. Its empowering lyrics helped Madonna down the path to becoming one of the biggest feminist icons of her era.

The music video for “Express Yourself” might be her best, as it recasts the silent classic Metropolis as a psychosexual allegory. Prior to that, Madonna made great MTV fodder. With the clip for “Express Yourself,” she proved she could make art.

4. ‘Cherish’

The album Like a Prayer has plenty of provocative moments, but “Cherish” is just sweet. The lyric “Romeo and Juliet, they never felt this way I bet” was made for a 1950s malt shoppe. It’s fun, but Madonna explored this style of music more adeptly with her earlier single “True Blue.”

The black-and-white music video for “Cherish” is simple enough, featuring Madonna frolicking on the beach alongside some mermen. More than anything, it feels like a frivolous version of the sexy, seaside clip for Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” Its unexpected use of mermen also prefigures Harry Styles’ “Music for a Sushi Restaurant.”

5. ‘Causing a Commotion’

Here’s the only song on this list that you’ll never hear on the radio. In terms of quality, “Causing a Commotion” feels less like a Madonna song and more like a song from one of Madonna’s lesser imitators. Maybe Tiffany should have put it out as a B-side for “I Think We’re Alone Now.”


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It doesn’t have one of Madonna’s better hooks and it’s from the flop movie Who’s That Girl. Who’s That Girl is bad enough that even bad movie fans tend to ignore it. Madonna should be happy about that since her acting left a lot to be desired.