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Northern Ireland women pick their favourite Madonna song

By Jane Hardy and Laura McGarrity

Madonna’s twelfth studio album, MDNA, has just reached the shops, downloads and reviewers. Well, does MDNA rank right up there with the greats, such as Like A Virgin and Ray of Light? The answer is a qualified Yes.

We’d already had a taste of the music on offer in singles Give Me All Your Luvin’, which became Madonna’s 38th top 10 hit, and Girl Gone Wild, featuring English singer M.I.A and American rapper Nicki Minaj.

While the music has characteristic Madonna pop energy, the lyrics are interesting too, and theories are circulating about whether this could be a revenge album, with lines about Madge’s mistake being not signing a pre-nup with ex-husband Guy Ritchie providing clues.

We’ll be feeling her pain and dancing to it. The sign of a truly great singer is that their music provides a handy soundtrack to the memorable moments in your life — the romances, the getting together, the breaking up ... essentially the whole damn thing.

Alison Fleming (40) co-presents UTV Live and lives in Holywood with her husband Damian and children Annie (8), Finn (7) and Kitty (1). She says:

“Get into the Groove came out at the time I started going to school discos at Sullivan, and we all desperately wanted to be Madonna. We were all trying to copy her hair, which was backcombed and over to one side with lace. I can see her now in the video drying her armpits at the dryer in the toilets. What an anorak I am.

I never sneaked any bits of lace into my hair until after I got out of the house. I wasn’t allowed.”

Carolyn Stewart (40s) is a Radio U105 DJ and lives in Bangor. She says:

“Ray of Light is my favourite Madonna album and Ray of Light would be my favourite single too. It’s sort of the song where she reinvented herself with dance music producer William Orbit who brought a newness and freedom of style to her music. Before that, the tunes weren’t ones you went back for. It was her comeback album. Do I dance to Madonna? Of course.”

Roisin Gallagher (25) is an actress from Andersonstown, currently playing in The White Star at the Lyric Theatre. She says:

“Four Minutes with Justin Timberlake and Madonna has to be my favourite — it’s one of the songs that gets me to go the extra mile when I’m out running.

It’s funky, upbeat and I really like both singers. Any woman who has reinvented herself the way Madonna has is great. She doesn’t go with the status quo, she doesn’t mind having a six pack and those biceps. I’m not a feminist but she has a strength I admire.

When I was young, Madonna’s music was what I shared on a tape deck with my elder sister Mairead.”

Kim Lenaghan (50) presents Arts Extra on Radio Ulster and lives in Belfast. She says:

“It’s hard not to dance to Madonna, I think. On a Friday night, when I’m back from work, I pour a wee glass of Pinot Grigio and listen to music. And the more you drink, the more you become Madonna or Lady Gaga. Like A Prayer is my favourite single, partly because of the big gospelly backing and great video. Anything that takes me back to the ’80s and early ’90s is welcome.”

Lynda Bryans (49) is a broadcaster who is married to Mike Nesbitt and lives in Belfast with their two sons, PJ (17) and Christopher (14). She says:

“I like Holiday best, from her first album, probably because it reminds me of good times when I was on holiday. When Madonna came on the scene, I remember the way she wowed everyone. Fair play to her, she has done it ever since and is the mother of reinvention.

When Like A Virgin came out, with the very raunchy video, it seemed close to the wind in Northern Ireland, although possibly not elsewhere. Is Madonna empowering? Well, she has led the way in terms of older women not growing old gracefully.”

Amanda Brobyn (41) is a novelist who lives in Newtownabbey with her husband Stephen and children Josh (6) and Harriet (4). She says:

“Oh, I was the Kathy Bates of Madonna fans. When my parents were out on a Saturday, I’d watch wall-to-wall videos and learnt every move and every word off pat. Of all of them, I remember loving Holiday; by the time Like a Virgin came out, I couldn’t manage the moves anymore.”

Paula Bradley (42) is DUP MLA for North Belfast. She is divorced, has two children, Jessica (22) and Joshua (20) and lives in Carnmoney. She says:

“My brother Daniel loved Madonna, but I only ever bought one album, the True Blue album which I had on cassette. I remember I was learning to drive at the time and I had the cassette in my mother’s Vauxhall Corsa. As I drove through Belfast, aged 17, I had it blasting.

“The music kind of lifted you out of the world you were in and transported you to another one. It was at the stage of getting into relationships and summed it all up.”

Lynette Fay (32) is a BBC Radio Ulster presenter. She is single and lives in Belfast. She says:

“My favourite is Frozen from the Ray of Light album. It was one of my first albums and I’m definitely a fan of hers. She recorded it just after she had Lourdes and although Madonna’s never going to grow up, it showed an element of maturity.

“I was at college in 2000, and, although Ray of Light was the single to dance to in clubs, this was the single to play when staying in — plus it was critically acclaimed.”

Bernadette Morris (31) is a singer. She is single and lives in Belfast. She says:

“It’s hard to pick a favourite Madonna song, because there are so many of them. One song that's special to me is actually Don't Cry for Me Argentina. It reminds me of my first ever date.

“We went to the cinema in Cookstown to see Evita and Don't Cry for me Argentina was the big song for me. I also like Papa Don't Preach, but although I am a singer I wouldn't perform it myself.”

Brenda Shankey (40) is managing director of Jason Shankey Male Grooming. She lives in Belfast with her husband Jason and their children Lauren (10) and Will (8). She says:

“I like Madonna's oldies, probably because of my age. My favourite song of hers would be Live to Tell.

“It's one of her slower songs and brings back memories of when I was younger.

It came out when I was 22 and I was going through my first romance, so the emotion of the song probably suited my romantic phase at the time.”

Katrina Doran (37) is director of beauty and fashion website She lives in Belfast with her husband Peter Forester. She says:

“I've loved Madonna from when she first started. There are two songs that are my all-time favourites. The first is Frozen, because it is one of those songs that's never gotten old. My second favourite is a song called What it Feels Like For a Girl. It wasn't a single or anything, but I've good memories associated with it. I was doing a photo-shoot in London for Paul Stafford for Hairdresser of the Year. We were having a meeting about the styling and I put that album (Music) on and What it Feels Like For A Girl was the first track — it became our theme song.”

Tracy Hall (44) is director of Style Academy. She is single and lives in Belfast. She says:

“My favourite Madonna song would have to be Like A Prayer. I saw Madonna perform it live in 1990 at Wembley on her Blonde Ambition tour. I was lucky enough to be in the VIP box and sitting just behind George Michael.

“I'll never forget watching the performance of Like A Prayer, it

was a spectacle. There were about 30 dancers on stage in nuns' habits, shuffling across the stage.”

Deirdre McCanny (38), chocolatier and owner of CoCouture in Belfast. She is single and lives in Belfast. She says:

“I wasn't Madonna's biggest fan growing up and never really bought many of her singles until Justify My Love came out and I loved it so much that I bought it. It’s such a good tune and I still love it. I don't think it's her usual style and maybe that's why I loved it so much. It has such a good rhythm.

“There's one particular remix of it, by Jay-Z that I love. We always put it on in CoCouture. You can't get much better than gangster rap to get you motivated to do work. She's a legend.”

Pamela Ballantine (52) is a Belfast Telegraph columnist and TV presenter. She lives in Belfast. She says:

“Although I'm not a massive fan of Madonna, I love her song Papa Don't Preach. I prefer her older songs and that's one I have never gotten sick of.

“I like most of her dancier music as well, but, saying that, I wasn't surprised that her Give Me All Your Luvin’ song didn't stay in the charts for long. It was awful.”

Nichola Mallon (32) is SDLP councillor for North Belfast. She's single and lives in Belfast. She says:

“I would have to pick Vogue as my favourite song. The line in it ‘I know a place where you can get away. It's called a dance floor, and here's what it's for,' well that just sums me up.

“I love dancing and I'm always the first up dancing. I don't know if I am any good at it, but I love it. Vogue came out when I was in my early teens and it's a song that, as I've got older, has stayed with me. It isn't a song I’m embarrassed to admit I love, because it's so iconic and so is Madonna herself.”

MaryRose McGrath (39) is a bridal and womanswear designer. She lives in Belfast with her son Christopher. She says:

“I remember when I was 16 Madonna released Vogue and I instantly loved the song. The video was styled by Jean Paul Gaultier and she looked phenomenal. When I saw it for the first time it was a real fashion moment.

Madonna is a chameleon in both her music and fashion.”

Naomi Long (40) is Alliance MP for Belfast East. Married to Michael, she lives in Belfast. She says:

“My favourite song is Don't Cry for Me Argentina. I'm not really a Madonna fan but I love a good musical. I spent two-and-a-half years listening to my sister-in-law reprising it over and over again, but still liked it. She can't sing and even she managed to make Madonna sound good.”

Donna O’Connor (49) is an actress who lives in Belfast with her husband Jack; they have two children, Jack and Grace. She says:

“Although I’m not the greatest fan, I would choose La Isla Bonita because of its Latin American beat.

“You can put it on while you’ve hoovering or doing housework and it reminds you of sunnier climes and not grubby old Belfast.”

Katie Larmour (27) is a model and TV presenter who is single and lives in Belfast. She says:

“I love Lucky Star and would hear it when I was very wee at birthday parties. I remember dancing to it doing lots of air punches.

“I think Madonna’s fantastic in terms of her music and the way she’s kept very current. This song reminds me of the fact that I feel very lucky. I was very happy growing up as a child.”

Oonagh Boman (44) runs the Oonagh Boman School of Make-up. She lives in Belfast with her husband Leslie (32) and her children, Skye (13) and Brad (9). She says:

“My favourite Madonna song has to be Borderline. It brings back memories of being on holiday with my friend Lisa in Sicily. It was our holiday song of 1984. I just remember it always being on and dancing around in our room wearing leggings.”

Laura Lacole (22) is a glamour model. She is single and lives in Belfast. She says:

“I'm only 22, so Madonna was around long before I was, but she is an uber-superstar and her old stuff is always played — that's why I think my favourite Madonna track has to be Like a Virgin. It is so ballsy and audacious and that's what she's known for — the song just sums Madonna's style and attitude up, I think.”

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