The third Madonna album released in June 1986 cemented her as an 80s superstar, right up there with Prince and Michael Jackson. True Blue contained 5 hit singles and went to number one across the world. A staggering achievement for the still 27-year-old who was fresh into a marriage to actor Sean Penn. Even with all the tabloid headlines and endless distractions, the determined popstar co-wrote and produced every track on the album along with Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard.
True Blue opens with the unmistakable string arrangement of “Papa Don’t Preach”. The controversial song about a woman opening up to her dad and deciding what she wants to do with an unplanned pregnancy regardless of what others think. The tumbling drums of “Open Your Heart” open up the infectious dance pop track. Ballad “Live to Tell” from the Sean Penn movie At Close Range was the album’s opening single and went to #1 in several countries. A touching vocal performance is most effective in the bridge when the music fades and Madonna’s voice comes back in.
The title track is an upbeat 50sish pop track is a lighthearted romp that sees Madonna happily sing, “I searched the whole world for someone like you”. The #3 US single was sadly left off the Immaculate Collection hits collection released a few years later. Final single, “La Isla Bonita” started as an instrumental for Michael Jackson that was turned down before Madonna turned it into a Latin flavoured, slightly melancholic track that recalls time spent on the tropical paradise of San Pedro.
What makes True Blue a step up from Like a Virgin is the quality of its album tracks. Songs like “Where’s the Party” and “Jimmy Jimmy” are not such a drastic departure from the more famous singles. These songs are as good as pop music gets in the 1980s and continued Madonna’s successful run of singles.