Open Your Heart (Madonna song)

Open Your Heart (Madonna song)
"Open Your Heart"
Single by Madonna
from the album True Blue
B-side "Lucky Star"
Released November 12, 1986
Format 7", 12", CD single
Recorded 1985
Genre Dance-pop
Length 4:13
Label Sire, Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Madonna, Gardner Cole, Peter Rafelson
Producer Madonna, Patrick Leonard
Madonna singles chronology
"True Blue"
"Open Your Heart"
"La Isla Bonita"

"Open Your Heart" is a song by American singer-songwriter Madonna. It was released as the fourth single from her third studio album True Blue on November 12, 1986, by Sire Records. It has since appeared remixed on the compilation albums The Immaculate Collection (1990) and Celebration (2009). Written originally as a rock 'n roll song with the title "Follow Your Heart", it was written for singer Cyndi Lauper by songwriters Gardner Cole and Peter Rafelson, although it was never played to her. Since Madonna's management was looking for new songs for True Blue, she accepted it, and altered some of the lyrics, while changing the composition to suit the dance-pop genre. Lyrically "Open Your Heart" is a love song, talking about innocent feelings of boy meets girl romance and Madonna expressing her sexual desire.

The song was well-received by critics who commended it for being a simple love song. It was also successful commercially, reaching the top-ten of the charts in Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, also reaching the top of Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, thus making it Madonna's fifth US number-one single. The music video, however, portrayed a different concept of the song. Madonna played an exotic dancer in a peep-show club, who befriends a little boy and escapes from there. It was critically acclaimed for portraying a completely opposite perspective of "voyeuristic male gaze and object", and depicting innocence rather than sexual overtones, although the entry of a child in a strip club was negatively criticized. The video was an homage to actresses Liza Minnelli and Marlene Dietrich.

The song has been performed by Madonna in two of her world tours – 1987's Who's That Girl World Tour, and 1990's Blond Ambition World Tour, where Madonna wore her infamous conical bra during the song. Both performances were included in the respective video release of the tour. A brief instrumental of the song was played during one of the performances in Madonna's 2001 Drowned World Tour. "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

"Open Your Heart" was originally a rock 'n roll song with the title "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. Their manager Benny Medina decided that they wanted to record the song after all, but upon hearing that Madonna had already recorded it, changed their mind.[1] The original title according to Cole, was from a local health food restaurant called Follow Your Heart in Canoga Park, California, where he was in love with a waitress named Lisa and she was the original inspiration for the lyrics. In Fred Bronson's book 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 "Open Your Heart". Madonna's manager Freddy DeMann overheard the song and thought it would be a hit for Madonna and he asked Cole to re-demo a female demo version. Her 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 choice and genre of songs Madonna was singing at that time, she nevertheless accepted it. Madonna recorded "Open Your Heart", altered the lyrics thus earning a co-writing credit, and along with Patrick Leonard added a bassline underneath the song which turned it into a rock-dance track rather than the original rock 'n roll genre. The song was the first recorded cut for the True Blue album in late 1985 and ultimately made it to the final released tracklist.[1]

Composition and lyrics

The song 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] The song speaks of earnest innocent notions of boy meets girl kind of feelings.[4] 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.[5] The concept of the song places Madonna as a victim of love.[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

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".[4][10] The New York Times writer Stephen Holden compared the song with sweeter post-Motown valentine songs.[11] Houston Chronicle writer Joey Guerra called the song "perfect" for dancefloor strut.[12] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic called it a perfect dance song with deepened dance grooves.[13] Slant Magazine named the song as one of Madonna's most "robust" songs.[14] 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."[15]

Chart performance

"Open Your Heart" debuted at fifty-one the week ending December 6, 1986,[16] on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It had a gradual rise and subsequently peaked the chart on February 7, 1987 becoming Madonna's fifth number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[17] The single also had its success on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart reaching number-one on February 14, 1987.[18] The single was Madonna's sixth entry on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary chart where it reached a peak of twelve.[19] In Canada, the song debuted at number eighty-three on the RPM chart on December 13, 1986,[20] and reached a peak position of eight for the chart issue dated February 21, 1987.[21] It placed at 68 on the RPM Year-end chart for 1987.[22]

Internationally, it became a top ten hit in several European countries including the United Kingdom, Italy,[23] Ireland,[24] Netherlands,[25] and Belgium.[26] In the United Kingdom, the single debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number eight and subsequently reached a peak of four on December 13, 1986. The single was on the chart for nine weeks in total,[27] and was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on December 1, 1986.[28] According to The Official Charts Company, the song has sold 195,000 copies there.[29] It also peaked at number four in Europe, thus becoming the only single from True Blue not to top the Eurochart Hot 100. In Australia, it only reached a peak of sixteen, breaking a run of nine consecutive top ten singles for Madonna in that country.[30] Elsewhere, like in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and France, it reached within the top 40 of the singles chart.[31][32][33][34]

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 October 1986 and was released in December 1986. It was produced by David Naylor.[35] The video was nominated for three MTV Video Music Awards in 1987.[36] In the best female video category "Open Your Heart" lost to another Madonna video, when her "Papa Don't Preach" video won the award.

Madonna in a black bustier and wig, playing a stripper at the peep-show, in a Marlene Dietrich and Liza Minnelli inspired role, for the music video to "Open Your Heart"

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.[37] The video is structured as a cinematic peep show and voyeurism that portrays Madonna as a stripper.[38] It starts with a little boy trying to go inside a peep show where Madonna is the star performer but getting rebuffed by an old man at the ticket booth outside. 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.[39] She begins the video wearing a black wig which she subsequently removes, revealing her short bleached hair. The lighting is bluish and dark. Her look is a mix of actresses Marlene Dietrich in the movie The Blue Angel[40] as well as Liza Minnelli as the character Sally Bowles in the Bob Fosse-directed Musical film "Cabaret".[41] 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.[42] 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.[41]

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.[43] 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. 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[41] with the old boss pursuing them[43] and shouting "Come back, come back, we still need you" in Italian. 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".[44] MTV also had some reservations initially before airing the video, which was later resolved after a meeting with Warner Officials.[45] However socio-critic Mary Harron in her book McRock: Pop as a commodity said that the underlying message in the video is that though Madonna sells sexuality, she is free.[46] 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.[43] 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.[42] 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.[40] 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.[47]

Live performances

Madonna performing "Nobody's Perfect" on the Drowned World Tour. "Open Your Heart" was played at the beginning of the performance.

"Open Your Heart" has been featured as a full song in the set lists of two Madonna tours – 1987 Who's That Girl World Tour and 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour. It 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.[48] 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.[49] 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,[50] and Ciao, Italia! – Live from Italy, filmed in Turin, Italy, on September 4, 1987.[51]

On the Blond Ambition World Tour, "Open Your Heart" follows the opening number "Express Yourself". This time there's not a young boy but 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.[49] 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 proceeds to perform 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.[48] Two different performances were taped and released on video, the Blond Ambition – Japan Tour 90, taped in Yokohama, Japan, on April 27, 1990,[52] and the Live! – Blond Ambition World Tour 90, taped in Nice, France, on August 5, 1990.[53]

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" starts with a dancer in a Japanese costume dancing behind her on a raised podium.[54] As the music ends, Madonna starts singing "Nobody's Perfect" from her 2000 album "Music". In 2008, Madonna sang the first verse and chorus for the first time in eighteen years 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.[55]

Cover versions

Despite being originally written in English, a Spanish version of the song titled "Abre Tu Corazón" was recorded by Venezuelan rock singer Melissa (born in Peru, Melissa moved to Venezuela at an early age), 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.[56] The Madonna tribute compilation Virgin Voices: A Tribute To Madonna, Vol. 2 contained a cover by the late Israeli singer Ofra Haza.[57] An eurodance version was recorded by the group Mad'House for the album "Absolutely Mad".[58] A hi-NRG dance version was recorded by Who's That Girl for the album Exposed, released through Almighty Records.[59] In 2004 Platinum Blonde NRG, Vol. 2: Nrgised Madonna Classics, a hi-NRG cover is performed by In-Deep.[60] 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 it's a microphone. A Madonna poster is visible during the scene.[61] 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.[62]

Formats and track listing

  1. "Open Your Heart" – 4:12
  2. "White Heat" (LP Version) – 4:40
  1. "Open Your Heart" (Extended Version) – 10:35
  2. "Open Your Heart" (Dub) – 6:43
  3. "White Heat" (LP Version) – 4:40
  1. "Open Your Heart" (Remix) – 3:59
  2. "Lucky Star" (Edit) – 3:44
  • UK 12" Single / UK Limited Edition 12" Picture Disc[67][68]
  1. "Open Your Heart" (Extended Version) – 10:35
  2. "Open Your Heart" (Dub) – 6:43
  3. "Lucky Star" (Full-Length Version) – 5:33
  • Rain 12" Picture Disc[69]
  1. "Rain" (Radio Remix) – 4:33
  2. "Up Down Suite" (Dub) – 12:13
  3. "Open Your Heart" (LP Version) – 4:12

Credits and personnel

Credits adapted from the album's liner notes.[70]

Charts and procession


Chart (1986–87) Peak
Australian Kent Music Report[30] 16
Austrian Singles Chart[32] 18
Belgian VRT Top 30[26] 4
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[21] 8
Dutch Top 40[25] 7
French Singles Chart[34] 24
German Singles Chart[33] 17
Irish Singles Chart[24] 2
Italian Singles Chart[23] 6
New Zealand Singles Chart[32] 12
Swiss Singles Chart[31] 11
UK Singles Chart[27] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[17] 1
US Hot Dance Music/Club Play[18] 1

Year-end chart

Charts (1986) Position
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[22] 68
Italian Singles Chart[71] 62
US Billboard Hot 100[72] 30
US Hot Dance Music/Club Play[73] 24

Chart procession and succession

Preceded by
"At This Moment" by Billy Vera & the Beaters
US Billboard Hot 100 number one single
February 7, 1987
Succeeded by
"Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi
Preceded by
"C'est La Vie" by Robbie Nevil
US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play number-one single
February 14, 1987
Succeeded by
"Showing Out (Get Fresh at the Weekend)" by
Mel and Kim


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  • Welton, Donn (1998), Body and flesh: a philosophical reader, Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 1577181263 

External links

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