Certain Songs #1070: Madonna – “Who’s That Girl”

Album: Who’s That Girl
Year: 1987

As no doubt has been incredibly obvious over the past thousand-plus songs, dance music has never been my forte. But it was obvious from the first time that I saw the “Lucky Star” video on the MTV that Madonna Louise Ciccone was going to be somebody to reckon with.

And so when Like a Virgin came out, I snagged a promo copy from KFSR to see if I could make heads or tails out of it, and while I could understand why “Material Girl” and “Like a Virgin” were great pop songs, they didn’t really do it for me, even as she battled Michael Jackson, Prince, & Bruce Springsteen for mid-80s inescapability.

Meanwhile, she not surprisingly proved her that her charisma could translate to the big screen with her turn in Desperately Seeking Susan, the critical and commercial success of which led to slightly less successful starring roles in Shanghai Surprise and Who’s That Girl, the title track of which was the first time that a Madonna song truly bowled me over.

Which is weird, I know, because “Who’s That Girl” is definitely a minor single for Madonna. I mean, she didn’t even put it on The Immaculate Collection, and that despite it being her sixth number one single.

But as far as I was concerned, it was a total hook factory: the haunting repetition of the title in the opening, the drama of the verses, the uplift of the bridge, and of course the Spanglish call-and-response of the chorus. Never to be answered, because of course it was so obvious that the answer was Madonna looking in the mirror that she didn’t even bother adding a question mark to the title.

And of course, by 1987, it could have also been a meta commentary of her chameleon-like ability to change personae, an ability that rivaled only David Bowie in scope and daring, and was really only just getting going.

“Who’s That Girl” Official Video

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One Response to “Certain Songs #1070: Madonna – “Who’s That Girl””

  1. Ira Brooker says:

    Speaking of that last bit, I just recently learned that Bowie’s “Lucy Can’t Dance” (which I rank as maybe his most underrated song) was written as a Madonna diss track inspired by her aping of his whole chameleon shtick. I find that delightful.

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