Single Review: Madonna “Papa Don’t Preach”

Papa Don’t Preach
Album: True Blue
Year: 1986

Madonna pleads for her father’s understanding in “Papa Don’t Preach” as she tells him about her pregnancy.

Opening with a string arrangement which provides a nervous, heightened tone and then a calming dance beat, leading into the first verse. Madonna begins with the discussion by preparing her dad for the bad news. She knows her dad is going to be disappointed in her. However, she’s realistic and tells him she’s hasn’t been his little girl for a long time. (“Papa I know you’re going to be upset/’Cause I was always your little girl/But you should know by now/I’m not a baby”). It’s not his fault — he did an excellent job raising her, she assures him. It’s because of his teachings, she knows what do now despite not being an adult yet. She tells him it was her boyfriend he didn’t like and now, they are in trouble. (“You always taught me right from wrong/I need your help, daddy please be strong/I may be young at heart/But I know what I’m saying/The one you warned me all about/The one you said I could do without/We’re in an awful mess, and I don’t mean maybe – please”).

She doesn’t want to hear a lecture about what she did wrong. She’s scared and she needs his help. But she’s not going to have an abortion. She wants the baby. (“Papa don’t preach, I’m in trouble deep/Papa don’t preach, I’ve been losing sleep/But I made up my mind, I’m keeping my baby, oh/I’m gonna keep my baby, mmm…”).

She and her boyfriend are both taking responsibility. She tells her father she will marry her boyfriend. She’s not certain if getting married is what she wants. She’s willing to go through with it even if she has to give up college and the life she planned for herself. (“He says that he’s going to marry me/We can raise a little family/Maybe we’ll be all right/It’s a sacrifice”).

On the other hand, her girlfriends are telling her to have an abortion and enjoy being young. She’s confused and she doesn’t know what to do. However, she trusts her father will listen and lead her in the right direction. (“But my friends keep telling me to give it up/Saying I’m too young, I ought to live it up/What I need right now is some good advice, please”).

Her dad, however, doesn’t think she should get married to him. She tells him her boyfriend has been treating her well and if her dad could see it, he would allow them to get married. She tells her father her relationship with her boyfriend is real and they have something special. (“addy, daddy if you could only see/Just how good he’s been treating me/You’d give us your blessing right now/’Cause we are in love, we are in love, so please”).

“Papa Don’t Preach,” which was written by Brian Elliott, is a classic. Madonna admits her mistakes and she talks with her dad in her a mature fashion. She’s sympathetic and wants to geniunely do the right thing. It’s hinted at that perhaps her father didn’t even want her to have the baby, either. (“Oh, I’m gonna keep my baby, ooh/Don’t you stop loving me daddy”). While her father wants his daughter to return to her normal life (single and childless like her girlfriends want her to) and be his little girl again, she knows this isn’t possible. In the end, Madonna stands her ground and follows through on what her father taught her all those years.

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