Published on July 15, 2016
“Like a Virgin” is a song by American singer Madonna. It is the title track from her second studio album Like a Virgin (1984), and was released on November 6, 1984, by Sire Records as the first single from the album. The song appears on the greatest hits compilation albums The Immaculate Collection (1990) and Celebration (2009). It was written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly 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. However, Rodgers initially felt that the song did not have a sufficient hook and was not suitable for Madonna, but subsequently changed his opinion after the hook was stuck in his mind.
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 drums are heard along the bassline. The lyrics of the song are ambiguous and consist of hidden innuendo. In sexual terms, the lyrics can be interpreted in different ways for different people. “Like a Virgin” received positive reviews from contemporary as well as old critics, who frequently called it as one of the defining songs for Madonna. It became her first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, while reaching the top of the charts in Australia, Canada, and Japan, and the top-ten of the other countries.
The 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 woman, the symbolism of the appearance of a man with lion’s mask to that of Saint Mark, and the link between the eroticism of the video and the vitality of the city of Venice. Madonna has performed the song in six of her concert tours, most recent being the Rebel Heart Tour in 2015. 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. Family groups sought to ban it as they believed the song promoted sex without marriage. 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.