174. Madonna – ‘Material Girl’ (1984)

“Some boys try and some boys lie
But I don’t let them play, no way
Only boys who save their pennies
Make my rainy day”

Taken from the album Like A Virgin

Also released on The Immaculate Collection and Celebration

US #2, UK #3, AUS #4

Not even ‘Like A Virgin’ has stuck with Madonna as much as ‘Material Girl’ has. Perhaps the most iconic of all her early singles, if not all her singles full stop, it is also one of the very best rushes of pure pop brilliance to be found in her discography. Euphoria is a huge part of Madonna’s appeal – ‘Open Your Heart’, ‘Like A Prayer’, ‘Vogue’, ‘Deeper And Deeper’, ‘Music’, ‘Hung Up’, I could go on and on – and the chorus of ‘Material Girl’, it’s wonderfully fun verses and little “moments” fit in with this perfectly. The Marilyn Monroe homage in the video gets all the attention, but it is the song that really works for me.

The opening drum kick of ‘Material Girl’ leads into that amazingly retro-yet-oh-so-eighties backing beat, seemingly engineered for Madonna to grind away to seductively. Over the course of the song she proclaims her love for money and greed for more, and if how guys can’t raise her interest then she has to let them be-ee. The helium voice is never used to better effect than it is here, and the infectious repetition of “We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl” would come to define Madonna’s public persona for decades to come. It is only in recent years where she has become more and more recognised as a philanthropist and mother of four that she has been able to shake the tag somewhat.

That doesn’t mean she can’t still play around with this image – it is Madonna after all – and materialism has appeared in her later work. There is no other moments in her early career as sublime as “No way!” and “That’s right!”. There is no other chorus in her early work as amazing as this one. I asked my mother, as a 17-year-old in 1984, how ‘Material Girl’ made her feel and she said she never liked it because she thought it made all women look like gold diggers. Bless her cotton socks but mum kinda missed the point, especially with the last verse where Madonna turns the table and the hunter becomes the hunted. After all, as she sings on the final chorus, “everybody’s living in a material world”. She’s just the one who admits it.

Music video:

One Response to “174. Madonna – ‘Material Girl’ (1984)”

  1. Rabbitbunny Says:

    Euphoria is one of Madonna’s greatest virtues and strengths and
    Material Girl encapsulates her perfectly. To be a Material Girl and Material Mom are one and the same. Madonna has a brilliant sense of humor. When she happily cries/sings “Experience has made me rich and now they’re after me,” she does it with a knowing wink and a wry smile. Inside the Material Girl facade that Maddy portrays, there is a woman of substaance and musical integrity. I do save my pennies and I will make her rainy day because Madonna is equally adept with a melody as she is
    a financial observer. Her dichotomy is this-Lady Madge is from
    the auto industry of Michigan’s factories yet she mingles with aristocrats and is royalty among great rockers. Finally, Madonna is equally at home in a cabaret as she is on a dance floor. That is why Material Girl
    is a work of art. The game commences, Madonna wins.

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