Thirty years ago today, Madonna released her third studio album, True Blue, on Sire Records. One of the best-selling albums of all time, True Blue is RIAA-certified 7x platinum with seven million copies sold in the U.S. and an estimated 25 million copies sold worldwide. It was the world’s top-selling album in 1986, reaching No. 1 in a then record-breaking 28 countries around the world, as well as the best-selling album of the ’80s by a female artist. In the U.S., True Blue hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 on August 16th, 1986, and remained at No. 1 for five consecutive weeks, spending 82 weeks on the chart.
Madonna co-wrote and co-produced the entirety of True Blue with Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard. She has said that the album deals with her view of love and was an “unabashed valentine” to her then husband Sean Penn. In his AllMusic Review, critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that “True Blue is the album where Madonna truly became Madonna the Superstar — the endlessly ambitious, fearlessly provocative entertainer that knew how to outrage, spark debates, get good reviews — and make good music while she’s at it.” Indeed, the album’s second single, “Papa Don’t Preach” sparked outrage for its themes of pregnancy and abortion, while the peep-show theme for “Open Your Heart” also became a lightning rod for a discussion about the “male gaze” and voyeurism.
Madonna was honored with the Video Vanguard Award at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, the same year True Blue was released, becoming the first female artist to receive the award.
Madonna now holds the record for the “Top Grossing Touring Solo Artist” in the history of Billboard Boxscore with over $1.31 billion in ticket sales sold over the course of her career.