Who's That Girl: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is a soundtrack album by American singer-songwriter Madonna, from the film of the same name, and was released on July 21, 1987 by Sire Records. It also contains songs by her label mates Scritti Politti, Duncan Faure, Club Nouveau, Coati Mundi and Michael Davidson. The soundtrack is credited as a Madonna album, despite her only performing four of the nine tracks on the album. After the commercial success of her film Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), Madonna wanted to act in another comedy film titled Slammer, about a woman named Nikki Finn who was falsely accused of homicide. However, due to the critical and commercial failure of her adventure film Shanghai Surprise (1986), Warner Bros. were initially reluctant to green light the project, but later agreed, after Madonna convinced them and also because they wanted to cash in on Madonna's success with soundtracks.
Madonna began working on the soundtrack in December 1986, and contacted Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray, who had worked as producers on her third studio album True Blue (1986). She felt that an uptempo song and a downtempo song were needed for the album. Leonard composed the music for the uptempo song, with Madonna providing the melody and lyrics. The singer named the track "Who's That Girl" and, believing this to be a better title than Slammer, changed the name of the film to the same. Together, Madonna and Leonard also developed the downtempo ballad "The Look of Love". Two more songs were composed for the film with Bray, the first being the dance-y tune "Causing a Commotion", and the other being "Can't Stop", a track inspired by Sixties Motown and the group Martha and the Vandellas.
After its release, the Who's That Girl soundtrack received a mostly negative response from critics. Some reviews described the album as plain and incomplete, although the title track and "The Look of Love" were praised as its highlights. The soundtrack was a commercial success, reaching the top ten of the album charts of the United States, Austria, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom, while topping the charts of Germany, and European Album chart. The album went on to sell six million copies worldwide.
Three of the Madonna tracks were released as singles. The title track became her sixth number one single on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first artist to accumulate six number-one singles in the 1980s, and the first female performer to get that many number-ones as a solo act. "Causing a Commotion" was released as the second single, and reached number two on the Hot 100. "The Look of Love" was a European market-only release, reaching the top ten in United Kingdom. Another track, "Turn It Up" was a promotional release in United States, reaching number 15 on the dance charts. Who's That Girl received further promotion from the successful Who's That Girl World Tour.
Madonna's 1985 comedy film Desperately Seeking Susan was a commercial success, prompting her to take further interest in acting. For her next screen project, she picked another comedy, initially titled Slammer, but later named Who's That Girl. Madonna played the character of Nikki Finn, a young woman accused of homicide who insisted that she was innocent. Released on parole, she was determined to clear her name. Along with a character named Loudon Trott (played by Griffin Dunne), she gets caught up in 36 hours of high adventure, culminating in a scene where Nikki interrupts a wedding to reveal the identity of the real murderer. Regarding the character Nikki, Madonna commented,
However, in the light of the bad publicity surrounding Madonna and her then husband Sean Penn, coupled with the fact that their drama film Shanghai Surprise had failed commercially, she had to fight hard to persuade Warner Bros. to green light the project. She also wanted her close friend James Foley to direct the film, proclaiming him to be a "genius". Foley had previously directed the music videos of her songs "Live to Tell", "Papa Don't Preach" and "True Blue". Warner Bros. were looking for another way to cash in upon Madonna's success with soundtracks, and felt that her name alone might be enough to guarantee the success of the film as well as its soundtrack. So they felt that they had no choice, but to green light the project. Filming began in October 1986, in New York, but it was not until January that Madonna started working on the soundtrack.
"I had some very specific ideas in mind, music that would stand on its own as well as support and enhance what was happening on screen and the only way to make that a reality was to have a hand in writing the tunes myself... The songs aren't necessarily about Nikki or written to be sung by someone like her, but there's a spirit to this music that captures both what the film and the characters are about, I think."
Having some specific ideas in her mind about the music of the film, Madonna contacted Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray, who had helped to write and produce her third studio album True Blue in 1986. Madonna explained to them that she needed an uptempo song and a downtempo song. As per her demands, Leonard developed the uptempo song. Madonna came to the recording studio one Thursday, and Leonard handed her a cassette of a recording of the chorus, which he had just finished working on. Madonna went to the backroom and completed the melody and the lyrics of the song, while Leonard worked on the other parts of it. After finishing the lyrics, Madonna decided to name the song "Who's That Girl", and changed the title of Slammer to the same, considering it to be a better name. In Fred Bronson's book The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, Leonard explained that the song was recorded in one day with Madonna recording her vocals only once. Additional guitar and percussion tracks were added later by Leonard and Bray.
The downtempo song was developed on the following day, with Madonna writing the lyrics and Leonard composing the melody. Named "The Look of Love", the song contains the line "No where to run, no place to hide. From the look of love, from the eyes of pride". After "The Look of Love", Madonna went on to develop two further songs with Bray as the producer. The first was called "Causing a Commotion", and was inspired by Penn and the couple's often tumultuous relationship. Madonna felt that her marriage to Penn was on the verge of breaking-up, due to Penn's abusive and violent nature. In a Rolling Stone article dated September 10, 1987, Madonna spoke about Penn's impact on her life and the song: "I don't like violence. I never condone hitting anyone, and I never thought that any violence should have taken place. But on the other hand, I understood Sean's anger and believe me, I have wanted to hit him many times. I never would you know, because I realize that it would just make things worse. [...] I felt like he was 'Causing a Commotion' to purposefully distract me. I wrote this song and vented my frustration in it." The last song developed was "Can't Stop", a track inspired by Sixties Motown and the group Martha and the Vandellas. In addition to this, the album also included tracks by some acts on Warner Bros. Records, namely Club Nouveau, Scritti Politti and Michael Davidson. Commercially unsuccessful and unknown in the US, these groups needed a platform to project their songs, and including them in a Madonna album seemed like the right thing to do for Warner. Two tracks by Duncan Faure and Coati Mundi were included on the soundtrack at the request of Madonna since they were her friends.
|"Who's That Girl"
A sample to Madonna's "Who's That Girl", where the lyrics for the chorus include Spanish words.
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
With the tracklist sequencing putting three of Madonna's tracks first, and with only her face appearing on the cover art, Who's That Girl became a Madonna album by default. The title track is composed in Madonna's typical style—mixing a drum machine, bubbling bass synth line, and the sound of stringed instruments. According to Rikky Rooksby, author of The Complete Guide to the Music of Madonna, the three parts of the song, namely the bridge, where Madonna sings "what can help me now", the chorus and the verse flow together in a coherent manner, with the chorus incorporating a haunting effect. The song epitomized Madonna's interest with Hispanic culture that continued after the release of her 1987 single "La Isla Bonita". Leonard and Madonna had added Spanish phrases in the chorus, over the trumpets of the second verse, and also in the added instrumental break in the middle. "Who's That Girl" also makes use of the sonic effect brought about by the combination of multiple vocal lines, which had been previously used by groups like The Beach Boys in their singles "God Only Knows" (1966) and "I Get Around" (1964) as well as R.E.M.'s singles "Fall on Me" (1986) and "Near Wild Heaven" (1991). "Who's That Girl" employs this effect on the last chorus where three or four different vocal hooks are intertwined.
The second track "Causing a Commotion" has a danceable, up-tempo groove. The musical arrangement consists of a number of hooks interpolating with each other. It begins with the chorus, where Madonna sings the line "I've got the moves baby, You've got the motions, If we got together we be causing a commotion." The verses are accompanied by a four-note descending bassline and interjecting staccato chords. The lyrics make reference to Madonna's 1985 single "Into the Groove" and have three parts to the vocal harmony. According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Walt Disney Music Company, the song is set in the time signature of common time with a tempo of 192 beats per minute. It is composed in the key of B♭ major with Madonna's voice spanning from the high-note of C3 to B5. The song has a basic sequence of B♭–Fm7–B♭–F9–B♭6 as its chord progression.
"The Look of Love" starts off with a low bass synth line and a slow backing track. It is followed by the sound of percussionand a high register note, contrasting with the bassline. The song continues in this way until the last verse, which is backed by the sound of an acoustic guitar. A two-part vocal is found in the line "No where to run, no place to hide". Rooksby felt that Madonna's voice sounded "expressive" when she sings the line "From the look of love" and utters the word "look" over the D minor chord present underneath. The word is sung in a higher note of the musical scale, thus giving an impression of the suspension like quality of the minor ninth chord, dissociating it from the harmony of the other notes. The song is set in the time signature of common time, with a moderate tempo of 80 beats per minute. It is composed in the key of D minor, with Madonna's voice spanning the notes C5 to B♭3. "The Look of Love" has a basic sequence of C–Dm–Fm–B as its chord progression.
"Can't Stop" has a high pitched keyboard sound embedded in between the sound of a drum machine and clarinet. The lyrics essentially refer to the idea that "I want my man and I am going to get him whatever". Rooksby noticed that the instrumental break in the song repeats the chorus, with a synth line added on the top. He felt that "Can't Stop", at 4:45 length, was a good example of the division of Madonna's songs between dance music—where the length is important—and the requirement of classic pop songs, which can vary from two minutes to four minutes. J. Randy Taraborrelli, in his book Madonna: An Intimate Biography, described Faure's song "24 Hours" as a slow track which fails to build up momentum.Joe Brown from The Washington Post described Davidson's "Turn it Up" as consisting of a slow background synth, that transforms into a rapidly progressing beat, with Davidson's singing reminiscent of the Beastie Boys.