Madonna went for artistic credibility with ‘True Blue’ 35 years ago

Madonna’s evolution as a pop star and performer has always been defined by her never-ending quest to grow and develop as an artist. Because she was initially dismissed as a captivating, talentless pop pie, she stubbornly pursued artistic credibility throughout most of her career. What this practically means is that with every album, music video, concert, she harnesses her seemingly shallow pool of creativity and knowledge of pop culture and pop subculture to create art that is. both radio ready pop music and a ‘statement’. Since her eponymous debut in 1983, Madonna has used pop music to forge her solo sexual revolution.

His second album, 1984’s Like a virgin, made her a real superstar. Yet it was her third album in which she made a conscious effort to broaden her creative and artistic talents, sweeping across different cultural tropes to produce a brilliant record. The hit singles from the album – all five reached the top five on the Billboard charts, with three of them going to number one – marked 1980s pop radio and became pop classics. But more importantly, the album set the stage for Madonna’s exponential rise in brilliance, starting with the 1989 classic. Like a prayer and culminating in the years 1998 Ray of light.

According to her mythology, Madonna found herself in New York in 1978, with $ 35 in her pocket and a burning ambition to become famous. She left a stultifying normal life in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, dropping out of school to “get out” in New York. Dancing, modeling and, above all, performing in early bands, Madonna’s creativity was fueled by a wildly imaginative atmosphere with artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, David Wojnarowicz and Andy Warhol and places such as Max’s Kansas City. , Danceteria and CBGB.

Yet by 1986 Madonna was a superstar, who had to contend with sexist and reductive criticism that focused on her use of outspoken sexuality as well as criticism that she was a mediocre talent bleating a little dance- pop. It’s a ridiculous load like the two 1983’s Madonna and 1984 Like a virgin are excellent. And because dance-pop was (and still is) seen primarily as a genre of producer, it was easy to dismiss Madonna’s contribution to her sound (even as early as 1983, she played an important role in songwriting. and the production of his music)

But True blue is a concerted effort to prove his courage as an accomplished singer-songwriter. For the first time in her career, she co-wrote and co-produced all nine tracks. Her voice also matured – a raucous, fuller instrument replaced the high trill of “Holiday” or “Material Girl”. She joins Stephen Bray, the drummer of Breakfast Club, a new wave group for which she played drums before being famous. Along with Bray, Madonna also met Patrick Leonard, a prolific producer who would go on to become one of her most enduring collaborators.

As with its previous releases, True blue is a brilliant dance-pop album, which speaks to its time but also celebrates the disparate cultures that influence Madonna’s sound today. Not only does she incorporate soul and R&B, but she also continues to explore the queer culture of dance clubs, as well as her affection for Latin pop. Along with Bray and Leonard, Madonna stuffs her album with loud and aggressive drum machines, shiny keyboards and plump synthesizers.

Before its release, True blueThe first single from “Live to Tell” was released in the spring of 1986. The single was only Madonna’s second ballad to be released as a single – her first was the “Crazy for You” swing from the 1985 film. Vision Quest – and it was a very deliberate effort to portray Madonna as a mature, serious artist. The single is both cold and emotional. Leonard creates a cold and vast soundscape with atmospheric and spacious synths punctuated by a drum machine. Madonna’s voice is charming, gracefully conveying the deep regret in the song’s painful lyrics.

It was a brave choice for a lead single for a singer identified as a dance-pop singer. But that makes a lot of sense because if Madonna was interested in developing her craft, the best way to do it was to present her most ambitious record at this point in her career with a touching and melancholy ballad. As if to dispute accusations that Madonna’s popularity was tied to her sexuality and no discernible talent, the song’s vocal arrangement uses Madonna’s growth as a singer. It gave her a chance to make some quality emotions, her surprisingly powerful voice, with a charming and winning ability to inject a poignant touch into the song.

And because Madonna is as much a visual artist as she is a musician, the video for “Live to Tell” matched the intense mood of the song with a beautiful and elegant clip that explored Madonna’s affection for old Hollywood glamor. . Instead of letting off steam in revealing clothes and tousled hair, she is presented in dramatic chiaroscuro, her style heavily influenced by Marilyn Monroe with heavy but very tasteful makeup and sleek hair. She is dressed in a sober floral dress. Directed by James Foley, the video includes clips from his film At close range (the song was on the Leonard produced soundtrack), with then-husband Sean Penn. The video was popular on MTV and continued its symbiotic relationship with the cable channel.

The maturity and ambition of “Live to Tell” are also evident on the other tracks. The second single and the first track from the album are an idiosyncratic tune about teenage pregnancy, which has sparked controversy due to its lyrical content. Madonna gives voice to the narrator, a scared young woman who confesses to her father that she is pregnant with her boyfriend’s baby. Because a large portion of Madonna’s fans were young girls (Madonna’s wannabes who would show up at her shows in Madonna’s mini-pickup), some parent groups were concerned that their children’s idol would glorify pregnancy. teenage.

Some women’s rights groups and pro-choice were also wary of Madonna’s belt: “But I’ve made up my mind / I’m keeping my baby!” “. Oddly – and probably for the only time in his career – some conservative groups and religious figures celebrated the song as an implicit condemnation of abortion. The song’s controversy evoked the moral panic of the 1980s, and it was yet another moment in her career when media and pundits spoke out on Madonna’s career choices.

With the third single, True blue paid homage to Madonna’s early identification and her love of 1960s girl groups pop: it’s a song that feels like what would happen if The Shirelles recorded their biggest studio hits in years 1980. It makes perfect sense that one of the best songs on one of Madonna’s best albums was a pastiche because Madonna is a pastiche. Like “True Blue’s” doo-wop on drums, there is nothing original or native about Madonna’s sound. Instead, she’s an artist who is a living collage of pop music past and present and the various subcultures Madonna stole to make her music. The frothy lightness of “True Blue” is deceptively bubbly, but it’s actually a brilliant, deliberate and calculated stab to pay homage to nostalgia. The genius of “True Blue” is Madonna at her most brilliant. She – along with Leonard – creates an artful commentary on pop music and its cyclical nature.

With “True Blue”, Madonna turned to other eras to inform her writing. With True blueThe great success of “La Isla Bonita”, she turns to other cultures. One of the criticisms leveled at Madonna – and rightly so, by the way – is that she can be a cultural thief, stealing subcultures and marginalized groups for her benefit. Before cultural appropriation was a thing, Madonna was a master at this game. With “La Isla Bonita” she indulges a fascination with Latin rhythms and brings internationalism to the record – something she will continue with. his subsequent albums, returning to Latin pop as well as Europ, London club culture, French house, as well as his further exploration / exploitation of black American pop music.

In the 1980s, Madonna was both a singles artist and album artist. His singles were almost perfect. They weren’t necessarily perfect songs (although some were), but they were perfect in that they fit perfectly into the top 40 radio stations. While the hits stood out on their own, they also flourished in the context of their home albums. So even though True blueThe best tracks from were the hit singles, the tracks on the album were still pretty amazing and only seemed a little underwhelming because of the brilliance of the hits. So, some may dismiss the softcore social commentary of “Love Makes the World Go Round” or the standard appeal of “Where’s the Party” as filler, but it’s a great filler. And Madonna’s enduring love for classic Hollywood meant listeners could listen to James Cagney’s unmistakable cadence presenting “White Heat,” a love song inspired by the classic 1949 gangster movie of the same name.

True blue came out in the summer of 1986 and went number one on the Billboard charts, ultimately selling over 25 million copies. Although she became a superstar due to the success of Like a virgin, True blue propelled Madonna to iconic status. It’s with True blue that Madonna became the dominant face of 1980s pop in Mount Rushmore (along with Michael Jackson, Prince and Bruce Springsteen). Like everything Madonna does well, it’s fun and very enjoyable, but also obviously the product of hard work, toil, and careful deliberation. The point of a lot of art – especially pop art – is to make it all easy, but with Madonna part of the experience of consuming her work is appreciating the work behind the art.

True blue is an imposing achievement and it is imposing – its composition, construction and architecture apparent – like the intimidating scenographies of Erich Kettelhut for Fritz Lang Metropolis. As Metropolis‘sharp decorative look, there is an armored shine to True blue. True blue is not only fantastic pop music, it is also an awesome feat of hard work.

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