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The Immaculate Collection, Madonna

Sire, Warner Bros. Records, November 13, 1990

Track Listing: 1. Holiday, 2. Lucky Star, 3. Borderline, 4. Like a Virgin, 5. Material Girl, 6. Crazy for You, 7. Into the Groove, 8. Live to Tell, 9. Papa Don’t Preach, 10. Open Your Heart, 11. La Isla Bonita, 12. Like a Prayer, 13. Express Yourself, 14. Cherish, 15. Vogue, 16. Justify My Love, 17. Rescue Me

A well-meaning mother detours her child in front of a candy counter at a local mall. The kid’s mouth starts to water, even before stepping up, nose pressed, to the sweet fragrances wafting through glass-encased bins with silver metal scoops sunken into Technicolor treasures: licorice, lollies, chocolates, caramels, with nuts, without nuts, taffies, sweet-’n’-sours, jawbreakers, jellies, gums or gumballs, in sticks, rolls, bars, pieces, pies, dots, drops, cups, cones, etc., etc., etc. Gummis, shaped in more variations than could fill a mouth in lifetime, regardless of whether or not patience regulated digesting one bear, fish, fruit, worm, or slug at a time, dance and join a chorus singing for attention, “Meeeee!”

“Pick one,” cheerily invites the mother.

The child blankly gazes at Ma in dazed confusion. Hungry eyes dart back to the candy and return to the person always claiming she is the most reasonable, the more adult, of the two. The little one’s mouth dries; waterworks spurt upward toward the eyes, as the child stiffens into a geyser of tears, overwhelmed by the task at hand: to chose just one. Impatient with the outburst, the mother turns around, and they exit the store empty-handed.

Heartbreaking, too, is the decision to choose just one album from an artist, whose career spans over nearly three decades, as more deserving of recognition than the next. Winnowing exhaustive and eclectic merchandise down to a single goodie for consumption is a daunting matter, indeed. True, even for an adult.

There are sweet confections, ones with more robust flavor, and colors that better suit a mood on a given day. There are the pieces taken home, left unwrapped until the perfect instant, and bits that are cast aside because of changing tastes. Due to the onslaught, thanks and praise for the glorious bounty is difficult to package around a product traveling on a moving conveyor belt, especially when the sweet delights are churned out so steadily. Album after album, style after changing style, and enduring decade after decade, selecting a bonbon may stymie the young. Choices are a dilemma of childish proportion.

For as grown-ups, hard lessons, like leaving a candy store without any loot, teach us to decide. Pick something that provides the most bang for the buck—the most savory flavors in a single serving. Try a sample platter. Most importantly, take pride in knowing one may step out of the store and return to the counter for the rest at another time. The shop is not intended to disappear; it is built for repeat business and changing palettes.

Pick one—this one—and try something. Just don’t be a baby and leave with nothing.