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Like an Error: How ‘Ray of Light’ became Madonna’s most overrated album ever

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Before you read that headline and get all “Reductive Writer” on me, know that I’m a huge Madonna fan and a big admirer of “Ray of Light,” the closest thing Madonna’s ever had to a comeback album—the label lacks because, while she dipped out of favor for a time, she never really went away.And I remember with melancholy the 1999 Grammy Awards, when “Ray of Light” got Best Pop Vocal Album but not the big prize, Album of the Year, an honor bestowed upon Lauryn Hill for “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” A disappointed friend said, “Which album will they still be talking about ten years from now, Lauryn’s or Madonna’s?”Yep.However, with the lead up to today’s 20th 25th anniversary of “Ray of Light,” and the huzzahs and hoopla and “BEST MADONNA ALBUM EVER MADE EVER!” celebrations, it’s time to get a little kabbalah humble and reflect on the merits and demerits of the album and how its above the ether praise has unfairly overshadowed her other work.The Feels like Home Highs…“Ray of Light” has, by far, the best three-track opening of Madge’s career: “Drowned World (Substitute for Love),” “Swim,” and the title track, a psychedelic, swirling synth threesome of love over fame, existential heartache, and dance, damn it, dance, all ending up with the “ROL” head voice scream heard around the world.… And LowsQuicker than a mismatch, though, it hits “Candy Perfume Girl,” a fine, guitar-infused track that never quite fits the album’s feel or themes.

While we later get treated to the sublime “The Power of Goodbye” and the thrilling, ballad-on-acid “Frozen,” we also have the dopey “Little Star” and, heaven help me, “Mer Girl”—Madonna’s attempt at Serious Performance Artist is about as successful as her attempt at Serious Actress.

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