Released only a few months after Like A Virgin left the Top 20 in the album chart, True Blue released during the summer of 1986 to solidify the new superstar profile of Madonna.
It did even better that Like A Virgin, putting her on the top of the game. It all started with lead single Live To Tell, a strong #6 hit, which is already a great result for a foreign track. The album debuted at #2 due to a technicality. In fact, 1986 was the last year of the monthly chart, before being changed to a bi-weekly chart. This isn’t the only difference with 1987 charts as compilations were still allowed. The record which stopped Madonna’s LP was Le Disque Des Records Slow, a various artist compilation album, only a few months after they got excluded from the chart. Had rules been changed a bit earlier, True Blue would have been #1 in both monthly charts of July and August 1986. Ignoring such compilations, the album was one of the top 5 sellers every month until the end of the year. Those extraordinary results were possible thanks to Papa Don’t Preach (#3) and True Blue (#6) singles. The album went Platinum, 400,000 sales, before the end of the year.
In April 1987, the fourth single Open Your Heart failed to make as much of an impact as previous singles, peaking at #24. The album felt this let down, finally dropping out of the Top 10 at that point. With four singles released already, it could have been the end of the promotional campaign for the album in France. Plans were different however, as Madonna was expected to visit France for the first time during the summer. A fifth single was therefore scheduled, La Isla Bonita. It ended up being quite simply the biggest hit of her career in the country up to this day. Its run at #1 of 3 weeks wasn’t especially long but it wasn’t on top for long due to it facing two gigantic local hits – Licence IV before and Vanessa Paradis after – in total the song managed the unreal total of 17 weeks inside the Top 5.
Obviously, the album benefited from this success. As we got deeper into the summer, the hype surrounding Madonna increased. La Isla Bonita was everywhere and news about her arrival in late August was widely spread. Her August 29 concert in Paris saw 130,000 persons attend. As if that wasn’t enough, she threw her panties into the crowd during the concert creating a monster Media buzz. Results for her record sales were absolutely insane: Who’s That Girl was #2 and La Isla Bonita #3 in the Singles Chart ; in the Albums front, True Blue finally made it officially to #1, Who’s That Girl OST was at #2, 1985 album Like A Virgin re-entered at #5 and her uncharted 1983 album made its first entry at #9. Only Joe Le Taxi, the #1 classic teen hit by Vanessa Paradis prevented Madonna from achieving a unique double-double, e.g. #1-2 in both sides.
New shipments in anticipation catapulted the album to 800,000 copies sold by the end of August. As the market had yet to increase this was an incredibly good figure. It decreased after that storm, leaving the Top 20 by early 1988 after remaining inside the Top 20 for an incredible 78 weeks. After that date, the album never charted again until 2000.
The question is, when did True Blue cross the million mark? There was no Diamond certification in 1986/1987, instead it was introduced in 1988. The album was awarded officially only in October 2001. One thing to consider is that six of her albums were certified on that date meaning the criteria was reached earlier. Warner certified no album Diamond before 1991 so one may think True Blue was over the milestone earlier. This being said, the label did a major audit in 1993. This included Diamond awards for two 70s albums, several albums from the True Blue era and also Madonna’s own debut album that was certified Platinum. It seems rather clear that if the 1986 blockbuster was past the million level at that point it would have been certified.
The element that delayed this certification is most likely the 1990 compilation The Immaculate collection. In fact, True Blue was clearly very close to a million by its release, after which the best of album severely decreased catalog sales of studio albums. From 2003 to 2008, this set sold a mere 25,000 copies despite a large boost in 2008, afterwards it was regularly selling 3,000 copies a year, less than that by now. In total, the album sold 45,000 units since its Diamond certification in 2001. I’ll assume a million copies were sold in mid-90s, just after the 1993 major audit. This brings its sales to 1,05 million going by its award.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,095,000 copies.
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Sources: SNEP, Nielsen, IFOP, GFK, Platine, Le Monde.