Today in Madonna History: September 10, 1986

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On September 10 1986, True Blue was released as a single in Canada. Written & produced by Madonna & Stephen Bray, the title-track of her third album was a 1960’s Motown-inspired love letter to her husband, Sean Penn.

After including True Blue on 1987’s Who’s That Girl World Tour set list, the song appeared to have been written out of Madonna’s repertoire following her split from Sean. By 2015’s Rebel Heart Tour, Madonna had made amens with both Sean and True Blue, performing the track as a stripped-down, crowd-pleasing acoustic number.

Shep Pettibone’s remixes of the single marked his first of many collaborations with Madonna.

Today in Madonna History: August 20, 2001

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On August 20 2001, Sal Cinquemani published this review of Madonna’s MUSIC album in Slant magazine:

After her hugely successful and critically-lauded Ray Of Light, Madonna could have gone in one of several possible directions: (1) a more hardcore trance route, enlisting a world-class DJ like Sasha (who remixed a few tracks from Ray Of Light and whom Madonna allegedly dismissed after collaborating on several tracks early in the recording process of this new album); (2) staying in safe territory by writing and recording once again with William Orbit, the mastermind behind Ray Of Light; or (3) a weird, more experimental direction, commissioning someone like French electronica guru Mirwais Ahmadzai. Madonna once told producer Shep Pettibone “You can never do the same thing twice…ever,” but two new collaborations with Orbit, “Runaway Lover” and “Amazing,” prove that when you do, it will probably be completely uninteresting. “Runaway Lover” sounds like a Ray Of Light outtake with uninspired couplets like “It doesn’t pay to give away what you lack/You’ll never get your money back.” But amid the clichés, Madonna throws in profound food for thought like “You get your education from your lovers.” “Amazing” is incredibly catchy and has a Supremes-like melody but that’s where it ends. The track borrows the drum loop Orbit used in “Beautiful Stranger” (which was originally the loop from his “Ray Of Light” remix), and proves that he may not have had enough tricks up his sleeve for an entire new album anyway (and perhaps Madonna knew that).

As such, Madonna enlisted Mirwais for most of the rest of the album in question, Music. The title track, a retro hands-in-the-air club song reminiscent of Debbie Deb’s “When I Hear Music” and Madonna’s own “Into The Groove,” is the singer’s best dancefloor-beckoning track since “Vogue.” She sings “Music makes the people come together” like a track off of her debut album, and as an added bonus she uses words like “bourgeoisie” and “acid-rock” with equal abandon. If you can get past the initial horror of hearing Madonna’s voice get the Cher “Believe” treatment on “Nobody’s Perfect,” another Mirwais collaboration, you’ll find a brilliant song full of genuine sorrow. The track opens with an intentionally imperfect and somber “I feel so sad,” and it is indeed believable. Lyrics like “What did you expect? I’m doing my best” are sung with an intriguing juxtaposition of human emotion and mechanically detached vocalizations. Though hard to swallow at first (like most on the album), the track is one of the singer’s best creations. With its distorted vocals and grinding electronic burps, “Paradise (Not For Me)” is another distinctive Mirwais production. At a turning point in the song, Madonna awkwardly struggles to speak the words “There is a light above my head/Into your eyes my face remains” while strings swell and bring the song to a climax. It is at this point that “Paradise” resembles the cinematic grandeur of tracks like “Frozen,” and it is also one of the few moments throughout Music that recalls the spiritual introspection of Ray Of Light.

Two tracks take a striking folk direction. “I Deserve It” finds Madonna once again singing with a warm yet detached voice, but this time her vocals are completely untouched by effects. “Gone” ends the album and is possibly one of Madonna’s best performances. In the vein of “Live To Tell,” the song seems to sum up everything Madonna has tried to tell us about being the most famous woman in the world. Earlier attempts have seemed obvious and sometimes trite (“Goodbye To Innocence,” “Survival,” “Drowned World”), but this song seems to be particularly telling. It is also, perhaps, the most human she has ever been. Self-deprecation and vulnerability have never been Madonna’s strong-suits, but the way she sings “I won’t let it happen again/I’m not very smart” could make you wonder. Music seems more like a collection of songs than a cohesive album, and it is an unexpected answer to Ray Of Light. But strangely, in an attempt to make a “fun,” less-introspective album, Madonna has revealed more of herself than ever. No longer shrouded with pedantic spirituality, she has become even more human, exposing her fears on tracks like “Nobody’s Perfect” and “Paradise,” her soul on “Don’t Tell Me” and “What It Feels Like For A Girl,” and revealing her joys on “Impressive Instant” and “Music.”

Today in Madonna History: March 20, 1990


On March 20 1990, the lead single from Madonna’s I’m Breathless album, Vogue, was released.

Vogue was written and produced by Madonna and Shep Pettibone in December 1989.  The song was recorded with the intention of being the b-side to the upcoming (and last single for the Like A Prayer album), Keep It Together (released on January 30 1990).

The finished product was too good to be a single b-side, so it was decided that Vogue would be a stand-alone single on Madonna’s forthcoming album, I’m Breathless (even though the song had nothing to do with Dick Tracy).

Today in Madonna History: September 4, 1993

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On September 4 1993, Madonna’s fifth single taken from her Erotica album, Rain, moved to #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA (after 7 weeks on the chart).

Rain is a gorgeous romantic moment from Madonna’s sorely under-appreciated Erotica opus. A slow and seductive rhyme base surrounded by cascading, sparkling, synths inspires a sweet and charming vocal…A wonderfully constructed, memorable tune that deserves as much attention (and airplay) as it can garner.”

– Billboard Magazine

Today in Madonna History: August 8, 1992

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On August 8 1992, Madonna’s This Used to Be My Playground (and the theme song for A League of Their Own) hit number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA, becoming Madonna’s tenth chart-topping single, breaking her tie with Whitney Houston to become the female artist with the most number one singles at that time.

The song was written and produced by Madonna and Shep Pettibone, and recorded prior to final sessions for Madonna’s 1992 studio album Erotica.

Today in Madonna History: July 7, 1992

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On July 7 1992, Madonna contributed This Used To Be My Playground to the Special Olympics benefit CD, Barcelona Gold.

This Used To Be My Playground was the theme song to the hit film A League of Their Own, but it was not included on the film soundtrack. The soundtrack for the film was released by Columbia Records, while Barcelona Gold was released by Warner Bros., possibly the reason why Madonna’s hit single appeared on the benefit CD instead of the soundtrack.

Today in Madonna History: June 30, 1992

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On June 30 1992, Madonna’s This Used To Be My Playground video was released, a day before the release of A League Of Their Own.

The video was filmed in June 1992 at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, California and Malibu Beach.  The This Used To Be My Playground video was directed by Alek Keshishian.