|First posted 3/26/2008; updated 11/28/2020.|
Like a Virgin
Released: November 12, 1984
Peak: 13 US, 12 UK, 3 CN, 2 AU
Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 1.63 UK, 26.0 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: dance pop
Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
* not on original album
Total Running Time: 43:10
3.964 out of 5.00 (average of 34 ratings)
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
Madonna’s first album certainly wasn’t shabby – it produced two top 10 hits (“Borderline,” “Lucky Star”) and a top 20 hit (“Holiday”) – but it was her second album which made her a superstar. In the history of pop music, there haven’t been many runs as successful as Madonna’s 1984-1985 chart presence. Interspersed between Like a Virgin’s four top 5 hits were two more major Madonna songs from soundtracks – the #1 “Crazy for You” from Vision Quest and the would’ve-been #1 Into the Groove from Desperately Seeking Susan had it been officially released. Alas, it was only released as the B-side of “Angel” in the U.S., but it was Madonna’s first #1 UK hit and later included on Like a Virgin.
“She saw the opening for this kind of explosion and seized it, bringing in former Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers in as a producer, to help her expand her sound, and then carefully constructed her image as an ironic, ferociously sexy Boy Toy; the Steven Meisel-shot cover, capturing her as a buxom bride with a Boy Toy belt buckle on the front, and dressing after a night of passion, was as key to her reinvention as the music itself.” STE
“Yet, there’s no discounting the best songs on the record, the moments when her grand concepts are married to music that transcends the mere classification of dance-pop.” STE The album’s success owes itself “principally to two gimmicky hits: the sinuous Like a Virgin, with its taboo-busting metaphor for that fresh, clean new-love feeling, and the cutesy, Betty-Boopsy Material Girl.” KB These are “the two songs that made her an icon, and the two songs that remain definitive statements.” STE
These were also the songs responsible for sending the album to #1. The week that Like a Virgin ascended to the throne, the title cut was still in the top 10 after a six-week run at the top. Meanwhile, “Material Girl” was just beginning its run, degbuting on the chart at #43. It would peak at #2 six weeks later. That pair of singles “overshadow the rest of the record, not just because they are a perfect match of theme and sound, but because the rest of the album vacillates wildly in terms of quality.” STE
Of course, that all depends on point-of-view. Another opinion is that “most of the rest of the album, although similarly frothy, is superior to those warhorses, notably the irresistible LP tracks Over and Over, and Pretender – which adds a bit of gossamer delicacy to the mandatory bounciness.” KB
“The other two singles, Angel and Dress You Up, are excellent standard-issue dance-pop.” STE The latter “is a Madonna classic, an insubstantial dance-pop delight bedecked in synthesized bells and replete to the beat with kinky suggestions.” KB
“The earnest cover of Rose Royce’s Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” STE offers “a sign of greater depth to come” KB with “a heartfelt vocal supported by a subtle, gorgeous arrangement helmed by producer Nile Rodgers and his two key Chic instrumental compatriots, Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson.” KB
However, if you go back to the first opinion expressed here, then the album overall “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.” STE
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