My favorite thing about the MDNA set list was the return of “Open Your Heart.” It hadn’t been performed live in 22 years (unless you count that little instrumental snippet on the Drowned World Tour in 2001, which I do not) and it was long overdue. It’s one of those iconic Madonna songs that I think is in danger of being forgotten by casual fans simply because for so long, Madonna seemed to have forgotten about it.
I can’t imagine the world in which “Open Your Heart” was recorded by Cyndi Lauper as “Follow Your Heart” because that was who was offered the song first. It’d be kind of like if Michael Jackson had recorded “La Isla Bonita” for the Bad album. A nice idea, but man, my world would be very different. I wonder if the title change was Madonna’s sole lyrical contribution to “Open Your Heart”, thus earning her a writing credit. As the second song on True Blue, after “Papa Don’t Preach”, it was the first album track I heard from the new album. Upon hearing it for the first time, I figured it would be a single eventually – although that reaction was not as instantaneous and Jeff’s and my virtual guarantee that “Take A Bow” would be a single the first time we heard that song. (“they’re probably filming the video now!”) My sister and I even imagined the video for “Open Your Heart” – Madonna performing open heart surgery.
Fortunately, a different idea was used for the actual video. It was quite scandalous in its day, as Madonna’s corset barely covered her crotch. Her hair was so white back then that she reminds me of Marie Fredrikkson of Roxette fame. But the dancing is great and the visuals stunning – the video is so colorful. For the 4th single from the album, it was Madonna doing what she did best – making killer pop music and being provocative.
But back to the MDNA version of the song. Stripped down to its barest essentials and performed in a folk style, you realize the beautiful simplicity of the song and how really, no one can do it justice besides Madonna. She OWNS this song. I especially loved it when she called her son Rocco out to dance with her (sadly, it’s not in the video below.) It was one of those moments where Madonna seemed real – an international superstar, but also someone’s mom. You don’t see those moments very often. I often wonder what it’s like to have Madonna as a mom. Is she strict? Is she mean? Is she loving? I would imagine she’s all three and many other things. It’s like she had this whole other life before she had kids. At my age, Madonna had already recorded Ray of Light. What have I done? Well, a lot, but I suppose it’s all relative.
Madonna songs like “Open Your Heart” are so intertwined in my DNA that I can hardly imagine when they didn’t exist. I suppose that’s what happens when you follow an artist for nearly 30 years like I have followed her. I know people on Facebook and in other areas of my life probably don’t get the Madonna thing, and sometimes I don’t either. Her voice is, as someone famously put it, remarkable only in its familiarity. But clearly, she held the lock and we all held the key.