It's a Celebration: The Scoop Behind Some of Madonna's Greatest Hits

by Christopher Ehlers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday January 31, 2023

It's a Celebration: The Scoop Behind Some of Madonna's Greatest Hits

It's been a rollercoaster lately for Madonna fans. First, the legend announced her "Celebration" tour, an international arena tour that aims to celebrate Madge's four decades of record-breaking hits. After initial dates largely sold out immediately, she tacked on more dates, giving more fans than ever the chance to vogue with the icon in person. But just as the high from scoring Madonna tickets wore off, it was announced that her hotly anticipated biopic starring Julia Garner had been shelved. Alas.

But to paraphrase "Casablanca," we'll always have the Celebration Tour. In honor of what's sure to be the concert of the summer, here's the scoop behind some of Madonna's biggest songs.

"Holiday" (1983)

When Madonna was looking for a hit song for her debut album, she turned to this earworm penned by Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens from the dance group Pure Energy. "Holiday" had been turned down by several artists first, including Phyllis Hyman and Mary Wilson of The Supremes. Madonna turned it into gold, and it became her very first hit single in the United States.

"Like a Virgin" (1984)

This was Madonna's first number-one song on the Billiboard Hot 100, and many don't know that she actually had no hand in the writing of this song. The song was written as a sensitive ballad by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kellly with no particular singer in mind, though the song ultimately got passed to her by a Warner Bros. executive. Produced by Nile Rodgers, he initially disliked the song, only to find that after his first recording with Madonna, he couldn't get it out of his head. The song caused a huge stir and remains one of Madonna's best-known—and most controversial—songs.

"Papa Don't Preach" (1986)

Written mostly by Brian Elliot for her third album, "True Blue," the lyrics are based on actual conversations he heard between teenage girls. The window in his office looked like a mirror from the street, and students from North Hollywood High School would stop in front of it and fix their hair. The song's themes of teen pregnancy certainly got people talking, and she was criticized for what some saw as encouraging teen pregnancy. She also found herself in hot water with the Vatican after dedicating the song to Pope John Paul II during her 1987 world tour.

"Like a Prayer" (1989)

Considered by many to be Madonna's magnum opus, the song was the lead single from her fourth album of the same name. She had recently gone through something of a rough patch: two films, "Shanghai Surprise" and "Who's That Girl" were critical and commercial failures, her Broadway debut in "Speed-the-Plow" was universally panned, and her marriage to Sean Penn ended. She also turned 30, the same age her mother was when she died, and it caused Madonna to totally reinvent herself. The song was one of her biggest hits as well as her biggest controversies, drawing scorn from the church and scores of family and religious groups.

"Hung Up" (2005)

The lead single from her tenth studio album "Confessions on a Dance Floor," this song marked only the second time that ABBA had granted permission for one of their songs to be sampled (the first being "Rumble in the Jungle" by Fugees). "Hung Up" was born when she was working on a musical and instructed songwriter Stuart Price to write something that sounded like "ABBA on drugs." The musical was abandoned, but the song lived on, becoming her 36th top 10 single and earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for topping the charts in the most countries.