Another superb piece of Tom Ewing writing in his Popular series, in which he reviews every British number one single from the beginning. Today’s is “Papa Don’t Preach.” Like most Madonna songs from the period I force myself to have an opinion; they were part of the air I breathed, the conversations at school (all the girls boasted True Blue cassettes). “Papa Don’t Preach” has always seemed to exist. I dismissed it for years as a well-meaning stiff in which Madonna acknowledges that she has to tackle Issues before showing her utter mastery of the pop single with “Open Your Heart.”
But Ewing shows me something I never heard:
“Papa Don’t Preach” draws a lot of its urgency from being a real-time, direct address – a form that’s the equivalent of the cinematic close-up on a face: you can feel building, warring emotions flicker and play across the record. This song – after steeling itself with that wonderful faux-formal intro – moves from nerviness, into flattery, desperate hope, panic, steeliness and anger. Sometimes the singer’s unsure of herself, other times surer than anything in the world. In the chorus she’s a mix of defensive and defiant. She commands, then pleads, in the space of a line or two – “You give us your blessing now, cos we are in love – please!”.
Read the rest.