Madonna’s third album saw a shift to a more contemporary adult sound
Madonna released True Blue on this day in 1986. The album saw a significant change in the singer’s sound and image, and saw her continue her domination of the charts.
In 1985 Madonna was one of the highest selling new artists of the decade. Her self titled debut album, released in 1983 had been a slow burner. Her debut single Everybody didn’t set the charts alight but subsequent singles Burning Up, Lucky Star and Borderline were a success.
Madonna’s second album Like a Virgin sent her into the stratosphere and she dominated the charts with the title track, more hits with Dress You Up, Angel and Material Girl. Madonna–mania arrived with girls copying the singer’s fashion style dubbed Wannabes.
Songs on film soundtracks gave Madonna more hits, Crazy for You and Gambler appeared on the soundtrack to the film Vision Quest (re-titled Crazy for You in Australia) and Madonna had a small cameo in the film. She made her big screen debut in a leading role with the film Desperately Seeking Susan, and scored another huge hit with Into the Groove.
In April 1985 Madonna headed off on her first tour The Virgin Tour playing 40 dates around the USA over three months.
When the massive fundraising concert Live Aid rolled around in July 1985 Madonna was experiencing controversy for the first time in her career. Nude photos taken when she was an artist’s models appeared in Playboy and Penthouse magazine.
When she took to the stage at Live Aid Bette Midler introduced Madonna as someone who had pulled herself up “by the bra-straps, and was known to let them down from time to time” The singer proclaimed “No, I ain’t taking shit off today, They might hold it against me 10 years from now.”
Here the world got their first taste of Madonna’s next record as she performed Love Makes the World Go Round. The song was originally intended as the first single from her third album, but the decision was later made to go with other tracks.
The album’s first single was a the ballad Live to Tell, the theme song for a film staring the newlywed’s husband Sean Penn. Audiences were surprised by Madonna’s dramatic transformation in the video clip, gone were the bangles, multiple necklaces and mid-drift tops. Instead Madonna appeared with coifed blonder hair and a conservative dress.
When the album’s second single Papa Don’t Preach arrived in early June 1986 the singer had undergone another transformation, with her hair cropped short and blonde, and her figure looking more athletic, this was the first major transformation of Madonna’s career, many more would follow.
The song generated a lot of controversy. Conservative critics declared it was an advertisement for teenage pregnancy, while the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood in New York said the song would undermine efforts to encourage responsible birth control.
Actor Danny Aiello, who appears in the video playing Madonna’s father, later released a answer song called Papa Wants the Best for You.
The title track served as the third single from the album. Inspired by doo-wop songs of the 1950’s the video featured Madonna’s close friends actress Debi Mazar and dancer Erika Belle. Mazar would later go on to star in the TV series Entourage, while Belle would find success as a fashion designer.
Open Your Heart was the fourth single from the album. The tune was written by Gardner Cole and Peter Rafelson, who originally envisaged the song as being for Cyndi Lauper. Lauper never got to hear the tune as Cole was asked to pitch it to Madonna instead.
Madonna re-wrote the lyrics to the song and teamed up with director Jean-Baptiste Mondino to create the iconic video clip.
Interestingly, while Madonna was the first person to record the track, Venezuelan rock singer Melissa released a Spanish language version of the tune titled Abre Tu Corazón three months before Madonna’s True Blue album was released.
The fifth and final single from the album was La Isla Bonita. The initial composition, written by Bruce Gaitsch was originally offered to Michael Jackson for his Bad album, but Jackson rejected the song. Madonna and collaborator Patrick Leonard reworked the song adding additional lyrics and melodies.
The song is the first in Madonna’s catalogue to use Spanish motifs, something she would return to many times on subsequent albums.
What happened to songs Madonna recorded but didn’t use?
Several songs written and recorded for True Blue didn’t make the cut. Madonna included Spotlight, written by Curtis Hudson who penned her hit Holiday, on her You Can Dance remix album in 1987. Each Time You Break My Heart was given to British performer Nick Kamen, Madonna produced the tune and contributed backing vocals to his version. Kamen also recorded Tell Me, another song Madonna recorded during the True Blue sessions.