Thursday, February 5, 2009

When Madonna Was Hot - "Papa Don't Preach"

In my view, Madonna hit her prime in about 1986 and stayed in her prime until about 1998. I've written about this briefly in the past (including my 1980s perspective of the talents of Madonna vs. Cyndi Lauper), but I wanted to delve into the topic in a little more detail here, on a song-by-song basis. (Incidentally, I will concentrate on the musical merits, not the lyrical merits or video merits.)

Before we get to the song in question, let's see where we started out. And where we started out was semi-anonymous dance. "Holiday," "Borderline," et al were pretty much a singer singing over a dance track. While the words may have been liberating and inspiring to the party people, the dance music was pretty much the standard dance music of the time. Even as the sound started to flesh out a bit ("Material Girl"), we were still in the same mode. And even when Madonna began to tackle slow songs ("Crazy For You," "Live to Tell"), we were the groove.

The first hint of something new came with the release of "Papa Don't Preach." Much of the song was familiar to your average Madonna listener, but she threw us a curve in the beginning by starting with a few seconds of strings before the beat kicked in.

Now strings and pop music have been around since time immemorial, and they've certainly been around in dance music, but in retrospect, the opening of "Papa Don't Preach" was the first hint that Madonna was shaking up her music a little bit.
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