Song Review by

"Borderline" was the song that proved that Madonna was more than a pretty face, a dancer's body and a squeaky voice. Much of the rest of her self-titled debut was glossy but basically hollow synthesized dance pop, and even the best songs on the album ("Holiday," in particular) sounded oddly removed. "Borderline," on the other hand, is a pure treasure, one of those unabashedly commercial pop songs that also manages to at least hint at deeper emotions. (Cyndi Lauper's masterful "Time After Time" was a similar hit at about the same time, and Tina Turner's comeback hit "What's Love Got To Do With It" was just a few months down the line.) Slower in tempo than the rest of the album, but with enough of a backbeat and a wiggly synthesizer bass line to keep it from being a ballad, "Borderline" hits a slinky groove from its vibraphone-like intro all the way to the throaty scatting Madonna does just as the song starts its fade out. In between, Madonna delivers the best vocal performance of her early career, when her limitations were at their most obvious. Soulful without a lot of show-offy melisma or blue notes, Madonna joins a long list of pop singers who deliver a more compelling performance simply by virtue of not being able to obscure the song's emotional content (the way that Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston so often do) with needless vocal gymnastics. Although a lot of Madonna's other hits have been run into the ground by oversaturation -- truly, there is little need for anyone to ever hear "Like A Virgin" again -- "Borderline" retains its musical strength.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Borderline 1983 WEA International 6:57
Madonna 1983 Sire 5:20
Crazy for You 1985 3:05
The Immaculate Collection 1990 Sire 4:00
The Immaculate Collection (The Best Of Madonna) [Video] 1990 Sire / London / Rhino
No Image 1990 Sire 0:00
Like a Virgin & Other Big Hits 1998 Sire 6:56
Three for One Box Set 1999 WEA International 5:21
MTV 20: Pop 2001
Various Artists
Maverick / Warner Bros. 5:16
Immaculate Collection/Something to Remember 2001 WEA International 3:59
Billboard Top 10 Karaoke: 1960's, Vol. 4 2007 Sybersound Records 0:00
Billboard Top 40 Karaoke: 1980s [Box] 2008 Sybersound Records
Celebration 2009 Warner Bros. 3:59
No Image Phantom Import Distribution / WEA International