True Blue vs. Ray of Light
When we were asked to review some iconic albums, I chose to do a look back at two of Madonna’s most important and commercially successful records; True Blue and Ray of Light. Each of these albums says something very specific about where Madonna was at during that point of her career. After her eponymous debut release and the follow up Like a Virgin had established her as a pop star, people could only guess as to how far she would be able to take her career and her stardom.
Madonna took a huge risk in 1986, when recording True Blue when she decided to co-write and co-produce every single song on the album. Of all her previous hit songs, the only one she had written was “Lucky Star” from her first album, so there was skepticism that she could write a record full of hits. True Blue proved that she could be prolific with her songwriting, with the album producing five singles that reached the top five on the Billboard charts, three of which hit number one. Madonna’s burgeoning relationship with Sean Penn was the inspiration for most of the songs on the album, particularly the title track, “True Blue”. My two favorite Madonna songs of all time are from this album; “Live to Tell” and “La Isla Bonita” and I think that True Blue cemented her not just as a Superstar, but as a real artist as well. It was an album that was not just transitional; it was transformational for her career and the way she would be perceived by both her fans and her critics. A-
Ray of Light
After becoming entrenched at the top of the charts as one of the most important and influential artists of her generation, in 1998 Madonna was looking to stay ahead of the trends in music. Over the previous 12 years she had dabbled in acting, courted controversy and weathered turmoil in her personal life. Ray of Light was a departure for Madonna musically with influences that ranged from techno to trip hop. This album was significantly ahead of its time and because it was innovative, it was also a little uneven. From the unrestrained joy of “Ray of Light” to the thump and whine of “Frozen” this album is a rollercoaster, which for my personal tastes had more lows than highs. Whether you like Ray of Light or not, it is an important album because it helped pop music cross from the light predictability of the ‘90s to the more complex and layered mixture of rhythm and beats of the ‘00s. But if you remove that context, the music on Ray of Light only gets a C+ from me.