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This was written by the songwriters Peter Brown and Robert Rans. The song is about a woman who craves the finer things in life and will manipulate men to get them. Like A Virgin
was only Madonna's second album, and she was still developing her image. Much to her dismay, "Material Girl" became Madonna's nickname, but over the next few years she was able to dissociate from the song and establish many new looks. Later in her career, Madonna wrote and recorded many more substantive and personal songs, and adapted a lifestyle that stressed harmony and mindfulness over materialism and excess. This is apparent in her 2003 song "American Life
The video recreated a classic scene from the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
, with Madonna as the Marilyn Monroe character. MTV played the video constantly, which associated Madonna closely with the song. Fortunately for her, "Like A Virgin
" was an even bigger hit, and after she performed that song on the MTV Video Music Awards she became much more identified with that one.
Mary Lambert, who worked on most of Madonna's early videos, directed the clip, but Keith Carradine portrayed the director in the video (this "film within a film" concept was an early MTV staple, first seen in the Human League video for "Don't You Want Me
"). He is the son of actor John Carradine and half-brother of David, but despite his pedigree, this video may have been his biggest role. He did have a hit song called "I'm Easy" in 1976.
The song and video were widely misinterpreted as Madonna playing a capricious gold digger. The video concept was Madonna as an actress playing this role, but as soon as she's off camera, she's a regular gal who likes the simple things - we see her drive off with a regular dude in a crappy car. The irony was lost on or ignored by journalists looking for a storyline or moniker for Madonna, so the name and the image stuck.
In a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone, Madonna was asked about her first impressions hearing the demos for this song and "Like A Virgin." She replied: "I liked them both because they were ironic and provocative at the same time but also unlike me. I'm not a materialistic person, and I certainly wasn't a virgin." Expanding on her "not materialistic" statement, she said, "I feel lucky to be able to afford a Frida Kahlo painting or live in a nice house, but I know that I can live without it. I'm resourceful, and if I ended up in a log cabin in the middle of the forest, that would work too. These things are not mandatory for my happiness."
The video shoot for this song was where Madonna first met her future husband, Sean Penn. The connection was Meegan Lee Ochs, who was working on the shoot and had been Penn's assistant (she's also the daughter of the late Folk singer Phil Ochs). Penn came by the shoot and got his first look at Madonna when she was in full costume.
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