In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing every solitary #1 solitary in the background of the Billboard Hot 100, beginning with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and also working my means up into the present.

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Madonna released the career-spanning compilation The Immaculate Collection in 1990, once she to be at the absolute top of her powers, and also it’s among the all-time greatest greatest-hits albums. The Immaculate Collection is simply end-to-end bangers. It’s obtained seven #1 singles, and it also has a many truly iconic songs that had actually to it is in on there, also if they didn’t make it to #1: “Holiday,” “Borderline,” “Material Girl,” “Into The Groove.” virtually every song on The Immaculate Collection is a party-starter. To hear to The Immaculate Collection right through is come marvel in ~ a truly masterful popular music career.

The Immaculate Collection is even more impressive once you think about what didn’t make it top top the album. Take into consideration the Immaculate Collection omission “Who’s that Girl.” That’s the title track from the an initial movie where Madonna played the lead, and also it was a genuinely big song. But Madonna didn’t make room because that “Who’s the Girl” on The Immaculate Collection. She had too many great songs. A mediocre single couldn’t obtain a point out on The Immaculate Collection, also if that tune was a #1 hit.


You couldn’t reference Madonna if she wanted to forget all about Who’s that Girl. Madonna do the 1987 movie as soon as she was trying to turn her pop stardom into movie stardom, and also things weren’t going too well. Madonna had actually played her very first real dramatic role in the 1985 comedy Desperately seeking Susan. The film to be a vital and commercial hit, and Madonna was great in it. Yet Madonna had followed Susan through co-starring v her then-husband Sean pen in 1986’s Shanghai Surprise, a catastrophic flop. ~ Shanghai Surprise, Hollywood tho had confidence in Madonna, and she gained to make most of the important options on Who’s the Girl. Who’s that Girl is fully Madonna’s. The did even worse than Shanghai Surprise.


I’ve never ever seen Who’s the Girl, however it looks choose pure doodoo. Madonna dram Nikki Finn, a screwball sexpot v a lattice Betty Boop voice. In ~ the start of the film, she’s framed for her boyfriend’s murder. ~ she’s remained in jail because that a few years, Griffin Dunne’s uptight lawyer guy, for factors unclear indigenous the Wikipedia plot summary, needs to pick her up native jail just prior to marrying the daughter the the richest guy in brand-new York. Hijinks ensue, and also Madonna and also Griffin Dunne autumn in love. Who’s the Girl bricked hard at the box office, earning much less than half its production budget and also getting intensely bad reviews.

It most likely didn’t help that the movie seems very reminiscent of Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild, an actual masterpiece that came out simply a year earlier. Also, Who’s that Girl came two years after ~ Griffin Dunne had been a square yuppie dork ~ above a wild adventure in Scorsese’s After Hours. For this reason Who’s the Girl to be a not-as-good version of a couple of points that had actually just been done very well. The smelled like a superstar’s indulgent vanity project because that’s what it was.

Madonna figured she required to do a comedy, therefore she pushed hard for Who’s that Girl. She made decision James Foley together her director; Foley had actually directed Madonna’s then-husband Sean pen in At close Range, and also he’d additionally served as finest man in ~ the Madonna/Penn wedding and made Madonna’s videos because that “Live to Tell” and also “Papa Don’t Preach.” (Foley later admitted that taking the Who’s the Girl project was a mistake.) in ~ first, Who’s that Girl was supposed to be dubbed Slammer, but once Madonna come up through the tune “Who’s the Girl,” she adjusted the location of the movie come fit the song.

When she was planning the movie, Madonna told she “Live to Tell”/”Open her Heart” collaborator Patrick Leonard the she necessary an uptempo song and also a downtempo one because that the soundtrack. Leonard composed the music because that “Who’s that Girl,” and Madonna wrote the lyrics and also the title. Both that them mutual production credit. The totality song to be finished in about a day, and also it sounds choose a track that was finished in around a day.

Madonna had actually been flirting through Latin pop and also style since she an initial showed up on the scene, however “Who’s the Girl” came out at the moment when she to be really going all-in on that stuff, come the suggest of pure shamelessness. A few months before she released the “Who’s that Girl” single, Madonna got to #4 with the True Blue jam “La Isla Bonita.” That song would be pure risible kitsch — clumsy fetishization the exoticized culture — if the didn’t fucking rule. For every its tone-deaf quasi-Latin accents, “La Isla Bonita” is just one of the swooniest jams in a career full of swoony jams. The bridge? “I want to be whereby the sun warms the sky”? Fuck. (“La Isla Bonita” is a 9.)


“Who’s that Girl” is a distant echo the “La Isla Bonita.” Madonna is tho on her fake-Spanish shit. The song’s hook is full-on Spanglish, and Madonna go not sound comfortable or liquid singing it, also if she composed the text herself. The song’s groove — the sparkly synths, the percolating congas, the soft ripples of guitar — are simply Madonna and Patrick Leonard taking every little thing they’d just excellent on “La Isla Bonita” and also hitting repeat. There’s juice in the formula. The “Who’s that Girl” beat is slick and strong, and there room some attractive melodic bits ~ above the song. However the track simply doesn’t job-related the exact same way.

Confidence has always been main to Madonna’s appeal; she had actually a swagger that few of she ’80s-pop peers can match. However “Who’s that Girl” can be too confident. Madonna sings the whole song in the 3rd person, and also it’s all around how you must be careful about this very hot girl because she’ll break her heart: “When you view her, speak a prayer and kiss her heart goodbye/ She’s problem in a word, get closer to the fire.” (Those lyrics space trash.) there are lots of pop songs about mythic jezebels, and also some that them, like Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes,” work because you have the right to hear the admiration and also envy in the voice that the person singing. But when Madonna is singing around herself, you don’t obtain that at all.

Technically, I expect Madonna is really singing about Nikki Finn, she character in the movie Who’s the Girl. In Fred Bronson’s Billboard publication Of Number 1 Hits, Madonna claims that the songs on the Who’s the Girl soundtrack “aren’t necessarily around Nikki, or written to be sung through someone favor her, yet there’s a spirit to this music that captures both what the film and also the character room about, ns think.” This is bullshit. “Who’s that Girl” is plainly supposed to be a song about the girl native Who’s that Girl. Due to the fact that Madonna is the human playing the girl — and also since she’s the driving pressure for the movie in the first place — “Who’s that Girl” certain feels prefer Madonna singing about herself. That means that Madonna is singing around herself, in perfect sixth-grade Spanish, together a “señorita más fina.” It’s pretty stupid!

“Who’s that Girl” should more than likely be remembered together a complete fiasco: A popular music star ripping off her own most recent single, indulging in part halfassed cultural appropriation, and also spending the whole song to sing dumbass lyrics around how más fina she is. The track need to be the stuff of snarky mid-’00s VH1 countdowns. But Madonna was on such a roll in 1987 that nobody really acquired mad about “Who’s that Girl.” The tune quietly cruised to #1, and then anyone agreed come forget the it had happened. And also it’s not also that bad a song! It’s simply a generic, competent example of the kind of dance-pop the was popping ago then. ~ above its own, “Who’s the Girl” is a perfect OK piece of music. The song only really stands the end in the paper definition of Madonna’s historic run. It’s a rare uninspired moment.

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Madonna only had 4 of the ripe songs top top the Who’s the Girl soundtrack, however the document was basically marketed together a Madonna album. Her name and also her picture were top top the cover, and also none of the various other artists ~ above the soundtrack (Scritti Politti, society Nouveau, Madonna’s friend and also Who’s the Girl castmate Coati Mundi) released their tracks as singles. The Who’s the Girl soundtrack is a pure quickie cash-in, and it still went platinum and also yielded two big hits because that Madonna. Madonna didn’t even bother to do a video for the sleek club jam “Causing A Commotion,” and it quiet peaked at #2. (It’s an 8.)


After the movie flopped, Madonna tho salvaged the Who’s the Girl name. She invested the summer of 1987 ~ above the Who’s that Girl Tour, i m sorry hit three continents and pulled in $25 million — roughly four times what the movie Who’s the Girl earned at package office. Madonna simply could not fail. Who’s that Girl had actually been a infamous bomb, however it mutual a title v a #1 single and a successful tour, and it didn’t hurt its star in any type of real way. Shortly enough, Madonna would as soon as again reinvent herself, and also she would continue surfing top top the zeitgeist for one more decade-plus. We will check out her in this pillar many much more times.

GRADE: 5/10

BONUS BEATS: Here’s the freaky DIY-synthpop “Who’s the Girl” cover the a band referred to as the Bubonic pester recorded because that the 2007 indie absent Madonna tribute compilation Through The Wilderness: