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Celebrating the death of the best-of album

October 1, 2009

It does seem a little odd that whenever Madonna releases an album, I tend to write about it. I wouldn’t think I particularly care one way or the other about Madge. But I suppose she’s been a part of my life in some way or other since I was first titillated by her navel and annoyed by her voice as she writhed around on a gondola . There aren’t many people who’ve insinuated themselves into the public consciousness as Madonna. Perhaps Michael Jackson and Lady Di were her only true rivals and they’re both dead. Her staying power is almost spooky.

So it’s a no-brainer she’d release yet another greatest hits collection, this one titled Celebration, as that’s what veteran artists do when they need a stop-gap to keep in the public eye between their next reinvention. And glancing at the track-listing it seems like probably best career retrospective you could hope for. compared to past compilations, the fat really has been trimmed on this one—the benefit of a long career of steady hit singles.

But the thought also leaps to mind: you can buy all these songs on iTunes as singles so what’s the point? What’s the point of best-of CDs at all when you can create your own playlist of what youthink an artist’s top ten or 15 tracks were yourself. Or maybe you only really want seven or eight of their best songs and even the best compilation is bound to miss out on a few of what you consider are essential tracks. Strange that such a solid example of what a best-of album should be also seems somehow quaint and archaic.

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