Celebration is a newly released career spanning two-disc compilation of Madonna's greatest hits. Not many artists of any generation can boast such an impressive roster of iconic tunes. Whether or not this is an essential release will depend on your level of Madonna fanship. For the casual fan, like myself, Celebration pretty much knocks it out of the park. The hardcore might want to think twice before plunking down for a couple of new tracks tacked on at the end of each disc. These songs, "Revolver" and the title track, are two of the weakest tracks on the collection for that matter.
The problem with aging, yet still-active, artists compiling such an expansive set is that usually the newer material is the least interesting. As if to insist that her recent work is just as vital as her famous hits of old, the collection mixes up the chronology to a nearly absurd point. I happen to prefer a strictly chronological track listing when it comes to collections of previously released material. That way the listener can hear the progression (and sometimes regression) of the artist as they moved through their career. Of course, that approach allows for the probability that many of the recent songs may never be listened to. Celebration rather defiantly opens with "Hung Up" from 2005's Confessions On a Dance Floor. While it was a big hit, it's one that hardly deserves the lead-off position. A little later into disc one, the early classic "Holiday" follows last year's awful "4 Minutes." The former remains fresh after more than a quarter century, while the latter will not likely be remembered in a few years. It makes for a jarring transition.
With two and a half hour of music, the set is a great value for the most part. As with any release that spans an entire career, there are bound to be some curious omissions. Numerous Billboard Hot 100 top ten hits are missing, including "Angel," "True Blue," "Causing a Commotion," "Keep It Together," and "Hanky Panky." There's even a chart-topper nowhere to be found, "This Used To Be My Playground," from the soundtrack of A League of Their Own. That's the astounding thing about Madonna's discography: despite all the smash hits gathered on Celebration, a third disc could have been easily justified to make sure everyones favorite was accounted for. Disappointing for me was the absence of "Oh Father," a bold choice for a single that ended an incredible streak of 16 top five singles.
Enough with the griping though, Madonna's legacy is well served by Celebration. Anyone with even a passing interest in pop music from the '80s and '90s will surely enjoy reveling in her past glories. The cliche about Madonna is that she is a great business person who has marketed a set of limited talents extremely well. That's an unfair slam. No one lasts as long as she has without having some very real ability to back up all the publicity stunts. However haphazardly sequenced, this anthology features a generous selection of highlights by one of pop's most reliable hitmakers.