On April 27 1985, Madonna’s Angel single was briefly reviewed in Billboard magazine as it entered the Hot 100 at #48.
The Angel 12-inch single would be issued commercially in North America in late May. It included an extended dance mix of the titular track, but let’s be real, people bought it for Into The Groove on the flip – it being the only North American home for the classic dance floor gem until a remixed version appeared on You Can Dance in 87. In Canada, young cassette-loving buyers’ interest in the b-side prompted Warner Canada to issue the first Madonna cassette maxi-single, as the format would eventually be known.
On March 28 1987, the final single from Madonna’s True Blue album, La Isla Bonita, was briefly reviewed in Billboard magazine.
The now-classic song was Madonna’s first sonic exploration into her love of Latin music and culture which would become a recurring inspiration in her body of work. Written by Madonna, Patrick Leonard, and frequent Leonard collaborator, guitarist Bruce Gaitsch, it has been reported that the instrumental demo of the song was initially offered to Michael Jackson, who passed on the track.
While Madonna has said that La Isla Bonita took inspiration from “the beauty and mystery of Latin American people,” she has remained more elusive about the song’s geographical references. Years later, she teasingly commented in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine:
“I don’t know where San Pedro is. At that point, I wasn’t a person who went on holidays to beautiful islands. I may have been on the way to the studio and seen an exit ramp for San Pedro.”
On February 13 1999, Madonna’s Nothing Really Matters single was reviewed by Billboard magazine.
The North American two-track single for Nothing Really Matters included the album version of To Have And Not To Hold as its b-side.
Prior to the release of the Ray Of Light album, it was reported that Madonna had fourteen tracks mastered but wanted to cut one, as she felt that thirteen was a lucky number. According to the article, Madonna’s final selection was between two songs: To Have And Not To Hold or Has To Be.
As we all know, Has To Be ended up being cut from the final track list (except in Japan, where it was included as a bonus track).
If you had to choose between including To Have And Not To Hold or Has To Be on Ray Of Light, which song would you include? Keep in mind, your selection should not simply be which individual track you prefer – Madonna would also have had to consider how her choice would affect the overall flow and emotional arc of the album, both musically and lyrically.
On January 29 2015, Rob Sheffield reviewed Madonna’s Unapologetic Bitch for Rolling Stone magazine’s singles review section (even though it was never released as a single):
Bitch, she’s Madonna. The queen of queens has given a taste of her upcoming album, Rebel Heart, with a few songs dropped in advance after an early leak of unfinished versions. And the girl’s in a feisty mood these days – Madonna writing herself a theme song called “Unapologetic Bitch” is like Springsteen doing one called “Jersey Guy Who Sweats a Lot.” These new songs range from the Nicki Minaj collabo “Bitch I’m Madonna” to the gospel-house pieties of “Living for Love” to the Yeezus-style industrial Kanye grind “Illuminati.” But “Unapologetic Bitch” is the standout: a breakup rant over a Diplo-produced dancehall groove, with Madonna shooting a few poison arrows into the heart of some dude who’s done her wrong.
On January 17 1985, Debbie Miller reviewed Madonna’s Like A Virgin album for Rolling Stone magazine. Here’s what she had to say (3 1/2 stars out of 5):
In the early Sixties, when girls were first carving their niche in rock & roll, the Crystals were singing about how it didn’t matter that the boy they loved didn’t drive a Cadillac car, wasn’t some big movie star: he wasn’t the boy they’d been dreaming of, but so what? Madonna is a more, well, practical girl. In her new song, Material Girl, she claims, “the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mr. Right/’Cause we’re living in a material world/And I am a material girl.” When she finds a boy she likes, it’s for his “satin sheets/And luxuries so fine” (Dress You Up). Despite her little-girl voice, there’s an undercurrent of ambition that makes her more than the latest Betty Boop. When she chirps, “You made me feel/Shiny and new/Like a virgin,” in her terrific new single, you know she’s after something. Nile Rodgers produced Like A Virgin, Madonna’s second LP; he also played guitar on much of it and brought in ex-Chic partners Bernard Edwards on bass and Tony Thompson on drums. Rodgers wisely supplies the kind of muscle Madonna’s sassy lyrics demand. Her light voice bobs over the heavy rhythm and synth tracks like a kid on a carnival ride. On the hit title song, Madonna is all squeals, bubbling over the bass line from the Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself.” She doesn’t have the power or range of, say, Cyndi Lauper, but she knows what works on the dance floor. Still, some of the new tracks don’t add up. Her torchy ballad Love Don’t Live Here Anymore is awful. The role of the rejected lover just doesn’t suit her. Madonna’s a lot more interesting as a conniving cookie, flirting her way to the top, than as a bummed-out adult.