In a back catalogue that’s packed with curiosities, I’m Breathless: Music From And Inspired By The Film Dick Tracy – Madonna’s fifth studio set – is perhaps the hardest to pigeonhole. Part concept album and somewhat soundtrack sampler, it was also a determined effort to sprinkle some of the commercial gold-dust that blessed her recording career on a bid towards movie stardom.
Listen to ‘I’m Breathless’ here.
There was a lot riding on Madonna’s participation in the Warren Beatty and Disney vehicle Dick Tracy in 1990. Her part in 1985’s box-office smash Desperately Seeking Susan had wowed the critics on the back of the first wave of “Madonna mania”, but 1986’s Shanghai Surprise and 1987’s Who’s That Girl hadn’t quite reaped the same rewards. With the critical and commercial success of 1989’s Like A Prayer album suggesting that her recording career would only continue to soar, I’m Breathless was designed to act as a promotional project for both the film and her upcoming Blond Ambition World Tour, but it also has something to say about the “Queen Of Pop”’s increasingly maverick approach to her music.
Taking her place among the Hollywood elite
This was a Madonna record quite unlike anything that had gone before, offering a defiant two-finger salute to those who presumed to second-guess what might come next. Its sophisticated pop is genuinely surprising, with Patrick Leonard (her long-time collaborator, who had produced the True Blue and Like A Prayer records) co-penning the majority of the album’s tracks. And it’s a diverse offering. Cry Baby is an elegant, pitch-perfect 30s pastiche, the appropriately titled I’m Going Bananas plays it largely for laughs, and He’s A Man is a smoky torch song that revealed Madonna’s developing vocal dexterity.