Madonna has just announced the London dates of her super-intimate ‘Madame X Tour’, which promises to show a slightly different side to the singer than her usual lavish, arena-sized spectaculars. With this in mind, here are 10 unsung gems that the Queen of Pop could dust off to make the tour really pop.
This autobiographical ballad from 1989’s game-changing Like a Prayer album is one of Madonna’s finest, and she hasn’t performed it live since 1990’s ‘Blond Ambition World Tour’. If Madame X wants to get properly personal during her theatre gigs, ‘Oh Father’ should be her go-to song.
‘Justify My Love’
The sexually explicit video was banned by MTV, but the song itself is a trip-hop gem so erotic it’s practically pop viagra. Madonna hasn’t performed it live since 1993, and it would definitely lend itself to a theatrical and oh-so-provocative stage treatment.
Some fans think this cascading, Carpenters-esque ballad from 1992’s Erotica album is really about ejaculation. Others reckon it’s just a cute love song, but wouldn’t it be fun if Madonna kept us getting by singing it live again?
Though it was a hit in 1994, this sweet slowie – basically a super-reasonable break-up song – has been overlooked since, probably because it was recorded for the soundtrack to With Honors, a Joe Pesci/Brendan Fraser movie that no one really needs to see. Madonna has never performed it live, so it would definitely provide a “WTF?!” moment if she revived it now.
Folky R&B from 1994’s Bedtime Stories album, ‘Secret’ is a low-key beauty. Madonna sang it a few times on 2015’s ‘Rebel Heart Tour’, but it hasn’t been dusted off properly since 2001. And musically and thematically, it would segue perfectly into Madonna’s new, Swae Lee-assisted single ‘Crave’.
‘What It Feels Like for A Girl’
Surprisingly, this dreamy mid-tempo track from 2000’s Music album has only been performed live twice, at intimate launch gigs for the album. Nearly 20 years later, its wistful melodies and feminist lyrics are certainly worth revisiting. “When you open up your mouth to speak, could you be a little weak?” Madonna sings on the chorus, neatly encapsulating the way patriarchal society can encourage girls to make themselves seem smaller than they are.
‘Don’t Tell Me’
This country-flavoured bop, also from the Music album, is one of those Madonna songs that even non-fans begrudgingly say they like. Madonna performed ‘Don’t Tell Me’ with Miley Cyrus at the latter’s MTV Unplugged special in 2014, and then a few times on her last tour, but it hasn’t been a core part of her setlist since 2004. Given that peers including Kylie Minogue and Justin Timberlake have been incorporating country into their sound recently, it feels like the right time to bring it back. And wouldn’t it be great to see Madge in a cowboy hat again?
Despite being the American Life album’s second single (and a Number Two hit in the UK), Madonna has never performed this song on tour. Co-produced by Mirwais Ahmadzaï, who’s also Madonna’s main collaborator on Madame X, its unexpected blend of electro-pop and psych-folk still sounds totally fresh. And the lyrics, while not exactly deep, actually feel even more relevant today. “Music stations always play the same song, I’m bored with the concept of right and wrong,” Madonna sings on the bridge. Same, babes.
This euphoric highlight from 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor album (Madonna’s last masterpiece) anticipated the rise of EDM and still sounds massive 14 years later. Its lyrics look simple on paper (“Can we get together? I really, I really wanna be with you“) but capture the thrill of going out dancing and maybe hooking with someone just as effortlessly as ‘Into The Groove’ did two decades earlier.
‘Joan Of Arc’
It’s probably the best song from the Rebel Heart album, but Madonna performed it on the accompanying tour… once. Fans love it because it shows the steely pop queen at her most vulnerable and unvarnished, so it could create a real hairs-standing-on-end moment in an intimate setting.