Today’s POP RESCUE is the 1986 album True Blue by Madonna.
The nine track album contains 5 singles – all of which helped to catapult Madonna to international stardom in the 1980s.
The album opens with the single Papa Don’t Preach, which might have been a song for her own father, but certainly covers the topic of teenage pregnancy. It’s a perfect serving of 80s pop. Madonna’s vocals are strong here, perhaps stronger than her vocals had ever been until this album came along. Backing vocals come from her long-serving backing singer Siedah Garrett, who sings on most of the tracks here, and was already an established artist, and would go on to also record with The Brand New Heavies, and regularly tour with Madonna.
This is soon followed by the single Open Your Heart, which I feel is a much better track. I’ve heard lots of credible and modern remixes of this track, and yet this original blends right in amongst them, as brilliant as the day this album was released. The verses are a little weak in the presence of the music and chorus, but it all balances out.
White Heat is our first foray into the non-single tracks of this album, and they’re in the minority. This track, which the sleeve notes as ‘dedicated to Jimmy Cagney’ and whom is sampled at the start, also features backing vocals from Richard Marx, who was yet to have his own successful solo career. It’s a good strong track, and fits right in.
The album’s lead single, Live To Tell, is up next, and this is Madonna’s probably at her best on this album. This is the if-Madonna-had-done-a-James-Bond-theme-in-the-80s song. Unsurprisingly it is from a film – her then husband Sean Penn’s film 1986 At Close Range.
We’re back into non-single territory with Where’s The Party, which definitely feels like an album track, although not a million miles away from Papa Don’t Preach and True Blue.
The title track, and third single, True Blue, is up next. Compared to the rest of the singles on the album, I think that this one is the weakest, and feels a bit paint-by-numbers. I’ve heard this sung many times in karaoke by some dreadful singers, and yet it still manages to sound fine because it doesn’t really go anywhere.
In contrast, the Cuban-pop masterpiece La Isla Bonita comes up next, and is a feast of percussion, Spanish guitar, and great vocals from Madonna. It’s a simple song, but the switch to this genre really makes it. It’s difficult to imagine how the track would have sounded if Michael Jackson hadn’t turned it down initially for his Bad album. Thankfully Madonna picked it up, tweaked the lyrics and the rest is history.
However, you’re now ill-prepared for the next track, Jimmy Jimmy. It’s an abomination, and I don’t know why it’s here and not tucked away in a record company vault somewhere ‘why, oh why, oh why, oh why’ indeed.
The album closes with a carnival sounding Love Makes The World Go Round, which was originally intended as the lead single. It’s certainly along the same lines as La Isla Bonita, and she even performed it at 1985’s Live Aid, but thankfully it’s consigned to album territory.
This album is probably the defining moment in Madonna’s career – turning her into a credible artist. Unsurprisingly this album became the biggest selling album in the world in 1986, and is the biggest selling album of the 1980s by a woman.
Where is Madonna now?
Well, I don’t think that this really needs answering.
Madonna has rarely left the limelight since the 1980s, although her hit-making prowess has not been as consistent as in the first 20 years of her career.
POP RESCUE RATING:
- POP RESCUE 2014 RATING: 4 / 5 – Jimmy Jimmy lets it down.
- 1986 UK CHART POSITION: #1, certified 7x Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Salvation Army store.