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Open Your Heart (Madonna song)

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"Open Your Heart"
Madonna - Open Your Heart.png
Single by Madonna
from the album True Blue
ReleasedNovember 19, 1986
Madonna singles chronology
"True Blue"
"Open Your Heart"
"La Isla Bonita"

"Open Your Heart" is a song by American singer Madonna from her third studio album True Blue (1986). It was released as the album's fourth single in November 19, 1986 by Sire Records. It has since appeared remixed on the compilation albums The Immaculate Collection (1990) and Celebration (2009). Originally a rock and roll song titled "Follow Your Heart", it was written for singer Cyndi Lauper by songwriters Gardner Cole and Peter Rafelson. Looking for new songs for True Blue, Madonna accepted it. She and Patrick Leonard transformed it into a dance-pop song. "Open Your Heart" is an innuendo-laden love song where Madonna expresses her sexual desire.

The song was well received by critics, who commended its simplicity. It was also successful commercially, reaching the top-ten of the charts in Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, and the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, thus making it Madonna's fifth number-one single in the US. The music video for "Open Your Heart" features a story line completely different from that of the song. In it, Madonna plays an exotic dancer in a peep-show club who befriends a little boy and subsequently escapes. It was critically acclaimed for subverting the male gaze, but the plot point of a child entering a strip club was criticized. The video is an homage to actresses Liza Minnelli and Marlene Dietrich.

"Open Your Heart" has been performed by Madonna in three of her world tours – Who's That Girl World Tour (1987), Blond Ambition World Tour (1990), where Madonna wore her infamous conical bra during the song, and The MDNA Tour (2012). The performances were included in the respective video release of the tours. "Open Your Heart" has been covered a number of times by different artists, and appeared in the Britney Spears film, Crossroads (2002).

Writing and recording[edit]

"Open Your Heart" was originally a rock and roll song titled "Follow Your Heart" and had been written for singer Cyndi Lauper by songwriters Gardner Cole and Peter Rafelson, although it was never played to her. The Temptations were also considered for the song.[1] The original title according to Cole, was from a local health food restaurant called Follow Your Heart in Canoga Park, California. He was in love with a waitress named Lisa and she became the original inspiration for the lyrics. In Fred Bronson's The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, Cole explained:

Peter and I usually write very quickly. It's usually a day or two a song, but for some reason this didn't really hit us as a hit song. We didn't give up on it. We just kept working on it over the course of a year. Thank God we did. [...] It was the first song that was cut on the True Blue album. It made me nervous as a writer, because a lot of times the very first song that gets cut doesn't make it in the long run. But the song ended up making the album, which really opened up a lot of doors for me.[1]

Cole's manager Bennett Freed was working with Madonna's management and they were looking for new material for her album. Three of Cole's songs were chosen for reviewing, including "Follow Your Heart". Madonna's manager Freddy DeMann overheard the song and thought it would be a hit for Madonna and he asked Cole to present a female demo version. Madonna's female backup singer, Donna De Lory was Cole's girlfriend and he immediately asked her to sing the demo.[1] Despite the fact that it did not fit exactly with the genre of songs Madonna was singing at that time, she nevertheless accepted it. Madonna later rewrote and produced the track, retitled "Open Your Heart". Along with producer Patrick Leonard, Madonna added a bassline underneath the song which transformed it into a dance track. "Open Your Heart" was the first recorded cut for the True Blue album in late 1985 and ultimately made it to the final released track list.[1]


"Open Your Heart" has a continuous percussion filled structure and a chorus sounding like Belinda Carlisle, according to author Rikky Rooksby in his book The Complete Guide to the Music of Madonna.[2] Lyrically, "Open Your Heart" is a simple love song.[3] According to Professor Mavis Tsai, the phrase "Open Your Heart" is a metaphor for the act of being vulnerable that corresponds to the behavior involved in developing an intimate or close relationship. The following lines in the song, "Open Your Heart, I'll make you love me; It's not that hard, if you just turn the key" illustrate this metaphor vividly.[4] The concept of the song places Madonna as a victim of love.[5]

According to Billboard, "Open Your Heart" is "brimming with sexual innuendo". In the song, "Madonna yearns for a man to open her lock with his key. And yes, that means exactly what you think it does."[6] The lyrics puts Madonna in a more direct position expressing her sexual desires for her man according to author Santiago Fouz-Hernández in the line "If you gave me half a chance you'd see; My desire burning inside of me."[7] According to the sheet music published at by Alfred Publishing, "Open Your Heart" is written in the time signature of common time with a medium funk tempo of 112 beats per minute. It is composed in the key of F major with Madonna's voice spanning from A3 to B4. The song follows a basic sequence of Fdouble sharp–E9–E/G–Gm7–Fdouble sharp as its chord progression.[8]

Critical response[edit]

Madonna, flanked by the Kalakan Trio, performs an acoustic version of "Open Your Heart" during The MDNA Tour in 2012.

Author Susan McClary in Culture/power/history reviewed the song saying that, it was more upbeat than previous single "Live to Tell" and "the play with closure in 'Open Your Heart' creates the image of open ended jouissance—an erotic energy that continually escapes containment".[9] Author Taraborrelli called it as one of her most "earnest" songs and compared it with Aretha Franklin's song "Respect" as well as Barbra Streisand's "A House is Not a Home". According to him "it was a tune people could understand and latch on to, which is what makes a pop song memorable".[10][11] The New York Times writer Stephen Holden compared the song with sweeter post-Motown valentine songs.[12] Houston Chronicle writer Joey Guerra called the song "perfect" for dancefloor strut.[13] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic called it a perfect dance song with deepened dance grooves.[14] Slant Magazine named the song as one of Madonna's most "robust" songs.[15] Robert Christgau said of the song, "I'm not saying her flair is pleasureless—the generosity she demands in the inexhaustible 'Open Your Heart' is a two-way street and then some."[16]

Chart performance[edit]

"Open Your Heart" debuted at number 51 the week ending December 6, 1986, on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It had a gradual rise and subsequently topped the chart on February 7, 1987, becoming Madonna's fifth number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100.[17][18] The single also had success on Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart, reaching number-one on February 14, 1987.[19] It also became Madonna's sixth entry on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart where it reached a peak of number 12.[20] In Canada, the song debuted at number 83 on the RPM chart on December 13, 1986, and reached a peak position of number eight for the chart dated February 21, 1987.[21][22] It placed at number 68 on the RPM Year-end chart for 1987.[23]

Internationally, it became a top ten hit in several European countries including the United Kingdom, Italy,[24] Ireland,[25] Netherlands,[26] and Belgium.[27] In the United Kingdom, the single debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number eight and subsequently reached a peak of number four on December 13, 1986. The single was on the chart for nine weeks in total,[28] and was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on December 1, 1986.[29] According to the Official Charts Company, the song has sold 195,000 copies there.[30] It also peaked at number four in Europe, thus becoming the only single from True Blue not to top the Eurochart Hot 100.[31] In Australia, it only reached a peak of number 16, breaking a run of nine consecutive top ten singles for Madonna in that country.[32] Elsewhere like in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and France, it reached within the top 40 of the singles chart.[33][34][35][36]

Music video[edit]


Madonna performing "Open Your Heart" on the Who's That Girl World Tour, wearing the same attire from the music video

The music video was shot at Echo Park in Los Angeles, California. Madonna portrays an exotic dancer who befriends a young boy, played by child actor Felix Howard. This video was originally set to be directed by Madonna's then-husband Sean Penn, but in the end the final honors went to Jean-Baptiste Mondino, who went on to work with Madonna on her videos for "Justify My Love" (1990), "Human Nature" (1995), "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" (1996), "Don't Tell Me" (2000) and "Hollywood" (2003). The video was shot in July 1986 and was released in December 1986. It was produced by David Naylor.[37] The video was nominated for three MTV Video Music Awards in 1987.[38] In the Best Female Video category, "Open Your Heart" lost to another Madonna video, when the music video for "Papa Don't Preach" won the award. The video has been ranked at number 35 on VH1's "50 Sexiest Video Moments" of all time.[39]

The video is structured as a cinematic peep show and voyeurism that portrays Madonna as a stripper.[40] According to Mondino, the peep show was his idea since at that time, "we were into a period where we were experimenting [with] some kind of freedom about the body, about sexuality and stuff". He wanted to have a "naive and sweet" feel with the portrayal of a boy waiting outside for Madonna. They built the set from scratch, including the frontal part with the ticket booth. Although it looked fake, Mondino liked it saying "I like the fakeness of it. I haven't seen it for a long time, but when I saw it once again, I said, 'It's so naïve'. It's kind of badly done, which I like, compared to today. We didn't have the same equipment, people are more skillful today, but there's something sweet about it." Madonna was initially asked by him to wear a black wig, and the initial reaction to the whole wardrobe was positive. But Madonna wanted Mondino's opinion on the whole ensemble, who replied that she would look better as a blonde. So the wig was kept for the initial scenes of the video only.[41]

Synopsis and analysis[edit]

The "Open Your Heart" music video presents an early version of Madonna's musings about her Italian-American heritage and focus on her feminocentric street theology, which was also explicitly brought out by 1987's Who's That Girl World Tour.[42] It starts with the little boy trying to go inside a peep show, where Madonna is the star performer, but gets rebuffed by an old man at the ticket booth. Inside Madonna starts singing the song from the center of a carousel that revolves to display her to the gaze of the customers who are sitting safely in their cubicles.[9] Madonna is dressed in a black bustier, spike heels, fishnets, revealing her new slimmed down body at that time.[43] She begins the video wearing a black wig which she subsequently removes, revealing her short bleached hair. The bluish and dark lighting reveals her look as a mix of actresses Marlene Dietrich in the movie The Blue Angel[44] as well as Liza Minnelli as the character Sally Bowles in the Bob Fosse-directed musical film, Cabaret.[45]

Madonna plays a stripper inspired by Marlene Dietrich and Liza Minnelli in the music video for "Open Your Heart"

The dancing is restrained with a single prop: that of a solitary chair. At one point in the first segment of the video, she is filmed dancing but the camera is almost still and the motions of the dance are confined within the small range of the camera. As the screens inside the viewing booths open and close, the camera slices the shots of Madonna each with its own angle and duration. The same imagery is exhibited by the little boy outside who tries to frame Madonna's playbill image into different angles.[46] There are four other men in the booths who are made of wood with paintings of artist Tamara de Lempicka on them. Madonna at one point takes off her gloves like Rita Hayworth in Gilda and points towards one of the wooden paintings. It collapses and she blows on her finger.[45]

The video is similar in thematic content to Mötley Crüe's video for the single "Girls, Girls, Girls". But in contrast, this video tells the story from Madonna's point of view. She looks down into the cubicles to make eye contact with the men but they are unable to return it.[47] She also looks assertively into the camera, making eye contact with the viewer. With these scenes Madonna portrays her holding power over the men and the ability to pursue them. Madonna represents an assertive woman searching for a lover who can accept her as a human being. Author Bruce Forbes notes that the men in the cubicles are proved unworthy of her and there is an undertone of mockery when Madonna addresses them as 'baby' while shaking her body.[47]

By the end of the video the isolated and sad men depart with the doors closing on them. As the final chorus breaks into dance grooves, Madonna comes out of the theater and gives the boy a quick kiss on his lips. Both are clad in loose-fitting gray suits, which gives Madonna an androgynous look. They stroll away playfully in the sunrise, reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin and Jack Coogan in The Kid with the old boss pursuing them and shouting "Come back, come back, we still need you" in Italian.[45][47] The tension between the visual and the musical dimensions of the video is extremely unsettling according to author Nicholas B. Dirks. Only when she disappears from the carousel and reappears to run away from her patriarchal boss with the young boy, then the music and visuals become comparable.[9]


Feminist writer Susan Bordo gave a negative review of the video, saying that the leering and pathetic men in the cubicles and Madonna's escape with the boy is "cynically and mechanically tacked on [as] a way of claiming trendy status for what is just cheesecake – or, perhaps, pornography".[48] MTV also had some reservations initially before airing the video, which was later resolved after a meeting with Warner Officials.[49] However socio-critic Mary Harron in her book McRock: Pop as Commodity said that the underlying message in the video is that though Madonna sells sexuality, she is free.[50] There is no overt representation of anything besides friendship with the boy. Their escape together avoids Madonna the sexual overtones that would have been stronger if she would have escaped with an adult male.[47] This, according to author Richard Dienst, seems to suggest a repudiation of the adult labor of the stage in favor of childhood, androgyny, authenticity and nomadic play.[46] The video is also acclaimed for reviving and re-creating the hard glamor of the studio-era of Hollywood stars and also for representing women as the dominant sex.[44] Author Donn Welton pointed out that the usual power relationship between the "voyeuristic male gaze and object" is destabilized by the portrayal of the male patrons of the peep show as leering and pathetic. At the same time, the portrayal of Madonna as "porno queen object" is deconstructed by the escape at the end of the video.[51] Maura Johnston from Rolling Stone found influences of the work of Italian film director Federico Fellini and American musical theater chroeographer Bob Fosse. Johnston added, "'Open Your Heart' was gorgeous, from the paintings of art deco artist Tamara de Lempicka on the club exterior, to the colorfully cold cast of characters." She noticed that at one point in the video, Madonna tilted her head to re-create the Herb Ritts shot album cover for True Blue.[41]

Live performances[edit]

"Open Your Heart" served as the opening song on 1987 Who's That Girl Tour. It started off with then young dancer Chris Finch, imitating Felix Howard from the video. Howard did not receive a working license for the tour hence Finch was taken for his part. He went on to become an integral part of most of the songs performed on the tour.[52] After Finch, two other dancers are introduced, before Madonna herself appears on stage. She wore the same black pointy corset and fishnets as in the music video.[53] She first sings the song alone, then Finch joins her again and they dance together till the song ends. Two different performances of the song on this tour can be found on the videos: Who's That Girl: Live in Japan, filmed in Tokyo, Japan, on June 22, 1987,[54] and Ciao Italia: Live from Italy, filmed in Turin, Italy, on September 4, 1987.[55]

Madonna performing "Open Your Heart" during the Blond Ambition World Tour in 1990.

On the Blond Ambition World Tour, "Open Your Heart" follows the opening number "Express Yourself". This time, it included a hunky dancer watching from a distance as Madonna entered the stage with her hair stretched into a topknot and fake blond ponytail, which was replaced by short peroxide tangles in the European leg of the tour.[53] She wore a double breasted suit with the outer jacket cut in slits so that the conical bra underneath could point through. Showing off the satin pink bodysuit and her monocle chain, Madonna performed the song on a chair. Playing a dominatrix role, Madonna got on top of one of the dancers before carrying off an exhibitionist dance routine with the chair as a prop.[52] Two different performances were taped and released on video, the Blond Ambition Japan Tour 90, taped in Yokohama, Japan, on April 27, 1990,[56] and the Blond Ambition World Tour Live, taped in Nice, France, on August 5, 1990.[57]

The opening musical introduction of the song served as a brief twenty-six seconds musical interlude on the Drowned World Tour in 2001. As Madonna finished a performance of "Frozen" in the Geisha inspired segment of the show, she sat in a cross-legged position in front of the stage. The musical intro for "Open Your Heart" would start with a dancer in a Japanese costume dancing behind her on a raised podium.[58] As the music ends, Madonna starts singing "Nobody's Perfect" from her 2000 album Music. In 2008, Madonna sang the first verse and chorus at two dates—Las Vegas and East Rutherford—of her Sticky & Sweet Tour. Madonna forgot the lyrics at the Vegas show and refused to sing the song in Boston; she performed "Express Yourself" instead.[59]

Madonna also performed an excerpt of the song at the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show in 2012, where she was joined by Cee Lo Green and by a large marching band.[60] The same year, the song was included on The MDNA Tour. Following an 8-minute monologue against intolerance,[61] the song was reinvented and performed in a Basque, folk acoustic version, relying only on drums, which were played by the Basque band Kalakan, and Madonna's vocal harmony.[62] Madonna's outfit during the performance consisted of an all-leather look, a custom design by Hervé Léger and Max Azria, with knee-high boots and a mini fur bolero, while her dancers were dressed as soldiers.[63] [64] Towards the end of the performance Madonna proceeded to dance and engage in a sing-along with the members of the audience.[65] On certain shows, her son Rocco Ritchie joined her onstage.[61][66] Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine commented that the performances of "Open Your Heart" and "Like a Prayer" were a reminder that "...for both Madonna and her fans, it always comes back to the music".[67][68] The performance of the song at the November 19–20, 2012 shows in Miami, at the American Airlines Arena, were recorded and released in Madonna's fourth live album, MDNA World Tour.[69][70]

On January 26, 2014, Madonna performed "Open Your Heart" and "Same Love" at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards along with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert in support of gay and lesbian rights.[71] During the Manchester stop of the Rebel Heart Tour, in December 2015, Madonna performed an a cappella version of the song.[72] On July 27, 2017, Madonna performed "Open Your Heart" at Leonardo DiCaprio's annual fundraising gala in Saint-Tropez, France.[73]

Cover versions[edit]

Despite being originally written in English, a Spanish version of the song titled "Abre Tu Corazón" was recorded by Venezuelan rock singer Melissa, who released it in March 1986 on her "Melissa III" album. Considering Madonna first released the song on the "True Blue" album three months afterwards, Melissa's "Abre Tu Corazón" can be considered the first released version of the song, although it is possible that Madonna's version (for which she received a co-writer's credit) was recorded first.[74] The Madonna tribute compilation Virgin Voices: A Tribute To Madonna, Vol. 2 contained a cover by the late Israeli singer Ofra Haza.[75] A eurodance version was recorded by the group Mad'House for the album "Absolutely Mad".[76] A hi-NRG dance version was recorded by Who's That Girl for the album Exposed, released through Almighty Records.[77] In 2004 Platinum Blonde NRG, Vol. 2: Nrgised Madonna Classics, a hi-NRG cover is performed by In-Deep.[78] The song appears in the opening of the 2002 film Crossroads. Britney Spears' character lip syncs to the song in her room with a brush in her hand, pretending its a microphone. A Madonna poster is visible during the scene.[79] In 2010, the TV show Glee covered it in the episode "The Power of Madonna" as a mash-up with the song "Borderline", performed by Cory Monteith and Lea Michele.[80]

Track listing[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the album's liner notes.[87]



Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Japan (Oricon Charts) 12,180[95]
United Kingdom (BPI)[29] Silver 250,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]


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