True Blue – Madonna (1986)

“True Blue” is the 3rd Studio album to be released by American Singer/Songwriter Madonna Ciccone.

After the success of her previous album “Like A Virgin” there would be much anticipation to how she would follow up such a hit and this was an important moment in her career artistically as she began the transition from pop singer to more of an all round artist.

This album for me flirts between the sublime and the ridiculous and whilst if the album had and excessive amount of tracks you could perhaps understand this the fact is “True Blue” is just 9 tracks long.

I hate to be a cliche monger but when it is good it is good and when it is bad it is cringe-worthy. Perhaps it was just the time of when the album was released that makes some songs sound incredibly cheap and throwaway yet on others Madonna is making some of the most innovative pop music of the 1980s.

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This innovation and creativity is displayed perfectly on the album’s opening song “Papa Don’t Preach”. Most who are reading this should be familiar with this song as it is one of Madonna’s big hits. I love the rich production on this song from the string section at the beginning which in effect is a standalone musical moment that at first seems strange but when the programmed drums and bass kick in the marriage of all these instruments works brilliantly.

This was a delve into a more serious subject for Madonna as she looked to grow artistically.

“Papa Don’t Preach” is a story about a girl who has fallen pregnant and whilst she loves her boyfriend she is all too well aware of the advice people are giving her to give him up and to not go down this route. She goes to her father for help and asks him not to preach but to help her as she is going to keep this baby.

The tone of the production fits well as it gives us that dramatic almost 80’s movie effect that lets us see this world that was becoming more modern (to what we would be used to now).

Despite this song being over 30 years old I believe it fits into a modern day situation which young women still face. A great pop song in my humble opinion and the way the song is allowed to play out in those final 30 seconds with the strings from the opening segment making a return sounds superb.

After the serious tone of the opener we move onto “Open Your Heart”. This was another hit for Madonna which continues to be played today. It’s so quintessentially 1980’s with it’s drum machines and lively tone. Madonna sounds very much at home on this track with a melody drench in 80’s pop lavishness.

“White Heat” begins with an extract from the movie of the same name from 1949 starring James Cagney. This song flows along nicely with a more downbeat tone than the previous two tracks as Madonna sings about a relationship that she wants to be played her way and this man needs to do what she wants instead of simply trying to live out his own fantasy.

These lyrics are a progression from the more singular thoughts from the album “Like A Virgin” which had her more independent and being proud of that fact.

The 4th track “Live To Tell” I always felt was one of the best songs Madonna ever made. The song is atmospheric and her voice is like nothing we had heard from her previously.

Gone is the high pitch over-the-top girly girl voice and in it’s place is a deeper vocal and more serious tone.

The production again is very 80’s but musically there is little to the track as the drums, bass and guitar are kept very simple.

I think this is a really exquisite track and the strongest on this project.

“Where’s The Party” therefore is a real disappointment. It doesn’t have the flair of “Open Up Your Heart” and just sounds too light and airy that it is hard to believe that it is on the same album as “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Live To Tell”. This song I guess is for those who enjoyed her previous two albums and want to hear something similar to what was on those album. But this for me is weak and just a bit crap.

The title track “True Blue” is another really light song and even retro for the time. The tune is reminiscent of those 50’s/60’s girl group in it’s inoffensive happy bobby instrumentation.

Perhaps churlish of me but when you see a title of “True Blue” you can be forgiven for thinking that the title track is going to be a bit special and yet this is such a throwaway song it’s weakness is disappointing.

Weak is not what you would describe the 7th track “La Isla Bonita”. It is one of the more creative sounds on the set with it’s Latino influence a focal point of this odd but fascinating instrumental.

The Spanish influence sees Madonna sing a pretty love song which is a bit of escapism as if you were watching a TV soap and in your mind you are being swept away by a lifestyle of on a tropical island.

Whilst the lyrics are all very nice it is the instrumental which makes this song a little bit more special and it is a strong piece of music which gives this album a bit of variation that was required.

The final two tracks on the album are unadulterated crap. There should be a Parental Guidance warning on the cover of the album so that children don’t have to hear these awful sounds.

“Jimmy Jimmy” is the penultimate track. Where to start on this one? It’s shit. Really shit.

If there are other words to describe the song then I am at a loss. I think there is an ode to 60’s pop songs with lyrics like “Why do fools fall in love” but the production is excruciating as is the melody and the hook. I hope I never have to hear this song ever again.

The final track is “Love Makes The World Go Round”. A horrible title and a god awful song.

Just what were the producers thinking on this track? Yes it is of a town but the tone of the song is all wrong and whilst maybe you can get away with one track a bit more poppy (like the title track) you surely can’t start with a song like “Papa Don’t Preach” and end with “Love makes the world go round”. It’s just a mind mindbogglingly bad song and it has scarred me for life.

 

There is progression lyrically and musically on this album and Madonna does move things on from “Like A Virgin” but there isn’t enough. At 9 tracks long it should be all killer and no filler but there are four tracks out of the nine which are extremely poor (with “White Heat” being merely palatable) leaves just four strong songs.

Those four songs (“Papa Don’t Preach” “Open Your Heart” “Live To Tell” & “La Isle Bonita”) are great pop songs which all vary in their musical styles.

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2 thoughts on “True Blue – Madonna (1986)

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