10. Beautiful Stranger (1999)
She made it through the wilderness, somehow she made it through… and 32 years after her very first hit Holiday, Madonna still gets everybody talking.
There’s plenty to say about her performances, her fashion sense, her pushing of boundaries and buttons when it comes to sex and ageing and religion and art, but to do any of that, Madonna has needed one thing – her massive collection of hits.
Outselling seven of Madonna’s chart-toppers is this William Orbit-produced slice of kitsch perfection, from the movie Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
Possibly the greatest Number 1 that never was for Madge, Beautiful Stranger had strong first-week sales of over 135,000 copies, but could not compete with S Club 7’s debut – Bring It All Back beat her to it, and denied Beautiful Stranger a place in chart history.
CHART FACT: This was the ninth time Madonna had seen a single stall at Number 2 – she’s had 12 runners-up in total.
MADGE FACT: Madonna has only performed this song on tour once, during the Drowned World Tour in 2001
9. Frozen (1998)
Now that’s what you call a comeback. After a few years off having her first baby Lourdes and making Evita – which won her a Golden Globe – Madonna returned with a new attitude and an album full of trance bangers and trippy beats.
Lead single Frozen was the perfect introduction and kicked off her work with William Orbit, who’d go on to collaborate with her on two further albums.
CHART FACT: Frozen was Madonna’s first Number 1 in eight years – she hadn’t enjoyed a chart-topper since Vogue in 1990.
MADGE FACT: Madonna didn’t really go brunette in the video for Frozen; it was a wig. The video was filmed in bright sunshine in the Californian desert, with the 1998 equivalent of about a million Instagram filters over the top to make it look colder.
8. True Blue (1986)
In many ways, Madonna’s most overlooked Number 1, True Blue came right bang in the middle of the star’s ‘imperial phase’. Written for and about her then-husband Sean Penn, True Blue is very much the unloved stepchild of Madonna’s back catalogue. She never performs it on tour and seems a little bit embarrassed by it.
It didn’t put off anybody buying it, though. While it was Number 1 for just a week, True Blue has outsold some of her more famous Number 1s, including poor old Vogue, which just misses the Top 10.
CHART FACT: True Blue was knocked off Number 1 by EastEnders’ star Nick Berry’s anthem Every Loser Wins. I guess he was proven right that week at least.
7. Like A Prayer (1989)
Madonna’s show-stopper and an instant classic, Like A Prayer was the centre of huge controversy upon release – all in a day’s work for Madge, really. A video featuring burning crosses and a violent murder was always going to grab some attention, and thanks to a well-known soft drinks firm pulling the plug on an advertising campaign featuring the song, its notoriety took it all the way to Number 1.
Also, Madonna hair fans, this was the first time she had led a new album campaign as a brunette. She’d do it only once more, on American Life in 2003.
CHART FACT: Like A Prayer spent three weeks at Number 1 before being toppled by the Bangles’ Eternal Flame.
MADGE FACT: The saint who Madonna snogs in the church is widely, and mistakenly, believed to be based on Jesus. That’s not true. He’s actually supposed to be St. Martin de Porres, the patron saint of those seeking interracial harmony, which makes perfect sense when you watch the video.
6. Hung Up (2005)
When you start to count up Madonna’s comebacks and reinventions, you run out of fingers pretty quickly. Following what you might call a lukewarm reception to previous album American Life, Madonna decided it was time to crank up the disco beats and fill dance floors up and down the country, which she did with Hung Up, the lead from Confessions On A Dance Floor.
Featuring a mega-famous sample of Abba’s Gimme Gimme Gimme, Hung Up gave Madonna her biggest global hit in years, showed there was plenty of time for us all to get fit enough to buy a leotard and, more importantly, put Madge back at Number 1 where she belonged.
CHART FACT: Hung Up was Madonna’s first Number 1 to spend more than a week at the top since Vogue in 1990.
MADGE FACT: Madonna had a nasty fall from her horse not long before the video was shot and broke her arm and some ribs. She said when she was dancing her arm felt like it was “flapping like a chicken wing”. Hung Up’s video had a kind of sequel, with the Sorry video picking up where Hung Up left off. Madonna hadn’t done this since 1995, when You’ll See carried on the story of the Take A Bow
5. Papa Don’t Preach (1986)
Madonna’s first Number 1 from her classic True Blue album was one of her first major brushes with controversy. Papa Don’t Preach, which told the story of a pregnant teenage girl, angered both anti-abortion and pro-choice campaigners, but political wrangling aside, it was a brilliant pop song.
Madonna’s second Number 1, it ruled the Official Singles Chart for three weeks of summer 1986.
CHART FACT: Papa Don’t Preach ended Wham’s reign at the top with Edge Of Heaven. It was eventually dispatched by Chris de Burgh’s romantic slow-dance classic The Lady In Red.
MADGE FACT: Madonna resurrected her famous ‘Italians Do It Better’ T-shirt on her 2004 Re-Invention Tour, sometimes switching out the nationality depending on where she was.
4. Holiday (1984, 1985, 1990)
The tune where it all began, which was so popular, she released it three times. Landing at Number 6 in winter 1984 and scoring Madonna her first Top 10, the song went on to bigger success the following year. Released in summer, which makes much more sense when you think about it – it’s about taking some time off, after all – Holiday zoomed to Number 2.
Madge obviously thought she might as well have another crack at Number 1 with Holiday, and so in 1991 released it again – as Madonna’s greatest hits mania was in full swing with the release of The Immaculate Collection. This time, it reached Number 5, but three entries in the Top 10 for the same song isn’t bad at all, really.
CHART FACT: So who kept Holiday off the top? Well, it was the lady herself! One week in 1985, Holiday sat at Number 2 right behind Into The Groove at the top of the Official Singles Chart.
MADGE FACT: In the rarely seen official video for Holiday – that we imagine Madonna would probably rather pretend never happened – Madge’s brother Christopher can be seen dancing on the left. They’d later have a huge falling out when Christopher wrote a tell-all book, but she’s confirmed they’re speaking again now.
3. Crazy For You (1985, 1991)
Madonna’s most successful ballad is officially this track that never actually appeared on any of her studio albums. Taken from the frankly dodgy movie Vision Quest – which would later be renamed Crazy For You for reasons we’re sure aren’t that hard to work out – Crazy For You saw Madge slow things down in the middle of the Madonna mania of the mid-eighties and reach Number 2.
Crazy For You was another of her old tunes that got a chance to chart again, coming out again in 1991 and, remarkably, hitting Number 2 once more.
CHART FACT: On its first run, Crazy For You was kept off Number 1 by Sister Sledge’s Frankie. On its return to Number 2 in 1991, it was kept at bay by two records.
The Simpsons’ Do The Bartman (!) held it off first of all, then a rerelease of The Clash’s Should I Stay Or Should I Go leapfrogged over her to take the top spot.
MADGE FACT: Gambler was featured in Vision Quest too.
2. Like A Virgin (1984)
This is the one where everything changed for Madonna and she began to resemble the unstoppable force that would dominate pop in the Eighties. The Nile Rodgers-produced track didn’t just kick off the campaign for Madonna’s second album of the same name, Like A Virgin was also the first of an incredible run of 36 consecutive Top 10 entries. No star has bettered that yet.
Also incredible is that Madonna’s second biggest selling single wasn’t even a Number 1 – a question commonly incorrectly guessed in pub quizzes – it reached Number 3.
CHART FACT: Like A Virgin was the 18th bestselling single of 1984.
MADGE FACT: Nile Rodgers, who produced the Like A Virgin album, has said that he was hoping to work with Madonna throughout her career, but his girlfriend didn’t get on with actor Sean Penn, who ended up being the first Mr Madonna.
1. Into The Groove (1985)
It’s only right that the song that should rule them all is Her Madgesty’s very first Number 1, the song that started off a run of 13 Number 1 singles, more than any other female artist in British chart history.
Soundtracking Madonna’s big-screen debut in Desperately Seeking Susan, Into The Groove was a huge hit over summer 1985. Despite not having a proper video and thanks in part to not being available on Madonna’s Like A Virgin album – until a reissue solved that problem later on – Into The Groove stormed to the top of the Official Singles Chart and refused to budge for a month.
While Into The Groove may not hold the same affection for many as Holiday or Crazy For You still do, it still pretty much sums up Madonna’s whole ethos. “Only when I’m dancing can I feel this free,” she sings, barely pausing for breath, and she hasn’t stopped busting a move since.
An anthem fit for a queen, Into The Groove takes the throne – it’s her biggest selling song, and you can’t argue with that.
SALES: 877,500. Yep, that’s right, it’s not a million-seller. Madonna is one of the most successful acts of all time to still not nab a million-selling single.
CHART FACTS: Into The Groove is tied with Vogue and 4 Minutes for her longest stint at Number 1 – four weeks. It knocked Eurythmics’ There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart) off the top. It was eventually toppled by UB40 and Chrissie Hynde with their cover of I Got You Babe.
Into The Groove also managed to keep Madonna herself off Number 1 – the rerelease of Holiday sat right behind it from 11–17 August 1985. Coincidentally, that was the week of Madonna’s 27th birthday.
MADGE FACT: Into The Groove would later feature in a jeans commercial, with a guest appearance from Missy Elliott and with refreshed lyrics. Missy would later team up with Madonna, Britney and Christina on that MTV VMAs performance in 2003.
Other notable entries
Madonna’s 1990 Number 1 Vogue just misses a Top 10 placing, landing at Number 11 with over 530,000 sales.
Her most recent chart-topper 4 Minutes FT Justin Timberlake is just behind it at 12, with 507,000 copies sold.
Material Girl, a Number 3 hit in 1985 thanks to one of her most iconic videos, has to settle for 16th, with over 385,000 sales.
Justify My Love, which was pretty saucy back in the day, and launched Madonna’s first greatest hits album The Immaculate Collection, comes in 23rd with 275,500 sales. The Immaculate Collection is one of the biggest-selling albums of all time.
Fan-favourite Gambler, which Madonna doesn’t seem to be that fond of and can be very hard to track down, finishes 25th, with a sales tally of 270,000. Its sandwiched between two of Madonna’s hugely overlooked hits Dress You Up and Angel, which both reached Number 5 despite having no video! The power of Madonna in 1985 – if you’d have been able to bottle it, you’d have ruled the world.
Madonna’s collaboration with Britney Spears, Me Against The Music, scrapes into the Top 40 at Number 39, but if you’re a Madonna purist and want to know which Madge solo effort Me Against The Music has pushed into 41st place? Well, it’s bad news for Erotica. That lands just outside.
Madonna’s biggest selling single not to go Top 10? That honour belongs to Lucky Star – a Number 14 hit in 1984 and finishing 42nd on her countdown.