10 career-altering third albums from bands in the 1980s

These third albums were a bunch of excellence.

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TRUE BLUE by Madonna (1986)

It may seem odd to single out True Blue in Madonna’s long roller-coaster career. After all, she was already a global icon. Her second album, Like a Virgin, had seen to that. Now she was also a film star and married to a film star to boot. But True Blue was the first definitive proof that here was an artist who would never be content with merely catching a dance craze wave. This was a restless performer who was going to continually try on new fashions and styles. This was a maturing artist – not simply a material girl.

It's apparent on the first single, “Live to Tell.” Where was the high-pitched dreaminess of “Like a Virgin?” This was a grown-up. “Open Your Heart” used a similarly low register but in service of a good dance tune which showed off deeper lyrical concerns. And the big hit, “Papa Don’t Preach,” tackled a genuine hot-button issue in a virtually perfect pop tune. She supports those new concerns with great throwbacks to classic girl group rock on songs like “Jimmy Jimmy” and “Where’s the Party.” She even dabbled in the nascent world music scene with “La Isla Bonita,” which was a precursor to her star turn in Evita a decade later.

And, that wasn’t the only important film seed planted in True Blue. “Like a Virgin is not about this sensitive girl who meets a nice fella. That’s what “True Blue” is about – granted – no argument about that.” That’s what Mr. Brown said to Mr. Blonde in the era-defining opening scene of Reservoir Dogs. Nice Guy Eddie (played by Chris Penn, brother of Madonna’s ex-husband Sean), then offers that he knows nothing about pop music but has nonetheless heard of “True Blue.” If Nice Guy Eddie has heard of you, you are big.