Madonna - True Blue | RECORD STORE DAY

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A quintessential '80s pop artifact, Madonna's third album was a huge musical leap forward and ranks with Like a Prayer and Ray of Light in the top echelon of her works. Only the title track (a bit too obviously a '60s girl-group homage) and the fine-but-nothing-special "Jimmy Jimmy" slightly lower the quality bar. Most of the songs share a jittery dance-pop sound, edgy, distracted, and nerve-jangling but simultaneously invigorating and exhilarating and almost dangerously giddy--a perfect soundtrack for the mid-'80s. Highlights include the hedonist's credo of "Where's the Party," the subtle and pretty Latin pastiche "La Isla Bonita," and, towering above all, three stunning mega-hits. "Papa Don't Preach," with its gorgeous pseudo-classical strings intro, is a sumptuous airwaves banquet, as Madonna wrestles with the have-the-baby-or-give-it-up dilemma (abortion's not in the picture) in newly gritty tones. "Open Your Heart"'s marriage of jitter-pop and wistful melody underscores the singer's yearning but forceful stance ("You better open your heart to me, buster"). And "Live to Tell" is a riveting ballad, lushly melodic yet spare and haunting--a place, as the song says, where beauty lives. --Ken Barnes