Madonna – Like a Virgin

First Hit #1: December 22, 1984

1984 ends with the introduction of another major pop star, Madonna. While her grip on the zeitgeist has been slipping recently – Hard Candy relegated her to a guest spot on her own album, and while I haven’t heard MDNA that song she played at the Superbowl was awful – she’s usually been able to tie into and predict trends, while inserting a fair bit of sex into the proceedings. That’s evidenced in Like a Virgin, where she not only dictated the fashion direction for all the cool girls on the playground, she also dove into what was really happening in pop music from the early ’80s.

The unkind might suggest that she was just being sexy Michael Jackson – evidence being the strategically placed “ooh” in the chorus – but more importantly she perfected the art of the not-that-scandalous scandal. The idea of virgin being a prominent world in the chorus of a pop song might scandalize little old ladies, but it’s perfectly relevant for the lyrical content. The idea of a new relationship wiping away the scars of an old one is actually not a new idea for pop music, it’s just rendered in a slightly different way for a younger audience. It’s typical pop song, and an infuriatingly catchy one at that, but more importantly it’s a pop song that can still make little girls feel a bit rebellious. Madonna isn’t quite on the cutting edge, just positioned a little bit ahead of where everyone’s going, and that’s how she’s maintained the highs of her career all along.

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One Response to Madonna – Like a Virgin

  1. RBerman says:

    Her first album was the last gasp of disco, but as you say after that she hit pop at peak cycle: Never an innovator, always offering an extremely professional version of whatever was hip at the moment. In that respect she seems less like a fan of music and more like a shewd entrepreneur, with the main product being her own body, displayed nonstop from all angles in a string of music videos which cast her as Marilyn Monroe, as Marlene Dietrich, as a witch, or as a stripper, or in this case as a thrift store gypsy cruising the canals of Venice with a lion, because an image doesn’t need to make thematic sense to be original and attention-grabbing.

    Musically: the bass riff from “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” via “Billy Jean” (or a close approximation to avoid lawsuit) anchors this track, repeating in the background throughout both verse and chorus. I hadn’t really noticed the slinky, staccato electric guitar until now; mainly this track is constructed from layers of synths. And of course the cooing. Songwriter Billy Steinberg reports that her vocal performance closely mimicked the demo provided by himself and his partner (http://www.songfacts.com/blog/interviews/billy_steinberg/).

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