Behind the Song Lyrics: “Material Girl,” Madonna

Queen of Pop Madonna’s “Material Girl” is bubblegum pop reincarnated. With those iconic ’80s synths and the almost hypnotic repetition of the lyrics, the hit from her second studio album, Like A Virgin, continues to be one of the superstar’s most memorable songs. The singer herself, however, wishes she never recorded it.

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The Lyrics

While Madonna did not write “Material Girl,” the name has followed her since the song’s release in 1984. The Hot 100 hit was written by Peter Brown and Robert Rans. 

‘Cause the boy with the cold hard cash 
Is always Mister Right 

‘Cause we are living in a material world 
And I am a material girl 
You know that we are living in a material world 
And I am a material girl 

The song sparked controversy, making listeners question if it is a feminist anthem or if the song portrays women as “gold-diggers.” The lyrics read without context leave the interpretation open, allowing for the controversy to bloom. 

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 

The Video

This has largely to do with the accompanying music video Madonna released that re-creates a classic scene from the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Madonna acts as Marilyn Monroe and recreates a performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” 

Madonna dazzles in diamonds and ball gowns while men fall around themselves at her feet. She poses for the camera and plays the role perfectly. Once her role ends and she exits “off-camera,” however, she is seen as a regular girl who enjoys simple things. At the end of the video, she drives off with an “average Joe” in a broken-down car. Madonna is not the “Material Girl” she has been made out to be. 

“Material Girl” stuck with the singer

“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,” she said. “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.” 

Unfortunately, the irony was lost on many, and the name stuck. It’s a name Madonna said she still has a hate-love relationship with today. 

“I can’t completely disdain the song and the video, because they certainly were important to my career,” Madonna said in her biography, Madonna: An Intimate Biography.

“But talk about the media hanging on a phrase and misinterpreting the damn thing as well. I didn’t write that song and the video was about how the girl rejected diamonds and money. But God forbid irony should be understood. So when I’m ninety, I’ll still be the material girl.” 

Multiple covers and social trends

A number of artists covered “Material Girl,” throughout the years, including Britney Spears, the cast of the television show Glee, and Idina Menzel. The song continues to chart today and has inspired new trends on the social media platform TikTok. While the ’80s hit has circulated itself, the new trending track comes from makeup artist, reality TV star, and rapper Saucy Santana. Similar to Madonna’s track, Santana’s song is all about wanting the finer things out of life, from Chanel to pearls. 

Watch “Material Girl” below.

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