iTunes Diaries, entry #33: “Live to Tell” by Madonna

I was once a little…um, okay, terribly obsessed with iTunes.  I got my first iPod in 2004 and became immediately entranced by Apple’s seeming infinite lists of music for sale.  Over the years, I spent way too much time on iTunes and spent way too much money on music, some of which was great, and some of which was not.  In 2011, for the sake of my sanity and my bank account, I went cold turkey.  I suspended my iTunes activities and completely stopped visiting site.  With the iTunes Diaries, I take a look back, highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly in music that I just had to have in the moment. 

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It feels weird writing about Madonna. I’ve restarted this post several times because I can’t seem to  put together the words I want to in a coherent manner. (Also, my cat is next to me and he’s totally snoring and it’s, like, the cutest thing ever and I just want to snuggle him to death!) But Madonna. In all my previous attempts at writing about one of a handful of her songs that reside on my iPod, all I kept thinking about was how I grew up both with and without her music. And in terms of my early pre-Top 40 radio days, one word kept coming to mind…

Forbidden.

Though maybe I should qualify that as a perception rather than a rule. Because although I perceive Madonna’s image and music as things that were forbidden in my house growing up, I honestly don’t know that for certain. I actually have no idea what my parents thought of Madonna because her and her music never came up. My folks weren’t pop culture aficionados, they didn’t talk about her, and they certainly didn’t listen to her music. The only time she even “visited” the house was when she was on the news –  that’s where I first saw her. While I didn’t give two craps about the stupid news (stupid Iran-Contra hearings cutting into my cartoon time!), I did pick up a few notable bits of info about her. She was either the peak of style or a dumpster fire, depending on your fashion leanings, and she was in to some guy named Sean Penn, which was apparently a big deal. Not that I cared too much to worry about whatever it was Madonna was doing, because I was too busy not playing E. T. on our Atari. What really came across though was that she was loud, brash, and obnoxious. People couldn’t let go of her now-famous performance during the 1984 MTV Video Music Awards, and yeah…there she came off as kind of trashy.

So maybe that’s why seeing the video for “Live to Tell” made such a strange and lasting impression.

Or maybe it was seeing something so “forbidden” at a young age. Either way, it was one of the first Madonna songs to go onto my iPod. While I’m not an avid fan, I’ve come to respect Madonna as an artist. This was a long time coming though, and it all started with that video.

Now, I didn’t know that the time that the song was attached to Sean Penn’s film, At Close Range. I also didn’t know that Madonna herself was something of a movie star, or that she had become more than just a flash-in-the-pan after rolling around a stage floor in a fluffy dress with fluffy hair. What I did know was the wedding-dressed Madonna and Madonna I saw and heard in “Live to Tell” weren’t the same person. I mean, they couldn’t be…could they?

The Madonna of “Live to Tell” (from her third album, True Blue) was pretty, almost refined, and she wasn’t jumping around manically in thrift-store gear. She was calm, composed, and she sand like she meant it. Of course, she wasn’t in the video all that much, but when she was, you couldn’t help but take notice. She demanded it in the most serene and inviting way possible. I kind of fell in…awe…of this musician, this chameleon, who in one moment could be pissing off a bunch of photographers, and in another could be singing with quiet fortitude.

I never got “into” Madonna” like some of my friends did, but I’ve been and remain distantly fascinated with her career. Her remarkable ability to adapt to the times and ease with which she takes on different personas is, well…enviable. There’s just no denying that, whether you’d like to see her exalted to the highest or thrown under a fast moving train.

No matter how much she changes or look or her sound, the Madonna of “Live to Tell” will always be my favorite. The demure, thoughtful one who speaks volumes and changes perceptions.

Madonna -- True Blue (1986)
Madonna — True Blue (1986)

1 thought on “iTunes Diaries, entry #33: “Live to Tell” by Madonna”

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