Madonna’s one and only power ballad, and thankfully it’s pure class. The first of her many great soundtrack contributions, it was written for the film Vision Quest and in fact recorded before the Like a Virgin album despite its subsequent release. Though there’s a thin line between doe-eyed infatuation and sappiness, Crazy for You is well-written enough to envelop, but never quite overwhelm the senses. Madonna’s vocals (apparently recorded in one take - not sure how that works with the double-tracking) are, for the first time, spectacular - as she’d often do later on, the smoky verses build into a powerful, nearly belted release of a chorus. It’s the ’80s ballad done to perfection, but more representative of pop in general than her later, far more adventurous efforts.
(above at 0:57 is the song’s occurrence in the film; the music video compiled of clips from the movie is here)
Vision Quest isn’t too bad at all - kind of a romance/coming-of-age film via high school wrestling. With or without the various wrestling scenes, it’s one of the most bizarrely, almost obliviously homoerotic films I’ve ever seen - but thankfully Linda Fiorentino’s pure attitude balances out Matthew Modine’s incredible awkwardness. Madonna plays a nightclub singer, performing Gambler and Crazy for You - and in the film’s setting, the song is absolutely perfect, a vision of intimacy in a crowded room. She’s charismatic as usual, but thankfully doesn’t try to steal the show. The version of the song used in the film is for some reason totally different to every other issue; a tone higher (on my $5 DVD copy), with a rawer sound more befitting the live band vibe. Madonna’s vocals, which may even have been recorded live and not mimed, have little of the familiar, powerful double-tracking; instead she slides into the high notes almost timidly. At the risk of retconning her inability to replicate them live, one could say the song’s reserved performance in the middle of the film blossoms into its more confident, final version as the movie’s theme.
Though a young Madonna filmed and recorded her appearance to piggyback on Vision Quest’s publicity, the tables had already turned by the time of its release - the universal nature of Crazy for You only added to the momentum.
Album: Vision Quest (1984)
Producer: John “Jellybean” Benitez
In a parallel universe, after Gambler became her sixth UK top ten single in 11 months, one Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone took her success for granted. Growing complacent, she released one similar crowd-pleasing single after another, eventually oversaturating the market and fading into the background of stock-standard ’80s pop she never truly originated from.
(this is Gambler’s appearance in Vision Quest, leading into Crazy for You; here's the music video, once again compiled of clips from the film)
The song’s role as part of Vision Quest is essentially filler to soundtrack the nightclub scene until Crazy for You draws the audience in. In that sense, it fulfils its purpose - but was it ever originally intended to be a single? It’s not really bad… but ironically, for a song Madonna wrote alone, she invested little of her own personality into it. Gambler sounds, more than anything, like a Pat Benatar outtake - even with passionate vocals, the songwriting wasn’t strong enough to justify its release as a single for any reason other than high levels of demand for more Madonna product. Though in the long term it neither really did nor prevented any harm, Gambler - recorded under Geffen - was never released as a single in the US, likely due to fears by Madonna’s usual record label Sire that it’d detract from all her other charting singles at the time. But thankfully, their precautions were in vain - only five months later, Madonna would drop the game-changing Live to Tell’s quiet storm on the world, forcefully reasserting her relevance. Back then, Gambler was generic, and is now even more so; though fans may complain, it’s easy to see why it was never rereleased on any of Madonna’s compilations or albums.