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Don’t Tell Me

Madonna

Music (2000)

Of the 5 songs Madonna has on this list (by far more than any other artist), “Don’t Tell Me” might not be the first one that would come to mind if you were asked to name her most most memorable single of the decade. But this is a not a song that tries to put on a big show, it’s one that slowly wins you over until you want to hear it over and over again. While the lead single to “Music” didn’t really connect to her West-Meets-Electro look, “Don’t Tell Me” fully evoked that spirit in both its sound and its video. (The video is also one of the best of her entire career.) This song attempts to merge country with hip-hop, and amazingly, it succeeds. Madonna took the lyrics written by brother-in-law and alt-country artist Joe Henry for his love song “Stop,” re-arranged them to focus less on love and more on her own unstoppable spirit, and brought in the impeccable production of collaborator Mirwais (in fact, if you count his production work, he also makes 5 appearances on this list). The song’s guitar hook is made out of a chopped-up and re-edited progression, while the rest of the track is composed of little more than some wistfully playful strings and a mid-tempo beat fit for a line-dance. It sounds simple, but it all comes together with such effortless skill. The final third of “Don’t Tell Me” is an almost entirely instrumental coda, which could easily get boring after awhile. But every time I hear the song, I never want that addictive beat to end. You can “take the black off a crow,” “tell the sun not to shine,” or “tell the wind not to blow,” but you can’t ever tell Madonna to stop.

Also check out: The closest I’ve ever heard another artist get to succeeding at this style of folk-pop is Nelly Furtado’s “One Trick Pony”

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