Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday 80s Flashback for August 17, 2012

Madonna in the 80s image from Blingee

[Happy Birthday Madge] -- I'm sure dedicated 80s-philes know that the Material Mom turned 54 yesterday (Aug 16). So, what is she doing to celebrate? She's in the midst of her MDNA World Tour, which is doing rather well, and she is doing her best to keep out of controversy. Not bad for an artist who supposedly peaked in 1986 and is regularly accused of being "washed up" (latest accusation comes from the rather irrelevant Elton John). So, in honor of Madonna's birthday, I figured the Flashback should focus on her 80s career. Since releasing her debut album in 1983, Madonna has gone on to become the top-selling female recording artist of all time (per Guinness World Records) and she boasts an enormous catalog:

  • 12 studio albums (four of which were released in the 80s)
  • 6 compilation albums (one in the 80s)
  • 3 soundtrack albums (one in the 80s)
  • 3 live albums 
  • 11 EPs (six in the 80s)
  • 3 remix albums (one in the 80s) 
  • 21 box sets 
  • 78 singles (26 in the 80s)

Now, I've never been a big fan of Madonna, so to assist me in bringing you an appropriate selection of tunes for this Flashback, I asked the biggest Madge fan I personally know: DangrDafne. She had strict rules to select three tunes released between 1983 and 1989. She gave me five. If you want to hear which songs made the cut this week, you can read and hear more after the break.

Flashback #1"If you gave me half a chance you'd see | My desire burning inside of me."

Originally a rock song with the title, "Follow Your Heart," our first Flashback was the fourth single from Madonna's third studio album, True Blue (1986). Gardner Cole and Peter Rafelson had written it for Cyndi Lauper, but never played it for her. Madonna and her management were looking for more songs for her album, so she took it on. Madonna and her team changed a lyric or two, modified the composition for dance-pop, and recorded it as "Open Your Heart." Lyrically, it is a simple love song expressing romance and sexual desire in the old girl-meets-boy story. The music video, however, took a different route with Madonna portraying an exotic dancer who befriends a young boy and then escapes the peep show life. The song reached #1 on both the US Billboard Hot 100 and the US Hot Dance Music/Club Play charts.  

Flashback #2"I got away from you, I never thought I would."

If you thought Madonna's music was all about parties, dancing, and sex, our next Flashback might change your mind. "Oh Father," the fourth single from her fourth studio album, Like A Prayer (1989), is a response, or a reflection upon, the male authoritative figures in Madonna's life, particularly her father.  J. Randy Taraborrelli, author of Madonna: An Intimate Biography, wrote: "with 'Oh Father', Madonna exposed herself by transforming her personal experience into art" [page 170].  The music video has been described as autobiographical, and Madonna herself said it was her attempt to embrace and accept her mother's death [page 80 of Madonnastyle (2002) written by Carol Clerk]. It was shot entirely in black & white, and it follows Madonna as she traces the life of a young girl whose mother died young. Although the critical response to "Oh Father" was generally positive, there were detractors. Author Lucy O'Brien, for example, said the song was "a dramatic, pretentious ballad" and equated Madonna's singing to a "Courtney Love-style rasp" [page 212 of her 2007 book Madonna: Like an Icon]."Oh Father" was Madonna's first single since "Holiday"(1984) not to enter the top ten in the United States. It peaked at #20 on the US Billboard Hot 100. But, perhaps, Madonna was looking for something more than mere chart success by releasing this song. Maybe this bold, artistic move was a moment of catharsis for a woman who had conquered the music world, taken a crack at movies, and married and divorced Sean Penn ... all in the span of five years. Perhaps it was a moment of dropping the facade of pop star and connecting with fans on a personal level. You be the judge. After all, isn't that what we do with music?

Flashback #3"Couldn't wait to get older | Thought I'd have so much fun | Guess I'm one of the grown-ups | Now I have to get the job done."

Our final Flashback was never released as a single. The fifth track of Madonna's third studio album, True Blue (1986), "Where's the Party" is about a working girl cutting loose and having fun after a long day -- or maybe a long week. The Complete Guide to the Music of Madonna quotes Madonna describing the song as follows: "It's my ultimate statement about what it's like to be in the middle of this Press stuff with everybody on my back, my world about to cave in. Whenever I feel like that – and it does get to me sometimes – I say 'Wait a minute, I'm supposed to be having a good time here, so where's the party?' It doesn't have to be this way. I can still enjoy life." I think that's the perfect way to end this week's Flashback. Besides, wherever Madge is, there is sure to be a party. Particularly this weekend.

Once again, I remind you that the rule of three applies when doing Flashbacks. As I've made my three offerings, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the archives. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

And if you are on Twitter, and feel so inclined, please +K my influence in Music on @klout.

I'll see you in seven!

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