The 20 Best Indie Rock Madonna Covers

From the Super Bowl to ULTRA, it’s been an awkward launch for MDNA. But to be fair, Madonna’s 12th album, while not stylistically groundbreaking, has its moments and it’ll certainly take more than a few negative reviews to keep them off the charts (she has more top 10 Billboard hits than any artist ever). With that in mind, we thought we’d revisit some of the Queen of Pop’s indelible tracks via covers that have popped up over the years. Worth special mention are two tribute albums — Manimal Vinyl’s Through The Wilderness (2007) and Paper Bag Records’ True Blue — that account for some of the best indie rock versions of Madonna out there. Completists can check out Virgin Voices: A Tribute To Madonna (1999) too, but there’s a reason no songs from that comp appear on this list. Beyond that, we’ve got folk from Jon Auer and Ryan Adams, experimental rock from Ciccone Youth and The Flaming Lips, and not one LMFAO remix. Let us know your favorite.

[Draw Something img via yewfy.]

Comments (48)
  1. Many, these songs don’t translate well, do they? Pretty much 20 pieces of crap.


    But seriously, where’s the party? PS I Love You know :

  3. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • uh oh,you mentioned something you’d like to see on here..better down vote you because my opinion differs from yours….FUCKING PUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSIESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

  4. austin’s opposite day has done many madonna songs badassly

  5. Just generally awful. The list could’ve used The Supersuckers covering Burning Up.

  6. awesome concert – s/o drawsomething

  7. The Lords of The New Church, “Like A Virgin” – Hands down – best Madonna cover. Ever.
    End of discussion.
    I SAID END OF DISCUSSION!!!! J/K…Google it. .

  8. Indie is short for Independent, for example, not being signed to warner bros, or capitol, or let’s say, many of the large, not independent labels the above are signed to (let alone, the notion they are also indeed, “Rock” artists. (Tori Amos??)

    Anyways, not a great list. I give this list a 2/20. 1 point for the Flaming Lips, even though they haven’t been an independent band since, oh, the early nineties? And another point because when I was in grade 9 I had the biggest crush on Juliana Hatfield. THAT IS NOT A LOT OF POINTS STEREOGUM.

    • Shhh shhh… The by-line says this one’s Scott’s baby. Every so often, he pops up around here to remind us all his authority by using some veteran musician as his vehicle. It serves to assert his elder dominance over the youngen staff members. Just smile and take it…

    • By your definition, TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Phoenix etc. are *not* indie bands. I think we all know that the literal meaning of indie doesn’t really apply anymore.

      • I agree that none of those are indie bands, absolutely.

        Not only that, but I’d go so far as to remind everyone that the literal meaning did, in fact apply once upon a time, but morons insisted on using it incorrectly, and now it means absolutely nothing at all. It is a catch-all we use when we are too incompetent to accurately describe music.

        I know it’s a battle already lost, but that doesn’t make it any less bullshit. If you ask me what Jazz is, I can tell you what jazz means. I can define it using a series of measurable characteristics.

        ‘Indie’ on the other hand means nothing. There is no way to discern between Phoenix or TV on the Radio or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs by way of describing sound or tonality or vocal timbre or pretty much anything. It’s a bullshit term. It wasn’t always. It is now. Don’t even get me started on screamo. You bastards! You killed it.

        • Im assuming stereogum chose that word because it has replaced the word “Alternative” and “College Rock”. Its more of an ethic than being on an actual indie label. This is the Black Keys Vs. Nickleback shit again….

          • I agree. I agree that a word replaced other meaningless words to differentiate nothing. My point is that it at least used to represent something and it is shitty that it no longer means anything.

          • i agree that it used to mean something more specific and now it is a lazy broad stroke term used mostly incorrectly.

            Buuut…even when it did mean something, it was still pretty much bullshit. An independent artist (as in, not signed) didnt necessarily sound like another unsigned artist just because they were unsigned….so it was always a pretty lazy overgeneralized term.

            it can be said that even though it doesnt mean the artist is actually unsigned, one can draw an “idea” of what kind of music is being referred to as “indie rock.” not very specific but it surely still points to genre/style/composition references, whether it’s true to what the word “independent” actually means.

            and while we’re on the subject….jazz may be more easily measured than other genres but a ton of genres have since evolved to encompass a wide spectrum of stuff that isnt so easily measured anymore. “pop”, “electronic”, “alternative”, “ambient”, etc. etc. etc are pretty terribly thrown around and rightly so…people care too much to use quick terms to label music and dont try hard enough to actually describe it. conversely, it’s almost a necessary convenience

          • It was bullshit as an all encompassing descriptor, true. To say “Independent” means nothing musically. But I happen to be an independent artist. As in, I fund and produce, promote, manage, and release all my music myself. So when I say “I’m independent rock” at the very least, that would have made sense to people who also knew what independent meant. It implies that the artist is DIY or unsigned and looking. It may not be musically relevant, but it meant a specific thing.

            On the other hand, when I say Indie Rock now, that means nothing. Indie means utterly nothing. I don’t know what Idea can be drawn. There is no specific reference to sound I can assure you – you’re more than welcome to make the effort. It does not exist.

            I also agree that people care too much about labels, but it makes it far more of a struggle for me when someone asks what kind of music I play, particularly when writing bios or press, and the tools I used to have to accurately describe things do not mean what they used to mean. it is the opposite of convenience. Obviously, just describing a thing is way better, but there are, unfortunately, also reasons that doing that when you’re submitting for grants, festivals and otherwise, is not an option.

          • Indie = Alternative. When Indie first began the bands involved did have a relative sound, jangly guitar melodies, no real guitar solos … like the Smiths. When indie bands sign with major labels they still make the same music their peers make so they are still considered indie. The reason that some bands sound nothing alike is because Indie rock has various sub genres, there’s indie pop, lo fi, dream pop, post punk, shoegaze, etc. These all fall under the umbrella of Indie rock or alternative or whatever you want to call it.

        • Is that you Steve Albini?

  9. Yes, that Borderline!!!!

  10. Where is Bigod 20′s Like a Prayer??

  11. the best cover of Like a Prayer is none of those, it’s The Rondelles!!!!!!

  12. ddogdunit  |   Posted on Mar 27th, 2012 -14

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • What is it with this “rockist” thing of only liking “indie blog” approved artists?

    • Achtung Baby was a huge record for me when i was a kid. Madonna has amazing songs from back in the day if you’re secure enough to not be bothered by the fact that she is a female pop celebrity.

      p.s. you’re kind of an asshole.

  13. I’m from Barcelona’s Like a prayer kicks ass!

  14. If Ciccone Youth are indie then why not the Stooges – their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame versions of Burning Up/Ray of Light are charming:

    also, Drop Nineteens’ cover of Angel should totally be #1

  15. I missed seeing something about CSS – Hollywood

  16. Where’s Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips cover????????? Beter than any of those above.

  17. Ciccone Youth (aka Sonic Youth + Mike Watt) should be on the top of the list…..

  18. Where can I DL these?

  19. Sia’s cover of “Oh Father” is also amazing. :-)

  20. Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait WAIT! Back the boat – UP! Where’s the cover of “Get Together” I do in my head in drag AND the cover I did of “That Song From Evita” in the shower this morning?

  21. Trick question. There are no good indie rock covers of Madonna because there are no good Madonna songs.

  22. Malcolm Middleton’s cover of “Stay” (from Madonna’s Like A Virgin album) is astoundingly good:

    The original, for comparison, is here:

  23. Seriously, how could you leave out The Rondelles? It’s better than #1.

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