Like A Virgin


Warner Bros., 1984

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


After her infamous “wedding cake” appearance on the first MTV Video Music Awards, anticipation for the release of Madonna’s new album Like A Virgin reached a fever pitch. The controversial title did little to prevent the public from going out and buying this instant classic the moment it hit store shelves. The lead-off single, the album’s title track, became the first of many number one hits for the “shiny and new” artist. Madonna must have been at the top of the world during the 1984 Christmas season, when Like A Virgin proved to be the gift that keeps on giving -- and still is, to this very day.

Showing how shrewd Madonna was even back then, she convinced Freddy DeMann to ditch Michael Jackson and come over to become her manager. Then, she recruited Nile Rodgers of Chic fame to be the producer of this, her second album. She was no longer willing to settle for mediocrity -- this time she wanted to be the “biggest star in the universe.” The video clip for “Material Girl” says it all -- Madonna was now the new Marilyn Monroe. The only difference was that Madonna was able to find love and longevity. In her own words, Madonna has said that, unlike Marilyn, she is not a victim.

The first time I heard “Material Girl,” it was on a cassette Walkman trudging through the unplowed streets after a snowstorm. I had just picked up my own copy of Like A Virgin at the now-defunct Wave Records on Main Street in my hometown of Hyannis, Massachusetts. I remember thinking at the time that this music sounded like nothing else that was being played on the radio. It almost had a futuristic quality to it. The sharp production really is what makes the album sound so fantastic. It’s no wonder that we continue to compare other Madonna albums to my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Like A Virgin. Only 1989’s Like A Prayer is as good.

The two other singles from this album that you may recall are “Angel” and “Dress You Up.” I absolutely love them both. Unfortunately, they were released around the same time as two film projects that Madonna was simultaneously promoting, Vision Quest and Desperately Seeking Susan. Keen to make her transition into becoming a legitimate actress as smooth as possible, Madonna contributed a few songs for both movies, including her first #1 ballad “Crazy For You” and the UK #1 hit “Into The Groove.” The British must have been thrilled when subsequent pressings of Like A Virgin featured “Into The Groove” as part of the track listing. If we Americans wanted the song, we had to pick up the 12” dance remix of “Angel,” which, of course, I had no problem doing.

Before “Crazy For You,” Madonna’s previous stab at handling a challenging ballad was a cover of the little-known Rose Royce song “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.” I actually find Madonna’s attempt to do the song justice an admirable one. It has all the hallmarks of a successful Madonna love song, especially the all-important string section. Also on Like A Virgin is the gooey “Shoo-Bee-Doo,” which has inconsequential lyrics, though its potent arrangement manages to salvage it from being a total throwaway. On the other hand, the lackluster “Pretender” isn’t quite as lucky and with its dominant drum machine, stands out as the most dated.

Critics tried in vain to bring Madonna down, even going so far as calling her a “pop tart” and “Minnie Mouse on helium,” but it’s unlikely those critics are still around today.  Madonna has outlasted so many of her peers in the industry that it’s almost scary. Yet she keeps on going, never doubting herself or regretting mistakes she has made in the past. If anything, she learns from those mistakes and the adversity only makes her stronger. She’s lost as many friends to AIDS as she has to the brutal entertainment business, but somehow she has been spared. What is Madonna’s secret? What does she attribute her amazing success to? We know she’s a hard worker and a demanding boss. Some may even call her a bitch, though it has obviously been an effective tactic for her.

When Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera paid homage to their heroine in a reprise of “Like A Virgin” at the 20th MTV Awards, Madonna didn’t give them both a kiss as her way of passing on the torch to them, she was giving them the kiss-off. And there’s nothing either one of them can do to change the fact that Madonna still rules supreme.

Rating: A

User Rating: C



© 2008 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Bros., and is used for informational purposes only.