Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Madonna - Like a Virgin

On November 12th of 1984, Madonna followed up her debut release with the chart-crunching Like a Virgin. This album went to number 22 in Denmark, number 6 in Norway, number 5 in France, number 3 in Austria, Canada, Sweden and Switzerland, number 2 in Australia and Japan, and number 1 in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the UK. Here in the US, it spent an amazing one-hundred and eight weeks on the Billboard Album chart, topping out at number 1. Today, we’ll give it a listen in honor of its thirtieth anniversary.

Madonna produced the album along with her one-time boyfriend Stephen Bray (of the Breakfast Club) and Nile Rodgers (of Chic). Rodgers played guitar on the record and brought in his fellow Chic-mates Bernard Edwards on bass and Tony Thompson on drums.

Side one begins with “Material Girl”. This second single from the album climbed to number 47 in France, number 18 in Italy, number 15 in Switzerland, number 13 in Germany, number 10 in Spain, number 8 in Austria, number 7 in the Netherlands, number 4 in Australia and Canada, number 3 in Belgium, Ireland, and the UK, number 2 in Japan and on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 on the US Billboard Dance chart. The music video, inspired by Marilyn Monroe from the 1953 film Gentleman Prefer Blondes, played constantly on MTV. I love the beat on this one, along with the almost-mocking backing vocals. This one was extremely popular in the clubs and at parties, especially during my sophomore year of college. It ties with two other tracks as my favorites from the album.

The third single “Angel” reached number 46 in the Netherlands, number 31 in Germany, number 18 in Belgium, number 17 in Switzerland, number 5 in Canada, Japan, the UK and the US Billboard Hot 100, number 3 in Ireland, number 2 in New Zealand and Spain, and number 1 on Australia and the US Billboard Dance chart. For me, the ascending three chords are what really stand out on this one.

The title track is next. “Like a Virgin” was released as the first single; it went to number 16 in Italy, number 15 in Sweden, number 9 in Switzerland, number 8 in Austria, France and Norway, number 5 in Finland, number 4 in Germany and the Netherlands, number 3 in the UK, number 2 in Belgium and New Zealand, and number 1 in Australia, Canada, Japan, and in the US on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard Dance chart. Madonna debuted it in a memorable MTV Music Video Awards show performance, rolling around erotically on the stage wearing a wedding dress. This hit was of course another big club and party tune, with girls often mimicking her breathy vocals. In 1985, the Lords of the New Church recorded a cover of the track and Weird Al Yankovic parodied it as “Like a Surgeon” on his Dare to Be Stupid album.

Tying for my favorites on the album is also “Over and Over”, a quick-tempo dance tune that just puts me in a great mood whenever I hear it. Its message is about persevering and continuing to go for your dreams.

“Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” is a cover of a song written by Miles Gregory and first recorded by Rose Royce in 1978. Up to this point, Madonna had proven that she could deliver solid dance jams. With this track, her first ballad, she showed that she had more skills in her repertoire. She sounds very vulnerable, especially at the end. Playing both versions back to back, I think Madonna did an excellent job with her interpretation.

Side two starts with “Dress You Up”. As the album’s fourth single, it hit number 20 in Germany and Switzerland, number 18 in France, number 16 in Italy, number 11 in Spain, number 10 in Canada, number 7 in New Zealand, number 5 in Australia, the UK and on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 4 in Belgium, and number 3 in Ireland and on the US Billboard Dance chart in 1985. This one ties as with my favorites from the album, all three getting four stars in my iTunes. This dance tune has a playful sexiness to it that I always found fun

The B-side to the fourth single was “Shoo-Bee-Doo”, a slowly swaying song that always struck a chord with me. It paints a perfect portrait of a love from afar. The saxophone solo further punctuates the feelings of an aching heart.

The mid-tempo “Pretender”, the tale of a treacherous guy and the girl who wants to reform him, was the B-side to the second single.

“Stay” was the closing track as well as the B-side to the first single.

The 1985 re-issue of the record added the track “Into the Groove”, from the soundtrack Desperately Seeking Susan which starred Madonna and Rosanna Arquette, on to the second side of the album. As a single, this dance classic went to number 19 on the US Billboard R&B chart, number 6 in Austria, number 3 in Germany, Norway and Sweden, number 2 in France and Switzerland, and number 1 in Australia, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, and the UK and on the US Billboard Dance chart.

I owned a copy of the original release of Like a Virgin on vinyl (bought when it first came out) and played the heck out of it for many years to come. I had a dubbed a copy onto cassette, along with Madonna’s debut album so I could have it to listen to in my car as well. It remains today one of those albums I take everywhere in digital format as well.

For more of Madonna, click here.

1 comment:

HERC said...

My love for Madonna's debut album is documented on your review here.

Madonna went from the anonymity of her first album to becoming one of the three biggest stars of the Eighties with her second. As an early fan of the clubbed out, post-disco she brought with her debut, I was very disappointed with the pop of Like A Virgin, especially given that noted disco producer Nile Rodgers was involved.

As I have said before, I was never much into music videos and that seemed to be Madonna's bread and butter from here on out. I've never ever thought of her as being remotely attractive so any images of her attempting to be sexy or outrageous are lost on me.

There are two tracks I enjoy from this album, though: "Angel" and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" (The latter song coincicdentally will be on next week's Mixtape Monday.)