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Madonna - Like A Virgin (1984)

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  • 80's Score80's Score80's Score 80's score: 2.74

"Like a Virgin" is a song recorded by American singer Madonna for her second studio album Like a Virgin (1984). It was ...

"Like a Virgin" is a song recorded by American singer Madonna for her second studio album Like a Virgin (1984). It was released on October 31, 1984, by Sire Records as the album's lead single. The song was written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, and produced by Nile Rodgers; Steinberg said that the song was inspired by his personal experiences of romance. "Like a Virgin" was chosen for Madonna by Michael Ostin of Warner Bros. Records after listening to a demo sung by Kelly. Rodgers initially felt that the song did not have a sufficient hook, but subsequently changed his opinion after the song was stuck in his head.

Musically, "Like a Virgin" is a dance-oriented song, composed of two hooks. Madonna's voice is heard in a high register while a continuous arrangement of synths are heard along the bassline. The song's lyrics are ambiguous, consisting of hidden innuendos and open to various interpretations. "Like a Virgin" received positive reviews from music critics, who frequently called it as one of the defining songs for Madonna. It became her first number-one single on the record charts in Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, and the United States, while reaching the top ten elsewhere. "Like a Virgin" has sold over five million copies worldwide.

The song's music video portrayed Madonna sailing down the canals of Venice in a gondola, as well as roaming around a palace wearing a white wedding dress. With the video, scholars noted Madonna's portrayal of a sexually independent and strong woman, similarity of a man wearing a lion's mask to that of Saint Mark and the link between the eroticism in the video and the vitality of Venice. Madonna has performed the song in seven of her concert tours. Most of the time, her performances of "Like a Virgin" were associated with strong reaction and uproar from the media.

"Like a Virgin" has been covered by a number of artists and has appeared in or been referenced in feature films such as Reservoir Dogs, Moulin Rouge! and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. On the other hand, Madonna's public persona of an indomitable, sexually unashamed, supremely confident woman was widely accepted by the younger generation who emulated her style and fashion. Scholars have credited "Like a Virgin" as the song which cemented her position as a pop culture icon.

Music video

The music video, directed by Mary Lambert, who worked with Madonna in her video for "Borderline", was shot in Venice and partly in New York City in July 1984. Madonna was portrayed as a knowing virgin, a figment of the pornographic mind, as she walked through marble rooms, wearing a wedding gown. It alternated with scenes of a provocative-looking Madonna on board a gondola. She commented, "[Lambert] wanted me to be the modern-day, worldly-wise girl that I am. But then we wanted to go back in time and use myself as an actual virgin." The video starts with Madonna boarding on a boat from the Brooklyn Bridge and travels to Venice. As she steps down into the city, she moves like a stripper and undulated sinuously. She wears a black dress and blue pants with a number of crucifixes around her neck. She sings the song at full volume as she watches a lion walking between the columns of the Punta della Dogana of Venice.

With the video, scholars noted the expression of Venetian vitality in it. Author Margaret Plant (2002) commented: "With the lion of Saint Mark and the virginal city to the forefront, old sacrosanct Venice was propelled into a pop world of high-energy gyration, and endless circulation." She also noted that Saint Mark was a symbol of a time when sexual crime was punished severely in Venice and acts of rape, homosexuality and fornication incurred the loss of a nose, a hand or sometimes life itself. Madonna appeared to challenge such brutality and stretch the boundaries of tolerance in the video. As the lion-man carried Madonna to the Venetian palace, it symbolized an instance of the Saint taking the simulated Virgin, where Madonna became a symbol for La Serenissima, the Republic itself.