- Like a Virgin
Like a Virgin Studio album by Madonna Released November 12, 1984 Recorded April–September 1984,
Power Station Studio, Manhattan, New York
Genre Dance-pop, Synthpop Length 43:10 Label Sire, Warner Bros. Producer Nile Rodgers, Madonna, Stephen Bray Madonna chronology Madonna
Like a Virgin
Singles from Like a Virgin
Like a Virgin is the second studio album by American singer-songwriter Madonna, released on November 12, 1984 by Sire Records. It was re-released worldwide in 1985, with the inclusion of the bonus track "Into the Groove". In 2001, Warner Bros. Records released a remastered version with two bonus remix tracks. After the release of her self-titled debut album, Madonna wanted to solidify her future in the music business, by building on the success of the first album. She decided to become one of the record producers, but Warner Bros. was not ready to give her the artistic freedom that she wanted. Nile Rodgers was chosen as the primary producer of the album, due to his work with David Bowie.
The album was recorded at Power Station Studio in New York at a quick pace. Rodgers enlisted the help of his former Chic band mates Bernard Edwards, who was the bassist, and Tony Thompson, who played drums; they appeared on several tracks of the album. Rodgers decided to be the guitarist, when Edwards requested him to do so, in exchange of their help. Jason Corsaro, the record's audio engineer, persuaded Rodgers to use digital recording, a new technique introduced at that time. The cover sleeve and images were shot by Steven Meisel. Madonna wanted the album title and the cover image to make provocative link between her own religious name Madonna, as the Roman Catholic title for Jesus' mother Mary, and the Christian concept of the virgin birth.
Like a Virgin is not that much of a musical departure from Madonna's first album, but she felt that the material was stronger. Along with Rodgers, Madonna also collaborated with her former boyfriend Steve Bray, who co-wrote many songs on the album. Consisting of dance-pop oriented music, the songs also incorporated New Wave. After its release, Like a Virgin received mixed reviews from the critics, but was a commercial success. It became Madonna's first number one album on the Billboard 200, while reaching the top of the charts in Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified it diamond for shipment of ten million copies across the United States. Worldwide it has sold 21 million copies, becoming one of the best-selling albums of all time.
Five singles were released from the album, with "Like a Virgin", "Material Girl" and "Into the Groove" becoming worldwide hits. To promote the album, Madonna embarked on The Virgin Tour, which had shows in cities of North America only. Like a Virgin has attained significance as a cultural artifact of the 80s. Madonna proved that she was not a one-hit wonder and was able to provide herself with a permanent footing in the music world. Her songs became a lightning rod for both criticism by conservatives and imitation by the younger female population, especially "Material Girl" and "Like a Virgin". According to author J. Randy Taraborrelli, "Every important artist has at least one album in his or her career whose critical and commercial success becomes the artist's magic moment; for Madonna, Like a Virgin was just such a defining moment".
A former dancer and fixture on the New York club scene, Madonna Louise Ciccone became known to the world simply as Madonna, with the release of her 1983 self-titled debut album Madonna. Fueled by hit songs like "Holiday", "Borderline" and "Lucky Star", the album was one of the best selling of the year and helped Madonna become one of the most exciting new artist of the '80s. When she started work on her second album, Madonna felt that her first album had succeeded in introducing her "street-smart dance queen" persona, and she wanted to solidify and build upon that concept. According to her, "My work, my dedication—the stubbornness for getting Madonna released—had paid off. Now it was time to solidify my future."
For Like a Virgin, Madonna decided to become one of the primary record producers, feeling the need to control the various aspects of her music. She believed that depending on a particular producer for her album was not something that suited her. Madonna said "I learnt my lesson while creating my debut album, and the way Lucas left me in the water with the project, you can't trust men"—referring to the incident, when due to certain difference of opinion between producer Reggie Lucas and Madonna, Lucas had left the project half-way. However, Warner Bros. Records was not ready to give her the artistic freedom that she wanted. Madonna had to fight with them, and make them understand why she wanted to be on her own with this album. In J. Randy Taraborrelli's biography of Madonna, she commented,
"Warner Bros. Records is a hierarchy of old men and it's a chauvinist environment to be working in because I'm treated like this sexy little girl. I had to prove them wrong, which meant not only proving myself to my fans but to my record company as well. That is something that happens when you're a girl. It wouldn't happen to Prince or Michael Jackson. I had to do everything on my own and it was hard trying to convince people that I was worth a record deal. After that, I had the same problem trying to convince the record company that I had more to offer than a one-shot singer. I had to win this fight."
Nile Rodgers was chosen by Madonna as the main producer of the album, mostly because of his work with David Bowie on his 1983 album Let's Dance. Rogers had a reputation of being a man of experience in creating musical personas in the recording studio. With production partner Bernard Edwards, Rodgers had formed the seventies band Chic in 1976. But he left the band after seven years to pursue his own career, and ended up collaborating with Bowie for Let's Dance. Madonna was impressed by the record and its title single, so she wanted a similar approach to the music of her album. She commented, "When I was making the record, I was just so thrilled and happy to be working with Nile Rodgers. I idolized Nile because of the whole Chic thing. I couldn't believe that the record company gave me the money so that I could work with him." Rodgers recalled that he had first seen Madonna perform at a small club in New York in 1983. In an interview with Time magazine, Rodgers explained: "I went to the club to see another woman sing, but when I got there Madonna was onstage. I loved her stage presence and then we met right after that. I kept thinking to myself, 'Damn, is she a star', but she wasn't at that time. I always wanted to work with her and Like a Virgin seemed like a perfect opportunity." The album was recorded at Power Station Studio in New York at a quick pace. Rodgers enlisted the help of his former Chic band mates Edwards, who was the bassist, and Tony Thompson, who played drums; they appeared on several tracks of the album. Rodgers decided to be the guitarist, when Edwards requested him to do so, in exchange of their help.
The recording sessions did not start until the afternoon as Rodgers, who attended late-night parties, was not accustomed to work in early mornings. The schedule was also difficult for Madonna, who recalled that she used to "go to the swim club on the Upper West Side and go swimming and walk from there to the recording studio. It was impossible for me to reach there at morning." Rodgers recalled that Madonna was a real hard worker and incredibly tenacious. He commented: "I am always amazed by Madonna's incredible judgement when it comes to making pop records. I've never seen anyone do it better, and that's the truth. When we did that album, it was the perfect union, and I knew it from the first day in the studio. The thing between us, man, it was sexual, it was passionate, it was creativity... it was pop."
Jason Corsaro, the record's audio engineer, persuaded Rodgers to use digital recording, a new technique at the time which Corsaro believed was going to be the future of recording. To ensure this, Corsaro used a Sony 3324 24-track digital tape recorder and a Sony F1 two-track during the mixing of the tracks. Madonna recorded the lead parts of the songs in a small, wooden, high-ceilinged piano room at the back of Studio C, also known as Power Station's "R&B room". Corsaro then placed gobos around her while using the top capsule of a stereo AKG C24 tube microphone, with a Schoeps microphone preamplifier and a Pultec equalizer. Once the tracks met with everybody's approval, Robert Sabino added the keyboard parts, playing mostly a Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, as well as some Rhodes piano and acoustic piano, while Rodgers also played a Synclavier. Madonna, although not required, was present every minute of the recording sessions and the mixing process, Corsaro commented: "Nile was there most of the time, but she was there all of the time. She never left".
Packaging and title
The cover sleeve and images were shot by Steven Meisel, who would become a regular collaborator with Madonna, in a suite at the St. Regis Hotel. Madonna wanted the album title to make provocative link between her own religious name—Madonna as the Roman Catholic title for Jesus' mother Mary—and the Christian concept of the virgin birth. With the title song alluding to this concept, Madonna wanted the album cover to have mixed messages as well. Author Graham Thompson described that "reclining on a silk sheet, with a bouquet on her lap and wearing a wedding dress, a closer inspection reveals Madonna's image as highly fetishized and sexualized." He added that the heavy make-up, pouting lips, and despoiled hair, along with the tight-fitting bustier and full-length gloves, turned Madonna's image into a figure not of virtue, but of desire. This point, according to Thompson, is further emphasized by the belt she is wearing, the wording on which is just visible as "Boy Toy". He added: "The image was ambiguous and was based upon the fact that Madonna's appeal at that point of her career was not presenting herself just as an object of desire, but also as a desiring female subject".
Erlewine commented that the "Steven Meisel-shot cover [...] was as key to her reinvention as the music of the album itself." William McKeen, author of Rock and roll is here to stay: an anthology, felt that the image was another trigger and testament to the fact that Madonna was the last word on fashion for women and young girls of that era, the epitome of cool. Madonna herself declared: "I have always loved to play cat and mouse with the conventional stereotypes. My Like a Virgin album cover is a classic example. People were thinking who was I pretending to be—the Virgin Mary or the whore? These were the two extreme images of women I had known vividly, and remembered from childhood, and I wanted to play with them. I wanted to see if I can merge them together, Virgin Mary and the whore as one and all. The photo was a statement of independence, if you wanna be a virgin, you are welcome. But if you wanna be a whore, it's your fucking right to be so."
According to Taraborrelli, "Madonna and Rodgers' collective energy—she wanting to score with a smash second album and he wanting to be the producer to give it to her—drove the production of Like a Virgin with great precision." Madonna also collaborated with her former boyfriend Steve Bray, who co-wrote many of the album's songs. Reflecting on the music composition for the album, Bray noted: "I've always kind of made the rib cage and the skeleton of the songs already—she's there for the last things like the eyebrows and the haircut." The opening track "Material Girl" was written by Peter Brown and Roberta Rans. Madonna explained that the concept of the song was similar to her life's situation at that time. According to her, the song was provocative, hence she was attracted to it. "Material Girl" incorporated New Wave music and consists of synth arrangements with a robotic voice repeating the hook. The lyrics identify with materialism, with Madonna asking for a rich and affluent life, rather than romance and relationships. Written by Madonna and Steve Bray, "Angel" is the second track on the album. It was one of the first songs developed for the project and, according to Madonna, was inspired by a girl who is saved by, and subsequently falls in love with an angel. "Angel" consists of a three-chord ascending hook, which serves as the verse and chorus. It has vocal harmonies beneath the main chorus and the lyrics repeat the angel-like image of Madonna's savior. The title track "Like a Virgin" was written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly. Steinberg said that the song was inspired by his personal experiences of romance. It was chosen for Madonna by Michael Ostin of Warner Bros. Records, after listening to a demo sung by Kelly. However, Rodgers initially felt that the song did not have a good enough hook and was not suitable for Madonna, but subsequently changed his opinion after the hook was stuck in his mind. He credits Madonna with recognizing the song's potential: "I handed my apology to Madonna and said, 'you know... if it's so catchy that it stayed in my head for four days, it must be something. So let's do it.'" "Like a Virgin" is a dance-oriented song, composed of two hooks. Madonna's voice is heard in a high register while a continuous arrangement of drums are heard along the bassline. According to author Rikky Rooksby, the lyrics of the song are ambiguous and consist of hidden innuendo. In sexual terms, the lyrics can be interpreted in different ways for different people.
In "Over and Over", Madonna sings about determination and picking yourself up from disappointments. The song consists of instrumentation from drums, synths and has a three-chord progression. An emotional moment occurred in the recording studio when Madonna covered the 1978 Rose Royce song "Love Don't Live Here Anymore". Rodgers recalled: "Madonna had never performed with a live orchestra before. I was very much into doing everything live, so I just said, 'Madonna, you go out there and sing and we will follow you.' At first Madonna was hesitant, but the live setting ended up producing memorable results. She sang and she was overcome with emotions and she started crying, but I left it on the record." The song features Madonna's vocals supported by acoustic guitars and synth strings, with Thompson playing the drum in the second verse. Towards the end, Madonna emotes in the voice of a soul singer. "Into the Groove" is the sixth track on the 1985 re-release edition of the album. Madonna's inspiration behind the song was the dance floor, and she wrote it while watching a handsome Puerto Rican man across her balcony. Initially written for her friend Mark Kamins, Madonna later decided to use it in the soundtrack of her 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan. Unlike the other songs, "Into the Groove" was recorded at Sigma Sound Studios. Madonna's friend Erika Belle was present during the recording and watched the whole process. In Andrew Morton's Madonna biography, she noted that at one point of the recording, Bray was facing difficulties with the bridge of the song, as the melody thought by him was not syncing with the rest of the composition. Undeterred by his obvious difficulties, Madonna stepped up to the microphone and sang the words "Live out your fantasy here with me". Bray's problem was solved; Belle remembered the experience as: "[The song] seemed to come out of her, I was awestruck." The song consists of instrumentation from drums, percussion, congas and whistles. Madonna's voice is double-tracked in the chorus. The lyrics are simple, and written as an invitation to dance with the singer, with sexual innuendos and undertones in the meaning.
"Dress You Up" was the last track to be added to the album as it was submitted late by songwriters Andrea LaRusso and Peggy Stanziale. Although Rodgers rejected it as there was no time to compose a melody and record it for the album, Madonna pushed for the song's inclusion on Like a Virgin, as she particularly liked its lyrics. The song is a drum beat-driven dance track featuring instrumentation of guitars and vocals from a choir. The lyrics are an extended metaphor for fashion and sex, comparing dressing up with passion. "Shoo-Bee-Doo" contains homage to Motown music. Beginning with a slow introduction, the song is in the doo-wop genre and resembles the songs of early Sixties girl groups like The Shirelles or The Crystals. The saxophone breakdown is played by Lenny Pickett. The lyrics discuss relationship problems, and are phrased as clichés in the coda. "Pretender" starts with the chorus and then moves to the verse. It talks about seduction and the insecurity felt by a woman who feels that things are moving too quickly for her with her man. "Stay" is the final track on the album. Using triple-rhythms and double-tracked vocals, the song includes a noise resembling someone slapping a microphone and a spoken sequence which fades away in the end.
Professional ratings Review scores Source Rating Allmusic  Blender  Billboard (Positive) Robert Christgau (B) Entertainment Weekly (A) The New York Times (Positive) Rolling Stone  Slant Magazine  Stylus Magazine (favorable) Yahoo! Music (mixed)
Taraborrelli said, "It was Like a Virgin which reflected Madonna as a more versatile and artistic performer and vocals on this album being reflectively sharper in contrast to her early works in the music industry." Michael Paoletta from Billboard commented that the songs on the album sustain a "fevered dance-rock momentum". Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic commented, "Overall, the album adds up to less than the sum of its parts—partially because the singles are so good, but also because on the first album, she stunned with style and a certain joy. Here, the calculation is apparent, and while that's part of Madonna's essence—even something that makes her fun—it throws the record's balance off a little too much for it to be consistent, even if it justifiably made her a star." Debby Miller from Rolling Stone preferred Madonna's debut album over Like a Virgin. Tony Power from Blender gave a negative review of the album, saying "Madonna destroys Rose Royce's soul ballad 'Love Don't Live Here Anymore'. Ambition ('Material Girl') and Madonna as victim of love ('Pretender') are the emerging themes, and thanks to Reservoir Dogs, we'll always debate whether the title track is about a guy with a big wang." Robert Christgau commented in his consumer guide that "[Madonna's] so sure of herself she's asking men and women both to get the hots for the calculating bitch who sells the fantasy even while she bids for the sincerity market where long-term superstars ply their trade. And to make the music less mechanical, she's hired Nile Rodgers, who I won't blame for making it less catchy."
Jim Farber from Entertainment Weekly said that "In addition to raising the Madonna/whore ante with songs like the title cut, Virgin cradled the kind of '80s hits ("Dress You Up") built to transcend the Dynasty era." Alfred Soto from Stylus Magazine remembered the first time that he heard the songs from the album and commented, "Lots of critics think something similar occurred when Madonna followed her eponymous debut with Like a Virgin, helmed by Nile Rodgers with all the fixin's—too calculated next to the 'raw passion' of the debut. This is nonsense; it misses how Madonna conflated notions of spontaneity and calculation. Rodgers is the ideal collaborator." Stephen Holden from The New York Times said: "With a tough-cookie voice that's both coy and streetwise, Madonna's singing harks back to the rock-and-roll girl-group tradition that preceded the Beatles. But where girl groups, from the Shirelles to the Ronettes, worshipfully extolled their boyfriends' cars, haircuts and rebel poses, Madonna's point of view is decidedly more self-interested. In matters of love, she is a comparison shopper with a shrewd sense of her own market value. The words 'shiny and new' describe not only the way the love-smitten singer feels in the title song but the sound of the album."
Matt Damsker from Los Angeles Times commented: "Madonna's beating vibrato sometimes makes her sound so robotic in the album." Lou Papineau, while writing for The Providence Journal, said that "In Like a Virgin, Madonna proves she's shallow, but spunky." Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine gave a positive review, saying "Though not as innovative as her debut, Like a Virgin stands as one of the most definitive pop artifacts from the indulgent Reagan Era. The mid-tempo ballad 'Shoo-Bee-Doo' and a soulful cover of Rose Royce's 'Love Don't Live Here Anymore' proved Madonna could churn out more than just novelty hits, while the sugary 'Angel' and the irresistible 'Dress You Up' contributed to the singer's record-breaking list of consecutive Top 5 hits (16 in all). The retro-infused 'Stay' and the percussive 'Over and Over' are the album's hidden gems." Ed Stevenson from People felt that "Madonna does have a sense of humor, though she is buried under so many layers of self-parody it's hard to tell sometimes.... She is backed on this by the reliable rhythmic touch of veteran Nile Rodgers, whose contributions have helped her create a tolerable bit of fluff. Hugo Mistry from Chicago Tribune felt that "Like a Virgin was Madonna's breakthrough, playing off her self-conscious campiness with a series of hot dance tracks, attention-grabbing lyrics and steamy videos."
Like a Virgin was recorded and finished by April 1984, but the release of the album was held up, much to Madonna's frustration, by the continuing sales of her debut album, which was approaching two million sales in United States. The album entered the Billboard 200 at number three on December 22, 1984, and stayed within the top ten for the next month, before reaching number one on February 9, 1985, where it stayed for three weeks. It also reached a peak of ten on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. By July 1985, Like a Virgin became the first album by a female artist to be certified for sales of five million units in the United States. It was eventually certified ten times platinum (diamond) by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), for shipment of ten million copies of the album. It placed at three on the year-end chart for 1985, with Madonna becoming the top pop artist for the year. After the advent of the Nielsen SoundScan era in 1991, the album sold a further 574,000 copies. In Canada, the album debuted at number 78 on the RPM Albums Chart, on November 10, 1984. It reached a peak of number three, on February 16, 1985. The album was present for a total of 74 weeks on the chart, and was certified diamond by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA), for shipment of one million copies of the album. Like a Virgin ranked sixth on the RPM Top 100 Albums for 1985.
In the United Kingdom, Like a Virgin debuted at number 74 on the UK Albums Chart, on January 12, 1985. However, the album fluctuated on the chart for the next eight months and it was only in September that it finally reached the top of the chart. It remained at the top for two weeks, and a total of 152 weeks on the chart. The album was certified three times platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for shipment of 900,000 copies of the album. In France, the album debuted at number five on the French Albums Chart on October 6, 1985, staying there for eight weeks, then descending down the chart. It was certified two times platinum by the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP) for shipment of 600,000 copies. In Australia, the album debuted and peaked at two on the Kent Music Report albums chart, and was certified seven times platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipment of 490,000 copies of the album. It reached the top of the New Zealand Albums Chart and was certified five times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) for shipment of 75,000 copies. Elsewhere, Like a Virgin reached number one in Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain, while peaking within the top five in many other countries, including Austria, Japan, Sweden and Switzerland. It also became Madonna's first number-one album on the European Top 100 Albums, reaching the summit on November 23, 1985 for two weeks. Like a Virgin has sold more than 21 million copies worldwide and became one of the best-selling albums of all time.
"Like a Virgin" was released as the lead single from the album in late 1984. It received positive reviews from contemporary as well as old critics, who frequently called it as one of the defining songs for Madonna. It became her first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, while reaching the top of the charts in Australia, Canada and Japan and the top-ten of the other countries. The song was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on January 10, 1985, for shipping a million copies across United States – the requirement for a gold single prior to 1989. The music video portrayed Madonna sailing down the riverways of Venice in a gondola, as well as roaming around a palace wearing a white wedding dress. With the video, scholars noted Madonna's portrayal of a sexually independent woman, the symbolism of the appearance of a man with lion's mask to that of Saint Mark, and compared the eroticism of the video to the vitality of the city of Venice. "Material Girl" was the second single from the album, released in January 1985. Critics have frequently noted "Material Girl" and "Like a Virgin" as the songs that made Madonna an icon. "Material Girl" was a commercial success, reaching the top-five in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Japan and United Kingdom. It reached position two on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. The music video was a mimicry of Marilyn Monroe's performance of the song "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" from the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The mimicked scenes are interspersed with scenes of a Hollywood director trying to win the heart of an actress, played by Madonna herself. Discovering that, contrary to her song, the young woman was not impressed by money and expensive gifts, he pretended to be penniless and succeeded in taking her out on a date.
"Angel" was the third released single from the album, in April 1985. Critics gave mixed review of the song, with one group denoting it as a classic while the others felt it was sub-par compared to the other Madonna singles. "Angel" became Madonna's fifth consecutive top-five single on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached the top of its dance chart. "Into the Groove" was the fourth single from the album, released in July 1985. The song was appreciated by contemporary critics as well as authors, who have frequently called it "Madonna's first great single". "Into the Groove" reached the top of the charts in Australia, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, where it was Madonna's first number-one single. In some countries, such as the United States and Australia, "Into the Groove" was released only as the B-side to the maxi-single of "Angel". It was therefore ineligible to enter the Hot 100 or Hot 100 Singles Sales charts. It reached number one on the Hot Dance Club Play chart where it was listed as a double-sided single with "Angel". "Dress You Up" was the fifth and the last single from the album. Critics reacted positively to the dance-pop nature of the track. "Dress You Up" became Madonna's sixth consecutive top-five single in the United States. It also reached the top-ten in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Many songs from the album were performed during her first headlining The Virgin Tour, which only visited cities in the United States and Canada. Early on there were plans to schedule dates in England and Japan due to Madonna's large fan base in both countries. However, the final schedule did not reflect the idea. In the end several more US dates were added and moved to larger concert venues due to overwhelmingly strong ticket sales. Madonna's performance on the tour was described by Taraborrelli as "full of excitement", singing songs from her debut album as well as Like a Virgin, and asking the audience "Will you marry me?" The costumes included colorful New Wave jackets for "Holiday" and white wedding gowns similar to the one worn in her "Like a Virgin" music video. Referring to her Detroit roots and contemporary artist Michael Jackson, Madonna sang a verse of "Billie Jean" during "Like a Virgin". The Virgin Tour was a success and collected a total of more than US$5 million. During a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone, interviewer Austin Scaggs asked Madonna regarding her feelings and emotions during the tour, since it was the first time she was playing in arenas. Madonna replied saying,
"That whole tour was crazy, because I went from playing CBGB and the Mudd Club to playing sporting arenas. I played a small theater in Seattle, and the girls had flap skirts on and the tights cut off below their knees and lace gloves and rosaries and bows in their hair and big hoop earrings. I was like, 'This is insane!' After Seattle, all of the shows were moved to arenas. I've never done a bus tour. Everyone says they are really fun."
The title track was also performed by Madonna at the first MTV Video Music Awards in 1984, where she appeared on stage atop a giant wedding cake dressed in a wedding dress, adorned with the infamous "Boy Toy" belt buckle, and veil. The climax of her risqué performance found her humping and rolling around on the stage. The performance is noted as one of the iconic and biggest performance in MTV's history. She also appeared at the 1985 Live Aid charity concert, where she performed "Into the Groove".
After the release of Like a Virgin, Stephen Holden from The New York Times commented: "No phenomenon illustrates more pointedly how pop music history seems to run in cycles than the overnight success of the 24-year-old pop siren known as Madonna. The month before Christmas, Madonna's second album, Like a Virgin sold more than two million copies. Teen-agers were lining up in stores to purchase the album the way their parents had lined up to buy The Beatles records in the late 60's." Madonna proved she was not a one-hit wonder with the release of the album which sold 12 million copies worldwide at the time of its release. Taraborrelli felt that "Like a Virgin is really a portrait of Madonna's uncanny pop instincts empowered by her impatient zeal for creative growth and her innate knack for crafting a good record." He added that the success of the album made it clear what was Madonna's real persona. "She was a street-smart dance queen with the sexy allure of Marilyn Monroe, the coy iciness of Marlene Dietrich and the cutting and protective glibiness of a modern Mae West". Although the album received mixed reviews, Taraborrelli believed that the "mere fact that at the time of its release so many couldn't resist commenting on the record was a testament to the continuous, growing fascination with Madonna.... Every important artist has at least one album in his or her career whose critical and commercial success becomes the artist's magic moment; for Madonna, Like a Virgin was just such a defining moment" Chris Smith, author of 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music believed that it was with Like a Virgin that Madonna was able to steal the spotlight towards herself. She asserted her sexuality as only male rock stars had done before, moving well beyond the limited confines of being a pop artist, to becoming a focal point for nationwide discussions of power relationships in the areas of sex, race, gender, religion, and other divisive social topics. Her songs became a lightning rod for both criticism by conservatives and imitation by the younger female population.
"Like a Virgin" was her first song to attract the attention of organizations who complained that the video and the song promoted sex without marriage and undermined family values, offering an unsavory image of Madonna as a whore. Outraged moralists condemned her as a sex kitten and sought to ban it. Conservatives were angered that Madonna dared to portray the virginal wedding attire in a sexual context. While one section of the population were outraged at the scandal, other were taking joy at the very notion of a virginal Madonna, who retorted by saying,
I was surprised by how people reacted to "Like a Virgin" because when I did that song, to me, I was singing about how something made me feel a certain way—brand-new and fresh—and everyone interpreted it as I don't want to be a virgin anymore. Fuck my brains out! That's not what I sang at all. "Like a Virgin" was always absolutely ambiguous.
The song's influence was most profound on the younger generation. Madonna's public persona of an indomitable, sexually unashamed, supremely confident woman struck a chord with them. Biographer Andrew Morton noted that most of Madonna's admirers were females, who were born-and-brought-up with an image of old-fashioned stereotypes of women as virginal brides, or as whores, or with feminist values that rejected the use of a woman's looks for her self-advancement. Author William McKeen of Rock and roll is here to stay: an anthology commented that with the song, Madonna intermixed such middle-class ideas of femininity with examples of what femininity meant to her, which was having equal opportunity. In addition, at a time when eighties fashions were promoting flat-chested, stick-thin women as ideals of beauty, the more curvaceous Madonna made average girls feel that it was fine to be in the shape they were. A new word called 'Madonna wannabe' was introduced to describe the thousands of girls who tried to emulate Madonna's style. At one point, Macy's allotted an entire floor area for the sale of clothes styled according to Madonna's fashion. University professors, gender-studies experts and feminists earnestly started discussing her role as a post-modernist style and cultural icon. According to author Debbi Voller, "Like a Virgin" gave rise to the icon Madonna.
Madonna has stated that the song she most regrets recording is "Material Girl" and if she had known that the label would be attached to her for decades, she would probably never have done so. After making the video, Madonna said she never wanted to be compared to Monroe, despite posing like her and recreating many of Monroe's signature poses for various photos shoots, most notably in a 1991 issue of Vanity Fair. Reflecting on the song, Madonna told Taraborrelli:
"I can't completely disdain the song and the video, because they certainly were important to my career. But talk about the media hanging on a phrase and misinterpreting the damn thing as well. I didn't write that song, you know, and the video was about how the girl rejected diamonds and money. But God forbid irony should be understood. So when I'm ninety, I'll still be the Material Girl. I guess it's not so bad. Lana Turner was the Sweater Girl until the day she died."
Guilbert commented that "material girl" designated a certain type of liberated women, thus deviating from its original coinage which meant a girl who is tangible and accessible. Author Nicholas Cook said that the meaning and impact of "material girl" was no more circumscribed by the video, rather by its song. Its influence was seen later among such diverse groups such as female versus male, gay versus straight, and academic versus teenage. In 1993, a conference was held at the University of California at Santa Barbara, with the subject as Madonna: Feminist Icon or Material Girl? The conference pondered on the duality of Madonna as both of them and deduced that the question of Madonna's feminism is not easy to decide. Some of the feminists left the conference, citing that they had not been able to make up their minds. "Dress You Up" was also the subject of much media attention, when it was included on the Parents Music Resource Center's (PMRC) "Filthy Fifteen" list, for the perceived sexual content of its lyrics. The Center's founder Tipper Gore had heard her daughter listening to the song, and considered the line "Gonna dress you up in my love" as exemplifying 'vulgar music'. The PMRC called upon the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to give parents a consumer-friendly means of identifying rock records unsuitable for minors—a rating system based on lyrical content. "Dress You Up" received a rating of 'S', for "sex and obscenity", from the RIAA.
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length 1. "Material Girl" Peter Brown, Robert Rans Nile Rodgers 4:00 2. "Angel" Madonna, Stephen Bray Rodgers 3:56 3. "Like a Virgin" Tom Kelly, Billy Steinberg Rodgers 3:38 4. "Over and Over" Madonna, Bray Rodgers 4:12 5. "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" Miles Gregory Rodgers 4:47 6. "Dress You Up" Andrea LaRusso, Peggy Stanziale Rodgers 4:01 7. "Shoo-Bee-Doo" Madonna Rodgers 5:16 8. "Pretender" Madonna, Bray Rodgers 4:30 9. "Stay" Madonna, Bray Rodgers 4:07
- "Into the Groove" is only available on the 1985 re-issue outside North America. It is not available on the U.S. version and is not included on the 2001 remastered version.
Credits and personnel
- Madonna – vocals, background vocals
- Bernard Edwards – bass
- Brenda King – background vocals
- Curtis King – background vocals
- Lenny Pickett – saxophone
- Nile Rodgers – guitar, synclavier
- Robert Sabino – synthesizer
- Nathaniel S. Hardy, Jr. – synthesizer
- Frank Simms – background vocals
- George Simms – background vocals
- Dave Weckl – drums
- Tony Thompson – drums
- Madonna – producer
- Stephen Bray – producer
- Nile Rodgers – producer
- Jason Corsaro – engineer
- Budd Tunick – production manager
- Bob Ludwig – audio mastering
- Jimmy Bralower – drum programming
Credits adapted from the album's liner notes.
Charts and certification
Country Certification Australia 7× Platinum Canada Diamond Finland Gold France 2× Platinum Germany 3× Gold Hong Kong Platinum New Zealand 5× Platinum Spain Platinum Switzerland 2× Platinum United Kingdom 3× Platinum United States Diamond
Year Single Peak chart positions Certifications US
1984 "Like a Virgin" 1 1 1 8 1 8 4 16 9 3 1985 "Material Girl" 2 1 4 8 4 47 13 18 15 3
- UK: Silver
"Angel" 5 1 1 — 5 — 31 — 17 5
- US: Gold
"Into the Groove" — 6 — 2 3 1 2 1 "Dress You Up" 5 3 5 — 10 18 20 16 20 5
- UK: Silver
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or was not released.
- List of albums which have spent the most weeks on the UK Albums Chart
- List of best-selling albums in the United States
- List of best-selling albums of the 1980s (UK)
- List of best-selling albums worldwide
- List of diamond-certified albums in Canada
- List of European number-one hits of 1985
- List of number-one albums from the 1980s (UK)
- List of number-one albums of 1985 (U.S.)
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