With an outrageous career immersed in tabloid scandal and controversy it’s sometimes easy to forget the musical body of work that Madonna has created over the years. It has spanned almost three decades of our lives and created an unforgettable soundtrack to our heartbreaks, relationships and dance-floor ecstasy.

In 1983, after performing on US television’s American Bandstand, a then largely unknown Madonna told host Dick Clark that she wanted “to rule the world.” And in many ways she has done just that.

The numbers speak for themselves: She is undisputedly the most successful solo touring artist of all time; her 2008/2009 Sticky and Sweet tour earning $408 million. Her latest track, Celebration, became her 40th Number One single on Billboard’s Dance Play Charts – more than any artist in the history of the chart. And, depending on your sources, she is the biggest-selling female musical artist in history – selling up to 200 million records around the world.

Her new greatest hits compendium is titled Celebration and consists of a massive 36 tracks and, as befitting a multimedia artist of Madonna’s stature, a companion double DVD boasts an astounding 47 music videos, many groundbreaking and some never released on DVD before. (Remarkably, there are still videos that never made it onto the list – from the stunning Oh Father, and the animated Dear Jessie to the notorious anti-war American Life.)

In honour of the release of Celebration, we take a look at just some of the highlights in Madonna’s music and video career.

Burning Up (1983)

The earliest of Madonna’s music videos on Celebration and her second after Everybody (not included in the DVD collection), Burning Up gave us a good idea of what to expect in the future. Here a young Madge rolls around in the middle of a road all-aflame with desire. “Unlike the others I’d do anything, I’m not the same, I have no shame. I’m on fire.” It’s glorious 80’s pop cheese at its best but you never for a moment doubt that she means every word.

Like a Virgin (1984) / Material Girl (1985)

These two tracks from her massive-selling album Like A Virgin were to haunt Madonna for the rest of her career. She is still known as The Material Girl today. Though overplayed, the songs are classic Madonna hits that reflect the virgin/whore dichotomy that she would regularly play with in her music and imagery in years to come. The music video for Material Girl is a testament to her fascination with Marilyn Monroe; it’s a homage to that star’s performance of Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend from the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Into the Groove (1985)

One of the most contagious of Madonna’s songs; if this doesn’t make you want to dance then you aren’t human. Into the Groove established an ongoing theme in her music – the freedom and release that can be found on the dance floor. Some have speculated that dancing is a metaphor for masturbation and sex in the song: “At night I lock the doors, where no one else can see. I’m tired of dancing here all by myself. Tonight I wanna dance with someone else.” The song was featured in the film Desperately Seeking Susan, in which Madonna starred to much acclaim.

Open Your Heart (1986)

The fourth single off the album True Blue, Open Your Heart was Madonna’s most controversial music video at that point in her career. Styled along the lines of Marlene Dietrich and Liza Minnelli, Madonna – portraying a stripper in a peep show – pleads for her love to open his heart; all to a driving beat. And then, she simply insists on it: “I’ll make you love me,” she sings. The video is presented from Madonna’s perspective and subverts its porno theme by depicting the leering men as perverse voyeurs. Most controversially at the time, Madonna ends the video by lightly kissing a teenage boy on the lips and running off with him into the night.

La Isla Bonita (1987)

With La Isla Bonita (The Beautiful Island), Madonna introduced a latino sensibility and sound into her music for the first time – something that she would repeat in the future, both musically and visually. The song, featuring Cuban drums, Spanish guitars, maracas and Madonna’s haunting vocals, was originally intended for Michael Jackson, who apparently turned it down. Madonna rewrote some of the lyrics and made it her own, describing La Isla Bonita as a tribute to the “beauty and mystery of Latin American people”.

Like A Prayer (1989)

The first single off the Like a Prayer album heralded a Madonna with stronger vocals, more confident lyric-writing and an unprecedented level of controversy. The song itself is heavenly – a mix of pop-rock topped with a soaring gospel choir. It also initiated us into Madonna’s fascination with Catholic heresy and motifs. The music video – complete with the brunette diva dancing in front of burning crosses, bearing stigmata and kissing a black saint – premiered on MTV to a media and public frenzy. It was promptly banned in South Africa. Pepsi, who had shot a separate commercial with Madonna featuring the song before seeing the controversial video, canned their ad. Madonna kept the $5 million dollar fee. Like a Prayer was chosen as number 300 out of the 500 best songs of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2004.

Express Yourself (1989)

Madonna struts her girl power, long before the Spice Girls made an appearance. This power pop song thematically harkens back to Aretha Franklin’s Respect. Madge advises all the girls (and boys) out there not to settle for second best. “You deserve the best in life, So if the time isn’t right then move on. Second best is never enough, You’ll do much better baby on your own.” Directed by David Fincher (Fight Club) and inspired by the classic sci-fi film Metropolis, the music video depicts Madonna as the mistress of an underworld of hunky bare-chested men; at times she’s dressed in a man’s suit, at others she’s chained naked to her bed. Its multi-million dollar budget made it the most expensive music video in history at the time and it’s widely rated as one of the best in the medium.

Vogue (1990)

Included on a faux soundtrack “inspired” by the film Dick Tracy, but not actually used in the film, Vogue was another call to the dance floor by Madonna. The song captures the lofty aspirations to glamour and freedom by the predominantly poor black and Latino gay men who performed the Vogue dancing style, inspired by Hollywood stars, in underground New York clubs. “When all else fails and you long to be, Something better than you are today, I know a place where you can get away, It’s called a dance floor, and here’s what it’s for…” Vogue remains a dance floor classic and was the biggest selling single in her career at the time. The slick black and white music video featured her Blond Ambition tour dancers and was also directed by David Fincher.

Justify My Love (1990)

A track from Madonna’s first greatest hits disc, The Immaculate Collection, Justify My Love saw a diverg

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