'Express Yourself'

January 2, 2019

Title: “Like a Virgin,” “Dress You Up,” Borderline” and “Express Yourself”

Artist: Madonna

Release dates: 1984, 1985, 1984 and 1989 originally

Favorite track: “Dress You Up"

 

Instead of featuring one record this week, I chose four.

I’ve already featured Madonna’s two-cut maxi single “Borderline,” but it made sense to pull out all of my two-cut maxi singles of hers — “Like a Virgin,” “Dress You Up,” Borderline” and “Express Yourself.” All of these upbeat hit singles could compose your New Year’s Eve soundtrack.

I’m not a diehard Madonna fan, but I sincerely appreciate her music in moderation. Her vocals are easily recognizable, although I can’t pinpoint how I feel about them. I do, however, think her voice complements the genre of music.

My favorite of these singles is “Dress You Up,” but my favorite Madonna song overall is “Into the Groove.”

MUSIC

“Like a Virgin” is one of Madonna’s most iconic songs — the lead single of her second album and a No. 1 hit in several countries. The song was written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly.

While the song spurred much controversy, many were drawn to Madonna’s style and confidence emulated in the music video. While the song’s lyrics tout the feelings of newness and a blank slate at the beginning of a relationship, Madonna is depicted solo in the music video — once donning a white wedding dress and then prowling around in a gondola.

I find the lyrics brilliant. There is nothing like the feeling that something — a person, passion or place — is so wonderful, it feels like “the very first time” you have ever been acquainted with it.

Side two of that album features “Stay,” a track with a quick rhythm and a glimpse at Madonna’s higher vocal register.

“Dress You Up” was also released on her second album “Like a Virgin.” It features the same sexual innuendos that became intertwined with Madonna’s image.

What I particularly enjoy about “Like a Virgin” and “Dress You Up” is the double entendre nature of the chorus. While “touched for the very first time” and “dress you up in my love” definitely allude to lust, they also allude to love — loving someone so much it feels like the first time or it feels as if they are physically wearing your love.

The lyrics and rhythm of “Dress You Up” brings to mind some pop, R&B and funk songs from the past and present that I love. The track is also fun simply because of Madonna’s influential fashion choices demonstrated on these album covers.

 

Feel the silky touch of my caresses

They will keep you looking so brand new

Let me cover you with velvet kisses

I’ll create a look that’s made for you

Gonna dress you up in my love

All over, all over

— “Dress You Up”

 

“Dress You Up” was included on the Parents Music Resource Center’s “Filthy Fifteen” list for the sexual content of its lyrics in 1985.

It’s amusing how controversial some of Madonna’s lyrics were considering what plays on the radio today. But, it’s an indication of how influential she and other artists of her time were.

The music video for “Borderline” reminds me of a 1980s rom-com, but in the best way. I actually prefer track two on this album, “Lucky Star.” It’s an optimistic dance track perfect for the New Year.

“Express Yourself” was released on Madonna’s fourth album, “Like a Prayer,” in 1989. Now, this is where I really hear the resemblance between Madonna and Lady Gaga. There was much controversy about how similarly Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” resembles the track. Lady Gaga has confessed to being influenced by Madonna.

I, frankly, like both songs.

 

Don’t go for second best baby

Put your love to the test you know, you know you’ve got to

Make him express how he feels and maybe

Then you’ll know your love is real

— “Express Yourself”

 

The lyrics encourage people to reject materialism and seek real love beyond it.

“The Look of Love” is the other track on the record. This is likely my least favorite in the set of songs. I prefer Madonna’s upbeat songs to her ballads.

I would have to write a novel to include them all, but many of these songs and other Madonna songs have been covered by various artists.

DESIGN

Bangles, lace and lipstick — Madonna owned the 1980s style. She is often depicted on album covers flaunting neon colors, gaudy accessories and heavy makeup.

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