On June 30 1986, Madonna’s True Blue album was released by Sire Records. She worked with Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard on the album while co-writing and co-producing all the songs.
True Blue was an immediate global success, reaching number one in then record-breaking 28 countries across the world, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. It spent 34 consecutive weeks at the top of the European Top 100 Albums chart, longer than any other album in history. It became the world’s top-selling album of 1986, as well the biggest selling album of the 1980s by a woman and remains one of the best-selling albums of all time with sales of more than 25 million copies worldwide. All five singles released from the album reached the top five on the Billboard Hot 100, with Live to Tell, Papa Don’t Preach, and Open Your Heart peaking at number one.
On October 2 1986, Madonna’s True Blue music video premiered on BBC1-TV’s Top Of The Pops. The video was directed by James Foley and shot in early September (1986) in New York.
Two of Madonna’s closest friends (at the time), Erika Belle and Debi Mazar, appeared in the video.
A second video for True Blue (which does not include Madonna) was shown on MTV in the USA. The second video was the winner of Madonna’s ‘Make My Video’ Contest. The winners (Angel Gracia and Cliff Guest) were flown to MTV’s New York studio where Madonna presented them a $25,000 check live on MTV.
On September 15 2017, Madonna spoke to Mark Savage (BBC) about how after a career of huge production shows, she’s thinking about a smaller scale residency style show in the future.
“I’ve done so many shows – world tours, stadiums, sports arenas, you name it – that I feel like I have to reinvent that now too. I like doing intimate shows and being able to talk directly to the audience. This is something I’m exploring right now: the idea of doing a show that doesn’t travel the world, but stays in one place and utilizes not only humour and the music in a more intimate setting but other people’s music, as well, and other entertainment. Kind of a revolving door of amazing, gifted, unique talent – dancers, musicians, singers, comedians, me, humour. I don’t know! Like, I’m trying to come up with all those ideas now.”
Here’s part of their interview:
Before we start, there’s one thing I need to know: Did your FedEx package ever arrive?
Ha ha! Yes, it has. FedEx is blaming customs, customs is blaming FedEx and we’ll never know what happened. But I have it now.
So, I saw the Rebel Heart tour when you were in London and the DVD does a really good job of capturing what it was like to be in the audience. How do you go about that?
I was there every step of the way, every day for months and months. It’s really hard to capture the true feeling of the excitement and the passion and the heat and the blood, sweat and tears. I’m pleased with the way it came out.
There’s a particularly touching sequence during True Blue, where everybody in the audience embraces each other.
I know, it’s a very sweet, emotional moment in the show. I didn’t expect it to be, but when I look back at the DVD it almost brings a tear to my eye because everyone seems so in love.
How do you put a show like this together? Where do you get the ideas?
Everything’s based around my song choice. So first, I go through my catalogue of songs with my band and I start working on things that excite me and inspire me in the moment. Some songs I’m sick of doing and I don’t want to do them. Other songs I say, “No, I did that on the last tour, I don’t want to do it again.”
So I try to rotate things and I also try to reflect my current mood and what I’ve been feeling, and what’s been inspiring me artistically or filmically, politically, philosophically. I try to put songs together in groups that have thematic connection, and then I try to tell a story. And then I do the visuals. It’s quite a process.
What are the songs you don’t want to do again?
Well, I tend to not want to do the songs I did on the tour before. That’s what I mean. So if I did Material Girl on the tour before, or Express Yourself on the tour before, then I’ll say, “OK, I did that for 88 shows. I can’t do it again.”
How do you keep a healthy balance between new songs and your back catalogue?
It’s just playing in rehearsal. It’s really hard for me, especially with my older songs, to do them with the original arrangement. Because 33 years later, after doing it for so long, you just have to reinvent things. Well, I do.
And it’s fun for me to take an ’80s pop song and turn it into a salsa song, or turn it into a samba, or make an uptempo song into a ballad.
The DVD also includes the Tears of a Clown show you did in Melbourne. Was that a one-off or a trial run for a different type of Madonna concert?
I like doing intimate shows and being able to talk directly to the audience; to play with them and use humour and pathos and truth, and share my life – and also make up stories. I like the freedom of it and I like the intimacy of it, and I would like to explore doing it more in the future.
Maybe a residency?
Yeah, a residency. If I look back at the Rebel Heart tour, my favourite part was really the last section where I got to just sit on the stage and play my ukulele and sing La Vie en Rose and talk to the audience. [It was] just more intimate. More audience participation and connecting to human beings – I feel I’m craving that more and more.
Did it feel like there was more room for improvisation in that section?
Yeah, I have freedom and I can make mistakes. That’s another thing I do in Tears of a Clown – if I start a song off wrong and I make a boo-boo, I just turn around and go “Stop! Let’s start again!”
When you’re doing a sports arena show, you’re linked up to video, you can’t stop. Once the train leaves the station, you have to keep going.
There’s a certain kind of adrenalin rush to that – but there’s no room for error. So I like the idea of mistakes and free-styling. Free-falling, really. It’s more exciting to me right now.
You can read the full interview here.
On July 12 1986, Madonna’s third album, True Blue, debuted at #1 on the UK Albums Chart.
Here’s the AllMusic review of True Blue by Stephen Thomas Erlewine:
True Blue is the album where Madonna truly became Madonna the Superstar — the endlessly ambitious, fearlessly provocative entertainer that knew how to outrage, spark debates, get good reviews — and make good music while she’s at it. To complain that True Blue is calculated is to not get Madonna — that’s a large part of what she does, and she is exceptional at it, but she also makes fine music. What’s brilliant about True Blue is that she does both here, using the music to hook in critics just as she’s baiting a mass audience with such masterstrokes as “Papa Don’t Preach,” where she defiantly states she’s keeping her baby. It’s easy to position anti-abortionism as feminism, but what’s tricky is to transcend your status as a dance-pop diva by consciously recalling classic girl-group pop (“True Blue,” “Jimmy Jimmy”) to snag the critics, while deepening the dance grooves (“Open Your Heart,” “Where’s the Party”), touching on Latin rhythms (“La Isla Bonita”), making a plea for world peace (“Love Makes the World Go Round”), and delivering a tremendous ballad that rewrites the rules of adult contemporary crossover (“Live to Tell”). It’s even harder to have the entire album play as an organic, cohesive work. Certainly, there’s some calculation behind the entire thing, but what matters is the end result, one of the great dance-pop albums, a record that demonstrates Madonna’s true skills as a songwriter, record-maker, provocateur, and entertainer through its wide reach, accomplishment, and sheer sense of fun.
On December 27 1986, Billboard’s year-end issue hit newsstands with Madonna appearing on the following 1986 chart rankings:
- Top Pop Artist: #2
- Top Pop Album: “True Blue” #37
- Top Pop Album: “Like A Virgin” #52
- Top Pop Album Artist: #6
- Top Pop Album Artist – Female: #3
- Top Pop Singles Artist: #3
- Top Pop Singles Artist – Female: #2
- Top Pop Single: “Papa Don’t Preach” #29
- Top Pop Single: “Live To Tell” #35
- Top Pop Single: “True Blue” #76
- Top Pop Compact Disc: “True Blue” #25
- Top Adult Contemporary Artist: #9
- Top Adult Contemporary Single: “Live To Tell” #12
- Top Dance Club Play Single: “Papa Don’t Preach” #43
- Top Dance Sales Artist: #3
- Top Dance Sales 12-Inch Single: “Papa Don’t Preach” #29
- Top Dance Sales 12-Inch Single: “Live To Tell” #37
- Top Music Video: “Madonna Live: The Virgin Tour” #1