Monday, August 1, 2022

Musical Monday - Like a Virgin by Madonna

#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: December 22, 1984 through January 26, 1985.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: December 29, 1984 through January 26, 1985.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

In September of 1984, Madonna jumped to the forefront of the pop culture landscape with this performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Though she had already had pop chart success with songs such as Borderline, Holiday, and Lucky Star, this single performance launched her into an entirely different category of stardom. In a singular instant, Madonna went from being "that pretty singer who puts out dance pop" to "the sultry Queen of Pop who is the most notoriously infamous performer of the day". Very few performers can mark the exact moment they went from pop star to pop icon, but Madonna can: It was this performance. And the twist is, the part that made it so very notorious was a spontaneous decision to cover up a lost shoe: When it fell off as she descended the cake, Madonna decided to dive to the floor in order to recover her wayward footgear. At that moment, an era was defined and a star was born.

Beyond making Madonna's career, this performance stands as one of the defining moments of the decade. When people think of the 1980s, this is probably one of the events that they think of. This performance was so stunning, so scandalous, and so unforgettable that it overshadowed everything else about the 1984 MTV VMA's. Madonna wasn't intended to be the headline of the night. She was only nominated for a single award (for best New Artist in a Video for her performance in the video for Borderline). The actual awards were dominated by Herbie Hancock's video for Rockit and Michael Jackson's Thriller. The Cars video for You Might Think won the award for Best Music Video. Madonna wasn't even the most notable female artists coming into the VMA's - that was Cyndi Lauper who was nominated for nine awards (and won one). The list of nominees is like a roll call of the powerhouses of the pop music scene: The Police, the Cars, Duran Duran, David Bowie, Van Halen, ZZ Top, and on and on.

And almost no one remembers anything about the 1984 MTV VMA's other than Madonna's performance. It simply swept across the pop culture landscape like a hurricane, altering everything in its past. It effectively destroyed every other story about the awards show, and made Madonna into the only thing people could talk about. The real kicker is that when Madonna stepped on stage that night, Like a Virgin had not even been released as a single or a music video. That wouldn't happen until early November. Even so, this performance set the entire music world on its heels. It seems almost ridiculous to say, but Madonna singing an unreleased single while spontaneously rolling on the floor to cover up a wardrobe mishap was like an earthquake that transformed the entire pop culture world forever.

Previous Musical Monday: Do They Know Its Christmas? by Band Aid
Subsequent Musical Monday: I Want to Know What Love Is by Foreigner

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Out of Touch by Hall and Oates
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: I Want to Know What Love Is by Foreigner

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The Wild Boys by Duran Duran
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: I Want to Know What Love Is by Foreigner

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

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