594. ‘Who’s That Girl’, by Madonna

Madonna scores her 4th chart-topper within twelve months, joining a very exclusive club…

Who’s That Girl, by Madonna (her 5th of thirteen #1s)

1 week, from 19th – 26th July 1987

The ‘4-in-a-year club’ are The Beatles, Elvis, The Shadows, Slade and, um, Frank Ifield (do shout at me if I’ve forgotten anyone else!) and one thing you might notice about those five acts are their… well, their manhoods. Yes, Madonna is now officially (probably) the most successful female in chart history!

The sad thing is that, for such a ‘big’ #1, ‘Who’s That Girl’ is a bit of a non-event. It is ‘La Isla Bonita’ Part II, a watered down and remixed version of her previous chart-topper. The intro in particular, with its drum riff, is nigh on identical; while the subsequent latin-funk synths are, if not identical, then heavily influenced by their predecessor.

Plus, there’s even more Spanish thrown in this time. Quién es esa niña…? Señorita, más fina… Who’s that girl? I wasn’t a huge fan of ‘La Isla Bonita’, and it’s therefore inevitable that I’m even less a fan of this diluted version. There’s nothing wrong with it, blandness and lack of originality aside, but it’s well overshadowed by the bolder moments in Madonna’s back-catalogue. And out of her thirteen chart-toppers, it’s the one I’m least familiar with (I could probably have attempted the title line from memory, but that’s it…)

It’s from the soundtrack to a film of the same name. A ‘screwball comedy’, as Wikipedia puts it, that presumably nobody has watched since 1987. And that’s about all there is to write on this most slight and forgettable of #1s. To be fair, in order to achieve four chart-toppers in a year you need a combination of massive popularity and a winning formula. Nobody would deny that at least one of Elvis’s, or The Shadows’, or Slade’s four #1s was a re-tread… ‘Surrender’, ‘Dance On’, ‘Skweeze Me Pleeze Me’… While the sound of 1962-3 was Frank Ifield’s yodel popping up, time and again. The one act who managed to sound new and fresh with every single song was The Beatles, but there’s no point in competing with them…

Perhaps Madonna knew she was treading water at this point, because she took 1988 off and drew a line under what we’ll call Madge MK I. In two years’ time, when she scores her next chart-topper, she’ll be a different beast altogether!


20 thoughts on “594. ‘Who’s That Girl’, by Madonna

  1. Spreading herself a bit thin with films, soundtracks and her own music career and while this isnt as ropey as some of her film soundtrack efforts – hello Gambler – it wouldnt have made True Blue the album any better or any less good. It would have been as you say, OK. She may have one more “lucky” chart topper to come but to be fair shes had oodles of great singles not get to number 1 so its ok to be ok… 🙂

    • I quite like when a number one is just average. They can’t all be terrible, or amazing. I’m guessing her other ‘lucky’ number one is ‘Sorry’. Or do you mean ‘American Pie’…? She’s lucky she still had a career after that…

      • The other ‘lucky’ one ‘American Pie’? Definitely. One of the most utterly redundant cover versions of all time. She was lucky anyone bought it, let alone pushed it to No. 1.

      • American pie! I rate Sorry. Actually i like American Pie though its no don mclean, but given the general reaction at the time she got a lucky numer 1. I dont think she was keen to even do it!

      • Yeah I love ‘Sorry’. It might even be better than ‘Hung Up’. Maybe… It just felt like a bit of a fluke at the time for a post-album single to sneak a week at #1

  2. At first, I thought “I don’t remember this at all.” Yeah. OK. It is familiar. Clips from the movie. She can’t act her way out of a paper bag. Her bit parts in A League of Their Own was so-so.

  3. What’s funny about “Who’s That Girl” is that despite being a #1 on both sides of the Atlantic, Madonna didn’t include it on her best-selling 1990 greatest-hits collection The Immaculate Conception despite including all her other big hits to that point which tells you how much she forgot about this song. Ultimately, it’s the kind of song that’s not all that bad but pretty mediocre compared to a lot of what she was releasing then.

    • I’d say it wasn’t missed. She did the same with ‘True Blue’, which definitely should be on a greatest hits.

      Ps I think you meant ‘Collection’. Sure you’re not the first to make that slip! 🙂

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  7. I’m old enough to remember watching the film on afternoon TV a few months after it kind of flopped. We expected it to be “bad” due to words of mouth, but it was Madonna and we expected a modicum of entertain which never materialize. Yes, it was dull, stale and boring. Each time I hear the song, I’m reminded of the movie and have mixed feelings leaning toward the negative side! 😉 Anyway, it’s stock Madonna top charter from the 80s, I can live with its cheese appeal.

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