True Blue for Three Decades


This summer Madonna’s ‘True Blue’ album turned 30 years old. Released at one of the many peaks of her fame, this was a pivotal album in her career. Having deftly avoided the sophomore curse with her ‘Like A Virgin‘ album, for many people ‘True Blue’ was like her second album. Far more difficult than a comeback is maintaining the level of success that an album such as ‘Like A Virgin’ sets up, yet Madonna miraculously succeeded.

The lead single ‘Live to Tell’ smartly steps miles away from the bubblegum pop of classics like ‘Dress You Up‘ and ‘Material Girl’ and it remains one of her greatest ballads. It set a somber tone, but more serious work was on her mind, as evidenced by album-opener ‘Papa Don’t Preach.’ Defiant, catchy, dramatic and urgent, it was a new Madonna. With her bright blonde pixie cut and toned body, it was one of her most remarkable transformations, and became the benchmark for reinvention.

White-hot pop art was found in another #1 single, ‘Open Your Heart‘ and its darkly gorgeous video. While its exploration of sexuality was clinically-cool, Madonna strutted her stuff in a passionate plea for connection. That kind of passion was in full-effect in a palate of blues found in the title track. ‘True Blue‘ echoed the girl group ear-candy of the 50′s and 60′s, as well as the saccharine belief in true love that was a hallmark of the first blush of marriage.

Lasting longer than the title track and her first marriage (and second, for that matter) ‘La Isla Bonita‘ appears to be one of Madonna’s favorite songs, given her penchant for performing it every chance she gets. In its original incarnation, it is warm and sensuous, the personification of The Beautiful Island, and the religious imagery of the video is an unheralded harbinger of her ‘Like A Prayer‘ days.

Deeper cuts may not fare as well thirty years later, but they carry the hope and inspiration of Madonna’s career and life at the time. ‘Love Makes the World Go Round‘ and ‘Where’s the Party‘ were more than just filler – they provided the backdrop to a decade in which some of us grew up. It’s hard to imagine that there was ever a time when she was all that innocent, but ‘True Blue’ may have been Madonna’s last album of unadulterated, wistful hope.

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