It may not have been evident at first, but Madonna has always been an album artist. Her singles helped break her, of course, but dig deep into her catalog and you'll notice that those radio earworms are merely gateways to bigger, more fuller portraits.

It didn't take her long to get there, as you'll see in the below list of Madonna Albums Ranked Worst to Best. The artist behind the image even shone through on her self-titled 1983 debut, which arrived with little fanfare and even smaller expectations. Assembling a team of strong collaborators around her – from producers to songwriters – was a key to Madonna's early success; that she's maintained this quality over decades is a testament to both her artistry and fortitude.

She's moved around in familiar genres, but no two Madonna albums are the same. Informed by her life story – the death of her mom, her struggles with her father because of it, the love-hate relationship with the church, marriage, sex, motherhood, spiritual curiosities – her records are of a time and place.

The excellent 1990 compilation that closed her first great era, The Immaculate Collection, is an essential record that belongs on every shelf; 2009's Celebration collects the later years and is a great survey of an artist on the move. But we're focusing on the dozen-plus studio albums Madonna has released since her revolution-in-the-making debut. Together they tell the story of one of our most fearless and restless artists, a risk-taking, controversy-courting superstar who never compromised her visions.

Madonna Albums Ranked

As one of the most fearless artists of the modern era, she's never turned away from controversy or big songs.

Gallery Credit: Michael Gallucci