“Madonna had hits with her first album…but she didn’t become a superstar, an icon, until her second album, Like a Virgin. She saw the opening for this kind of explosion and seized it, bringing in former Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers in as a producer, to help her expand her sound, and then carefully constructed her image as an ironic, ferociously sexy Boy Toy; the Steven Meisel-shot cover, capturing her as a buxom bride with a Boy Toy belt buckle on the front, and dressing after a night of passion, was as key to her reinvention as the music itself.” STE
“Yet, there’s no discounting the best songs on the record, the moments when her grand concepts are married to music that transcends the mere classification of dance-pop.” STE The album’s success owes itself “principally to two gimmicky hits: the sinuous Like a Virgin, with its taboo-busting metaphor for that fresh, clean new-love feeling, and the cutesy, Betty-Boopsy Material Girl.” KB These are “the two songs that made her an icon, and the two songs that remain definitive statements. They overshadow the rest of the record, not just because they are a perfect match of theme and sound, but because the rest of the album vacillates wildly in terms of quality.” STE
Of course, that all depends on point-of-view. Another opinion is that “most of the rest of the album, although similarly frothy, is superior to those warhorses, notably the irresistible LP tracks Over and Over, and Pretender – which adds a bit of gossamer delicacy to the mandatory bounciness.” KB
“The other two singles, Angel and Dress You Up, are excellent standard-issue dance-pop.” STE The latter “is a Madonna classic, an insubstantial dance-pop delight bedecked in synthesized bells and replete to the beat with kinky suggestions.” KB
“The earnest cover of Rose Royce’s Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” STE offers “a sign of greater depth to come” KB with “a heartfelt vocal supported by a subtle, gorgeous arrangement helmed by producer Nile Rodgers and his two key Chic instrumental compatriots, Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson.” KB
However, if you go back to the first opinion expressed here, then the album overall “adds up to less than the sum of its parts – partially because the singles are so good, but also because on the first album, she stunned with style and a certain joy. Here, the calculation is apparent, and while that’s part of Madonna's essence – even something that makes her fun – it throws the record’s balance off a little too much for it to be consistent, even if it justifiably made her a star.” STE
It should also be noted that even as this album chalked up four top 5 singles for Madonna, she made noise with a couple soundtrack songs as well. Following on the heels of “Material Girl”, the song “Crazy for You” became Madonna’s first movie song (Vision Quest) and second #1 pop song in the U.S. In April, the song Into the Groove, from Desperately Seeking Susan, became Madonna’s first #1 hit in the UK. It was released only as a B-side for “Angel” in the U.S. and later included on Like a Virgin. Had it been officially released as a single in the U.S., it was a likely #1 hit for her.