Madonna (2) And The Beastie Boys (10) Fight For Their Right To Call Themselves The Greatest New York Musician


​Sound of the City’s search for the quintessential New York City musician enters Round Two this week, with battles in the Round of 32 daily. Keep up with all the action here.

In their more carefree, young-turk days, Madonna and the Beastie Boys went on tour together, shocking parents and delighting the makers of fingerless gloves. After years of big-selling albums and experimentation of all sorts (sonic, sexual, film-making, etc.), both are firmly ensconsed in pop’s pantheon of legends. Today, the Material Girl and the Beasties tangle once again—this time, in Sound of the City’s search for the quintessential New York musician. Who will emerge victorious?

Best Song:
Madonna: “Deeper And Deeper”

Really, I could have thrown at least 15 other songs into this space, from “Burning Up” to “Ray Of Light.” But “Deeper And Deeper” is probably the best distillation of Madonna’s musical ethos with the way it takes classic dance-music tropes and refashions them into her own image. That it still sounds current even 20 years after it was unleashed into the world is a testament to how at her best she was able to not just anticipate musical trends, but to steer them in whatever direction she felt like taking them.

Beastie Boys: “Sabotage”

Metallic crunch, lots of yelling that can get a crowd going in less than 10 seconds, and a cameo by what sounds like a squeaktoy—”Sabotage” has it all. And even after years of retro culture being poked at by every nincompoop with a YouTube account, the cop-show-satirizing video is still pretty funny.

Longevity: The Beasties got together in 1979; Madonna’s first single, the uptempo “Everybody,” came out three years later. Since then, both acts have stayed in the pop-cultural mix, although Madonna’s pop-queen profile is much higher than the Beasties’. It should be noted, though, that as far as singles from their most recent albums go, “Make Some Noise” smokes that juice-cleanse jingle Madonna released a couple of months back.

Innovations: While the Beasties’ fusion of hip-hop and metal, the way they served as a gateway to rap for a ton of suburban kids, and their penchant for name-dropping New York foodstuffs are all crucial to the current musical firmament, Madonna’s blend of religion, sexuality, danceable beats, and controversy-stoking blazed the trail for a metric ton of other pop stars—male and female—from the MTV era onward.

Starpower: The Beasties still have the ability to make the Internet freak out, although they have yet to be tapped for a Super Bowl halftime show. Not that one wouldn’t be great (and appeal to the male demo!), but Madonna’s superpowerstardom far overshadows that of her rivals.

Intangibles: The Beastie Boys sampled Big Daddy Kane’s music; Madonna sampled the man himself, with the results being published in her coffee-table book Sex.

Likely winner: Don’t let the seeding fool you: This one is a toss-up. Madonna’s a megastar, sure, but the Beasties’ inherent New Yorkiness might result in them pulling this one out.

Most Popular