Madonna Strikes Back with GHV2

GHV2 is the four-letter title of Madonna’s newest greatest hits collection. It was another four-letter word though, an expletive at that, which sent her popularity and career as a mainstream singer into a tailspin in 1992, exactly where this retrospective collection of her music begins.

After reaching her commercial and popular zenith with her Blonde Ambition Tour, Madonna decided to not just push the envelope but rip it apart with her exhibitionistic SEX book.

What exactly did Madonna accomplish in the 1990’s ? She was neither a favorite of teenagers or a media darling anymore. With the exception of henna tattoos, cowboy hats, and Kaballah-inspired red wrist strings, her expensive fashions didn’t resonate on the streets as they once did. Instead, she searched the underground music scene for hot, unheard-of musicians and brought them on board to help her produce new work that ranged from dabbling in Sanskrit to Spanish pop and country sounds.

So despite all of the S&M, the public backlash, and the critical lambasting that she endured in the early 1990’s, her power to create music worthy of her iconic stature remained intact as this best-of disc proves. Madonna’s music prevailed on the radio, on the sales charts, and especially in the clubs with 27 #1’s to her dance floor credit.

The first two tracks on GHV2, “Deeper and Deeper” and “Erotica” were the mega-hits that never were. Heralded by critics as being capable of matching the greatness of “Vogue,” the two tracks were quickly forgotten when the SEX book was released. “Deeper and Deeper,” a fan favorite, continues to gravitate people to the dance floor with its disco rhythms, as “Erotica” has yet to meet its counterpart from today’s so-called sex kittens with its Eastern sounds and dark and sexually enticing lyrics.

While Madonna fought off the onslaught of grunge and gangster-rap in the early 1990’s, she nevertheless soaked her sounds in neo-soul long before it was popular with her underrated “Bedtime Stories” album. The public and the media barely took notice of her musical development. Thanks to producers like Dallas Austin and Babyface who helped her co-write the soul-stirring “Secret” and the classic “Take A Bow,” respectively, she remained successful on the musical front.

The most interesting part about this time period was her low-key persona; gracing only a handful of magazines, Madonna herself had a brief, clandestine relationship with 2Pac. An ultra-rare, never released version of “I’d Rather Be Your Lover” circulating among die-hard fans includes 2Pac rapping with Madonna.

“Human Nature” is the most disappointing track on GHV2 because of its lame radio edit which eliminates the song’s catch phrase “I’m not your bitch/don’t hang your s**t on me.” So much for expressing yourself, it seems either Madonna has lost her bollocks since tying the knot with Guy Ritchie or Warner Brothers badly needed a big fourth quarter release with this album.

Oddities lie in GHV2, like having the Evita anthem “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” being followed by the Bjork-penned “Bedtime Story” which marked Madonna’s first foray into the world of electronica, a music genre she brought into the mainstream with her comeback album “Ray Of Light.”

A little hard on the ears on the radio in 1998, “Frozen” and “Ray Of Light” have become Madonna classics by now. Also featured on the album is the perfect retro-pop confection, “Beautiful Stranger,” which juxtaposes her trip-hop light “Drowned World/Substitute For Love,” a moody UK top 10 hit where she laments her trading of love for fame.

A testament to her record-making power, the album leaves a bit to be desired with the glaring omissions of “I’ll Remember,” “Bad Girl,” and “Rain.” In this age of CD-burning, mp3-swappers seem to be the best solution to capturing Madonna’s eclectic 1990s sounds.

When all is said and done with Madonna, it all lies in the final track on the album, “Music.” She probably will never be an Oscar-winning actress, and that’s a good thing, music is where her powers lay, even during her low points.