Wednesday, November 12, 2014

like a virgin

Madonna made it through the wilderness and blossomed into a superstar with the materialistic media manipulation of this provocative pop phenomenon.  Having found success with her self-titled debut, Madonna was wary of working with another producer; but her record company refused to let her produce her next album:   "Warner Bros. Records is a hierarchy of old men and it's a chauvinist environment to be working in because I'm treated like this sexy little girl. I had to prove them wrong, which meant not only proving myself to my fans but to my record company as well. That is something that happens when you're a girl. It wouldn't happen to Prince or Michael Jackson. I had to do everything on my own and it was hard trying to convince people that I was worth a record deal. After that, I had the same problem trying to convince the record company that I had more to offer than a one-shot singer. I had to win this fight."

Warner agreed to let her work with Nile Rodgers as producer, his work on David Bowie's hit 'Let's Dance' album was as much of a reason as his tenure with Chic. Rodgers even brought in the rhythm section of his old band for the sessions.  'Like A Virgin' was recorded digitally at The Power Station in New York and featured Madonna on vocals and background vocals;   Bernard Edwards on bass;   Lenny Pickett on saxophone;  Nile Rodgers on guitar and synclavier;  Robert Sabino and Nathaniel S. Hardy, Jr. on synthesizer;  Dave Weckl and Tony Thompson on drums;  and   Brenda King, Curtis King, Frank Simms, and George Simms on background vocals.  Rodgers would later admit:   "I am always amazed by Madonna's incredible judgement when it comes to making pop records. I've never seen anyone do it better, and that's the truth. When we did that album, it was the perfect union, and I knew it from the first day in the studio. The thing between us, man, it was sexual, it was passionate, it was creativity... it was pop."

The album drew controversy over the suggestive lyrics and the album cover shot by fashion photographer Steven Meisel.  Madonna would express:    "I have always loved to play cat and mouse with the conventional stereotypes. My 'Like a Virgin' album cover is a classic example. People were thinking who was I pretending to be—the Virgin Mary or the whore? These were the two extreme images of women I had known vividly, and remembered from childhood, and I wanted to play with them. I wanted to see if I can merge them together, Virgin Mary and the whore as one and all. The photo was a statement of independence, if you wanna be a virgin, you are welcome. But if you wanna be a whore, it's your fucking right to be so ... 'Boy Toy' is a joke...It’s a personal statement. It’s not for the women of the world, only for myself...It’s a statement for innocent sexuality ... Manipulating people, that’s what I’m good at...From when I was very young, I just knew that being a girl and being charming in a feminine sort of way could get me a lot of things, and I milked it for everything I could ... I remember when I was growing up I remember liking my body and not being ashamed of it. I remember liking boys and not feeling inhibited. I never played little games; if I liked a boy, I’d confront him. I’ve always been that way. Maybe it comes from having older brothers and sharing the bathroom with them or whatever. But when you’re that aggressive in junior high, the boys get the wrong impression of you. They mistake your forwardness for sexual promiscuity. Then when they don’t get what they think they’re going to get, they turn on you. I went through this whole period of time when the girls thought I was really loose and all the guys called me nympho. I was necking with boys like everybody else was. The first boy I ever slept with had been my boyfriend for a long time, and I was in love with him. So I didn’t understand where it all came from. I would hear words like slut that I hear now. It’s sort of repeating itself. I was called those names when I was still a virgin. I didn’t fit in and that’s when I got into dancing. I shut off from all of that and I escaped...My image to people, I think, is that I’m this brazen, aggressive young woman who has an O.K. voice with some pretty exciting songs, who wears what she wants to wear and says what she wants to say and who has potential as an actress. Sex symbol? That is such a weird question. I guess I would be perceived as that because I have a typically voluptuous body and because the way I dress accents my femininity, and because a lot of what I am about is just expressing sexual desire and not really caring what people think about it. Maybe that would make you a sex symbol, I don’t know...I think it goes beyond sexuality. Maybe my fearlessness and courage give people a good feeling. I think I have a real sweetness inside and love for life and a good sense of humor. Maybe people see that. I think a lot of people are afraid to express themselves that way, so maybe they feel they can attach themselves to an innocence and joy. I believe that dreams come true: that you can do what you want to do...It all has to do with an attitude and loving yourself the way you are...There has been the feeling that it’s not right to want to dress up and be feminine, because women think that if they indulge in that, men won’t respect them or take them seriously. Maybe kids now see someone in the public eye doing what I do. Maybe that’s the phenomenon and why young girls are dressing up like me because finally someone else is showing that it’s O.K...To call me an antifeminist is ludicrous. Some people have said that I’m setting women back 30 years. Well, I think in the ’50s, women weren’t ashamed of their bodies. I think they luxuriated in their sexuality and being strong in their femininity. I think that is better than hiding it and saying, 'I’m strong, I’m just like a man.' Women aren’t like men. They can do things that men can’t do. If people don’t get the humor in me or my act, then they don’t want to get it. If ten year olds can get it and laugh, then an adult surely can ... I’d love to be a memorable figure in the history of entertainment in some sexual comic-tragic way. I’d like to leave the impression that Marilyn Monroe did, to be able to arouse so many different feelings in people ... [I like] her innocence and her sexuality and her humour and her vulnerability ... Hopefully I’ll be incredibly mellow and wise with age. Not mellow, but very wise and still just as mischievous and childlike and wondering as I am now."

'Like A Virgin' was a worldwide smash, going to six in Norway; five in France; three in Austria, Canada, Sweden, and Switzerland; two in Australia and Japan;  and number one in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, the UK, and the US.  Four of the five singles from the album reached number one somewhere, while another single 'Crazy For You' from the 'Vision Quest' soundtrack became another number one smash around the same time.  'Like A Virgin'  has sold over twenty-one million copies worldwide.  

"Like a Virgin" became her first number one single on the US pop chart, breaking into the top ten around the world and topping the charts in Australia and Canada as well.  The song became a lightning rod for critics who saw her as a bad influence on the minds of the young.  Madonna says:  "I was surprised by how people reacted to "Like a Virgin" because when I did that song, to me, I was singing about how something made me feel a certain way—brand-new and fresh—and everyone interpreted it as I don't want to be a virgin anymore. Fuck my brains out! That's not what I sang at all. "Like a Virgin" was always absolutely ambiguous."

"Into The Groove"  was another worldwide smash, going to number one in Australia, Italy, the UK, and on the US dance chart.   It was added to later versions of the album in other countries; but never appeared on the US release.  It was Madonna's first producer credit.  

"Material Girl" was a number one dance hit and a number two pop hit.  The video mimics a dance routine performed by Marilyn Monroe in the song "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" from the film 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes'.

"Dress You Up"

'Like A Virgin' 
full album:

All songs produced by Nile Rodgers, except "Into the Groove", produced by Madonna and Stephen Bray.

1. "Material Girl"   Peter Brown, Robert Rans 4:00
2. "Angel"   Madonna, Bray 3:56
3. "Like a Virgin"   Tom Kelly, Billy Steinberg 3:38
4. "Over and Over"   Madonna, Bray 4:12
5. "Love Don't Live Here Anymore"   Miles Gregory 4:47
6. "Into the Groove"   Madonna, Bray 4:43
7. "Dress You Up"   LaRusso, Stanziale 4:01
8. "Shoo-Bee-Doo"   Madonna 5:16
9. "Pretender"   Madonna, Bray 4:30
10. "Stay"   Madonna, Bray 4:07

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