Much like Madonna’s first couple of albums, there’s rather a lot of relative musical diversity here, which makes it a lot easier for someone like me, who does not like dance pop, to appreciate what she’s doing.
I think one of the things that has surprised me about listening to full Madonna albums is the quality of the deep cuts. Yes, this had 5 singles (one of which I don’t think is that great) but there are more decent hooks here than you might think. It’s pretty important in pop to actually have catchy songs and Madonna seems to be pretty reliable for that.
As I noted above, it’s relatively diverse compared to a lot of other dance pop. It’s safe to say that “Papa Don’t Preach” and “White Heat” don’t really feel like they belong on the same album, for example. They’re pulling from different genres a lot of the time – for example, there is some distorted guitar (often looped or sampled) on at least three tracks – and Madonna changes her singing style to fit the mood. It’s not as diverse as her debut (in my memory) but it’s more diverse than Like a Virgin (again, from memory).
The production is pretty damn dated, but I find that it’s less offensively dated than so much other music of the era. I don’t know if that’s because Madonna sells this better or because I just expect dance pop to be dated, whereas I don’t expect rock music to be. Anyway, it doesn’t sound quite as “1986!!!” as some records from 1986, which is something.
As usual, it isn’t my thing. I can’t really conceive of a future moment where I’ll be like “better go put on some Madonna.” But she knows what she’s doing, she’s good at it and it’s not boring. She understands sequencing better than most pop artists, too, I would say.