Welcome back to TGJ Replay!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ features, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest reflective segment to act as a written quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday. Unlike its TGJ retrospective predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits.
In honor of her 59th birthday (August 16), this week we’d like a look at ‘Like A Virgin’ – Madonna‘s most successful album to date (in the U.S.)…
The dreaded sophomore slump: a huge fear of artists (and fans of said artists) who see great success from the onset of their careers.
And, while 1984 saw pop singer Madonna driving toward that very dilemma, the case was somewhat unique. Her eponymous debut album was a delayed triumph – not exactly earning its rightful buzz until its third single, ‘Holiday,’ hit the top 20 (her career first). As steam finally began to build, the set’s fourth and fifth singles – ‘Lucky Star,’ and ‘Borderline’ – became even greater successes as both shot into Billboard’s top 10. The dilemma? The songstress was already eager to lift material from her second album, but could not do so – thanks to label halt – because ‘Madonna’ (the album) was taking off and pushing toward multi-platinum status. Stalling her sophomore set to a fourth quarter release that year, the project – helmed by Chic leader Nile Rodgers – was finally given the promotional “go ahead” in October 1984.
Christened ‘Like a Virgin,‘ the album spawned four official singles: ‘Like A Virgin’ (title track), ‘Material Girl,’ ‘Angel,’ and ‘Dress You Up.’ During the era, M released two other successful singles – ‘Crazy For You’ (from the ‘Vision Quest’ soundtrack) and ‘Into the Groove’ (from her own film, ‘Desperately Seeking Susan,’ soundtrack).
‘Like a Virgin’
Chart peak: #1
Chart Peak: #2
‘Crazy for You’
Chart Peak: #1
Chart Peak: #5
‘Into the Groove’
Chart Peak: *Ineligible to enter Hot 100 due to being released as a B-side to ‘Angel’*
‘Dress You Up’
Chart Peak: #5
The ‘Like a Virgin’ era came as quite the turning point for Madge’s career for a number of a reasons. First, and foremost, it eliminated any worry of “sophomore slump.” With 5 top 5 singles in less than two years, she not only slayed charts, competition, and those pesky fears of slump, but she also firmly established herself as the dominating female force in pop. A feat assisted by her masterful use of the rising music video medium, arguably, her manipulation of the entertainment form could only be rivaled by the genre’s ultimate potentate, Michael Jackson.
Secondly, it was the first time she tried to take creative control of her music. Her first album saw her sonically skate on a fine line between rhythmic pop and R&B so much radio listeners actually thought she was Black.
Her choosing of Nile Rodgers to helm its follow-up appeared to confirm her love affair with more Urban sounds, but his designation as lead producer was the only “control” her label would afford her. Refusing to let her be the executive in charge of crafting the sounds found on ‘Virgin,’ the denial ignited a career-long fire of feminism the singer has yet to extinguish.
Lastly, in a vein much akin to her behind the scenes battle with her label, the ‘Virgin’ era saw Madonna challenge, and ultimately rebel, against society’s view on ‘women in charge’ – namely of their sexuality. With videos chock full of sexual undertones and overtones, Madge – thanks to live performances (see: inaugural MTV Awards) and music videos – was among the chief offenders named in parental group’s charge for music to come with warning labels for housing explicit content.
All in all, not just for her career, but for the Pop game at large, ‘Like A Virgin’ was a game changer. Going on to sell over 21 million albums worldwide (over 10 million in the U.S.), the set is listed as one of the best-selling albums of all time.
While it did not earn the critical and industry acclaim afforded to some of her later projects (no Grammy nominations), ‘Virgin’ is arguably her most iconic era. Not only for making her the dominating female force of the 1980s, but ultimately for lifting Madonna to a superstar status that has been unrivaled since.
All hail the Queen.
While we push play on our jam ‘Stay,’ tell us: