Like A Virgin
In 1984, a young Madonna writhed around the stage at the first annual MTV Video Music Awards, panties and garter-belt in full view, debuting her racey new single Like A Virgin to a shocked audience of her peers. It was the beginning of an often beautiful (and messy) relationship between Madonna and Controversy. Madonna and Controversy; They just seem to fit so well together. Yet, at the time little did anyone know that in years to come, this very woman would release a coffee table collectors book called Sex, or that she would adopt an entire country of orphaned children and have them stay at hers. There was no way to predict any of that. Yet critics were incredibly interested in predicting the pop starlets future based on this record alone.
Interestingly, at the time of release, critics were harsh about Madonna’s sophomore album and reluctant to give her too much praise. Comparing her to Cyndi Lauper, Madonna was slated for her image and her voice, with one critic likening her pipes to “Minnie Mouse on helium,” with several others labeling her a “one hit wonder.” But 25 years later, Madonna’s predicted “one hit” has turned into over 80 of them, and there are now a couple of music writers who will go down in the history books as the journalists who, in plain black and white, are on record as stating she would never make it.
Like A Virgin was a strong and important reinvention for the career of Madonna. The record still held onto the future Queens obsession with dance music and club culture, heavily embedding those roots into modern day pop songs, all with the production help of disco-survivor, Chic‘s Nile Rogers. And although it may not sound as fresh or relevant to todays club circuit as the debut does, Like A Virgin still packs a mighty influential punch, even if, at times, it heavily reflects a quintessential 80′s feel.
The lead single (and title track) catapulted Madonna into a league of her own. Listening to Madonna coo “oooh, feels so good inside” for the first time towards the end of the track remains a poignant moment in my life that I would only ever understand in years to come. She sounded so… vulnerable still at this point. Hungry, determined, but still a little vulnerable, which is perhaps why critics were so harsh.
The follow up single, the cheeky and often-referenced Material Girl, saw Madonna pay homage to Marilyn Monroe‘s performance of Diamond’s Are A Girls Best Friend in its video clip, whilst the glittering Dress You Up saw her using fashion and couture as a metaphor for love. The frantic jolts of the spiky Over & Over could still, some 25 years later, destroy a dance floor with fiery feet, whilst both Angel (a rip-snorter pop moment) and the stunning Shoo-Bee-Doo (a picturesque ballad) stand the test of time, with the formers middle-8 providing some of the records best love lyrics (I believe that dreams come true, coz you came when I wished for you, this just can’t be coincidence, the only way that this makes sense is that; oooh, you’re an angel), whilst the latter’s deal with a love on hold; When I look in your eyes, baby here’s what I see. I see so much confusion, and it’s killing me/I can see you’ve been hurt before, but don’t compare them to me. Coz I can give you so much more, you know you’re all I see.
But perhaps the absolute best moment on Like A Virgin is its double-shot finale; Pretender and Stay. I’ll make him dance with me, I’ll make him tell me why he’s a pretender she sings, before a euphoric middle-8 erupts in which Madonna demands: Don’t say that I am blind; I know all about your kind. Well, Quite.
Stay, which I distinctly remember as being my absolute favourite from the album as a child, may sound about as dated as it actually is, but there’s really something undeniably exciting about it. In particular, that incredible talky-bit during the middle-8. In fact, all these years on, there’s still something undeniably exciting about this whole record.
With Madonna circa the 1980′s, nothing was predictable. You couldn’t say what she was going to do next because, frankly, who saw any of it coming? The element of surprise has definitely been a move Madonna’s often worked well with, and Like A Virgin is a true testament to that. Judging by the debut record, Madonna could have gone complete club-roots for record number two, and instead she reinvented herself as a dance-floor friendly, pop music princess. It was the first (but definitely not the last) time we’d really seen this chameleon change its colour right before our very eyes.
During the first album, Madonna told journalists she wanted to “rule the world.” At this point in her career, she was one record away from doing just that. Upon Like A Virgin‘s arrival, the Queen of Pop had also well and truly arrived.
> This is the second installment of the Madonna retrospective. Read my review of Mo’s debut album here.