When Madonna revealed dates for “Madonna: The Celebration Tour,” a career-spanning live extravaganza, the speculation surrounding the setlist led the conversation. While the Queen of Pop is tightlipped about specifics, a couple of tidbits can be gleaned from the star-studded tour announcement.
In a video that pays tribute to her 1990 documentary “Truth or Dare,” the social media-savvy singer plays the titular game with superstars ranging from Jack Black to Lil Wayne. Eventually, Amy Schumer dares Madonna to embark on a world tour and perform her “greatest motherfuckin’ hits.”
This is where it gets really interesting for fans. Madonna throws around song titles such as “Like a Virgin” (initially in faux protest), while her guests suggest “Open Your Heart” and “La Isla Bonita.” It doesn’t take much to twist the enduring hitmaker’s arm and she celebrates the newly announced tour while “Vogue” blasts in the background. Assuming those four songs make the cut, that still leaves dozens of potential classics to play around with.
Given the nature of the tour, which promises to highlight Madonna’s “unmatched catalog of music from the past 40-plus years,” there are some no-brainers. For example, the chance of hearing at least a snippet or iteration of stone-cold classics like “Like a Prayer,” “Music,” “Holiday,” “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Who’s That Girl” is exceedingly high. The same goes for the seminal pop anthems Madonna has been tinkering with of late.
“Frozen” reached a whole new generation of fans via the viral Sickick remix, while “Hung Up” got a reggaeton overhaul courtesy of Dominican rapper Tokischa. And then there’s the Saucy Santana-assisted “Material Gworrllllllll!” — a reimagining of Madonna’s 1985 smash that debuted at last year’s New York City Pride. Other leading contenders to earn a spot on the setlist include mega-hits “Crazy for You,” “Live to Tell,” “Justify My Love” and “Ray of Light.”
Now comes the part where The Faithful put forward their idea of a dream setlist. For me, “Madonna: The Celebration Tour” is a chance to shine a light on songs that the 64-year-old has largely forgotten. At the front of the pack is 1992 chart-topper “This Used to Be My Playground,” which Madonna has yet to include on a tour setlist. She has been equally reluctant to perform the 1994 ballad “I’ll Remember” and “Rescue Me” from “The Immaculate Collection.” (The snippet she sang on the “Madame X Tour” didn’t quite cut it.)
Madonna loves to throw in a couple of surprises and, if she’s really looking to “explore as many songs as possible,” it might be time to give “American Life” standout “Love Profusion” a spin or really cause a stir by digging even deeper into her catalog for an unperformed fan favorite like “Sanctuary” from “Erotica” or beloved “Like a Prayer” lullaby “Dear Jessie.” Hell, I’d even take “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” soundtrack banger “Beautiful Stranger.”
As for more recent material, anything goes. “MDNA” singles “Give Me All Your Luvin’” and “Girl Gone Wild” are fairly safe bets, while “Rebel Heart” highlights “Living For Love” and “Ghosttown” have to be on the shortlist. Madonna is understandably proud of “Madame X,” so “Medellín,” “Crave” or “God Control” aren’t completely out of the question. I’d also love to see the live debut of the recently unearthed “Back That Up to the Beat” as well as the pop icon’s own riff on Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul (The Queens Remix),” which interpolates “Vogue.”
It’s worth noting that “Madonna: The Celebration Tour” promises to “pay respect to the city of New York, where her career in music began.” In that case, it’s only fitting that “Everybody,” born of the Big Apple’s boisterous ‘80s club scene, kicks off the show.
Finding the right track for the final encore is a harder proposition. Encapsulating the joy and impact of 40 years of hits is too heavy a weight for any one song to bear. Perhaps, it would be wise to close the show with “Dress You Up.” After all, there’s a nice symmetry to ending with the song that opened Madonna’s very first tour — 1985’s “The Virgin Tour.”