The cover of Once Upon A Time showed Summer in a white wedding-style dress against a plain light blue background, giving more of an image of a fairytale fantasy character rather than just a sexual one; her previous albums had portrayed her as a fantasy/sexual figure both in their artwork and material. The four sides of the double album were dubbed "Act One," "Act Two" etc., and the inner sleeve was printed in the style of a libretto. The album's gatefold sleeve opened to reveal a full-length picture of Summer in the white dress against a beautiful night sky filled with stars.
Throughout the album, the songs tell the story of a girl who goes from having nothing and leading a lonely life dreaming of what could be, to finally having the man she loves enter her life. The "rags to riches" story is brought into the modern day via the use of the electronic disco sound which is found constantly throughout the album. Although positive themes permeate "Once Upon A Time", darker thought-provoking ones create an emotion filled artistic journey. This would confirm Summer's status as the leading female song writer and vocalist within the disco genre.
Building on the success of "I Feel Love" from earlier the same year, one side of this double album was devoted to pure electronica. Many fans of Summer's uber-producer, Giorgio Moroder, cite two of these tracks in particular - "Now I Need You" and "Working The Midnight Shift" - as amongst his (and Summer's) greatest work. "Queen For A Day" is notable for abruptly switching from all-electronic backing to acoustic instruments halfway through the song, and such switching would become a recurring background feature in some of Moroder's later compositions.
Donna Summer stated in a radio interview that the "once upon a time" album went from no idea what they were going to record to a completed album in a space of 3 days. No one from her team had any sleep during those 3 days including Donna. When the album finally completed after 3 days, Donna was hospitalized for exhaustion.
The album sold reasonably well as it made the US Top 30 and was certified gold in America by the RIAA that same year. It is also widely acknowledged by fans and music critics as one of her best albums, due to its variety of musical styles. It spawned the European hit single "I Love You", which became her fifth Top 10 in the UK in less than two years, and it also hit the US Top 40. "Rumour Has It" was also a UK Top 20 hit.
Track listingAll songs written and composed by Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte.
|1.||"Once Upon a Time"||4:02|
|2.||"Faster And Faster To Nowhere"||3:34|
|3.||"Fairy Tale High"||4:25|
|4.||"Say Something Nice"||4:44|
|5.||"Now I Need You"||6:09|
|6.||"Working the Midnight Shift"||5:07|
|7.||"Queen for a Day"||5:59|
|8.||"If You Got It Flaunt It"||4:43|
|9.||"A Man Like You"||3:34|
|11.||"(Theme) Once Upon a Time"||0:48|
|12.||"Dance Into My Life"||4:10|
|13.||"Rumour Has It"||4:57|
|14.||"I Love You"||4:43|
|15.||"Happily Ever After"||3:51|
|16.||"(Theme) Once Upon a Time"||3:58|