Dress You Up

"Dress You Up" is a song by American singer Madonna from her second studio album Like a Virgin (1984). It was released as the fifth and final single from Like a Virgin on July 31, 1985, by Sire Records. The song was the last track to be added to the album as it was submitted late by songwriters Andrea LaRusso and Peggy Stanziale. Madonna pushed for the song's inclusion on Like a Virgin as she particularly liked its lyrics. Musically, "Dress You Up" is a drum beat driven dance song featuring instrumentation from guitars and vocals from a choir, and a guitar solo played by Nile Rodgers, who also produced the song. The lyrics are an extended metaphor for fashion and lust, comparing dressing up with passion.

"Dress You Up"
Madonna with messy hair in front of a black background
Artwork for most 7-inch vinyl releases
Single by Madonna
from the album Like a Virgin
ReleasedJuly 31, 1985
  • Andrea LaRusso
  • Peggy Stanziale
Producer(s)Nile Rodgers
Madonna singles chronology
"Into the Groove"
"Dress You Up"

Critics reacted positively to the dance-pop nature of the song. "Dress You Up" became Madonna's sixth consecutive top-five single in the United States, peaking at number five on the Billboard Hot 100. It also peaked within the top-ten in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. A live performance from Madonna's first tour was used as the promotional music video. The song was performed on four of Madonna's concert tours, most recently on the Rebel Heart Tour (2015–16), and has been covered by a number of artists. "Dress You Up" was added to the Parents Music Resource Center's "Filthy Fifteen" list due to its sexual lyrics.

Background and releaseEdit

"Dress You Up" was the last song to be included on the Like a Virgin album. Producer Nile Rodgers had initially asked songwriters Andrea LaRusso and Peggy Stanziale to write a song for Madonna in the style of Rodgers' band Chic.[1] However, the writing took time, since both LaRusso and Stanziale were busy with other projects.[2] When the lyrics of the song were submitted, Rodgers rejected it as there was no time to compose a melody and record it for the album. But Madonna liked the lyrics of the song and persuaded Rodgers to include it on Like a Virgin.[2] In Britain, the song was released as a limited-edition shaped picture disc. In this case, it was star-shaped to tie in with the Christmas release date for the single.[3] The song is one of several of Madonna's hit singles which was not included on the greatest hits compilation album The Immaculate Collection (1990).[4] "Dress You Up" was, however, later included on Celebration (2009).[5] Although no music video was separately made for the song, a live performance of "Dress You Up" from The Virgin Tour, filmed in Detroit, was used as the video.[6]


"Dress You Up" is a characteristic drum machine driven dance song consisting of a two-chord verse. The chorus is supported by vocals from a choir, a four-chord progression and a single guitar note, played by Rodgers.[7] A rock guitar solo plays during the bridge. Towards the end of the song, the sound of the drums are decreased, while the treble is increased.[7] According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Alfred Publishing, the song is set in the time signature of common time, with a moderate tempo of 136 beats per minute. It is composed in the key of C minor, with Madonna's vocals ranging from a low-note of B3 to a high-note of F5. The song has a basic sequence of Cm–B–G7 in the verses and A–B–Cm–Cm/G in the chorus, as its chord progression.[8]

The lyrics of the song are a metaphor for fashion and sex. Madonna sings about clothes she would like to drape over her man, so that she can caress his body with her hands, and cover him with "velvet kisses".[7] According to Rikky Rooksby, author of Madonna: The Complete Guide to Her Music, the line "I'll create a look that's made for you", later became synonymous with Madonna's re-invention of her image throughout her career.[9]

Critical receptionEdit

Madonna performing "Dress You Up" on the Sticky & Sweet Tour in 2009.

Nancy Erlick from Billboard said that the song felt like "[Madonna] The pin-up girl in character; part saucy, eager to please."[10] Alex Henderson from AllMusic, commented that "Rodger's gift for sleek, seductive dance music is evident on such gems as 'Dress You Up'."[11] Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic, called "Dress You Up" an excellent, standard-issue dance-pop.[12] Santiago Fouz-Hernández and Freya Jarman-Ivens, authors of Madonna's Drowned Worlds: New Approaches to Her Cultural Transformations, commented that Madonna sounded like a "sex-kitten" in the song.[13] Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine called the song irresistible.[14] William McKeen, author of Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay, said that the melody of "Dress You Up" was insistently chugging.[15] Debby Miller from Rolling Stone said that "Despite her little-girl voice, there's an undercurrent of ambition that makes her more than the latest Betty Boop."[16] While reviewing Like a Virgin in 1995, Dave Karger from Entertainment Weekly commented that the song came off as a bit repetitious and immature.[17] Jim Farber from the same publication commented that "the song was built to transcend the Dynasty era."[18]

While reviewing The Immaculate Collection, Alfred Soto from Stylus Magazine commented: "Like a Virgin's Top Five absentees 'Dress You Up' and 'Angel' do a better job than the two big singles of delineating the boundaries of Madonna's determined shallowness, an act that confounds Philistines today and made the appreciation of her musical skills a lot harder than it took these critics to dismiss Cyndi Lauper as the real charlatan."[19] In 2003, when fans were asked to vote for the Top 20 Madonna singles of all time, by Q magazine, "Dress You Up" was allocated the eighth spot.[20] The music video was nominated at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards, in the category for Best Choreography, but lost to "Raspberry Beret" by Prince and The Revolution.[21]

Chart performanceEdit

In the United States, "Dress You Up" debuted at number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 17, 1985.[22] After seven weeks, the song reached number five, becoming Madonna's sixth consecutive top-five single.[23][24] It also peaked at number 34 on the Adult Contemporary chart, number three on the Dance Club Songs chart and number 64 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.[24][25] It placed at number 98 on the Year-End chart for 1985, with Madonna becoming the top pop artist for the year.[26] In Canada, the song debuted at number 90 on the RPM Top Singles chart on August 24, 1985.[27] The song was present for a total of 20 weeks on the chart, peaking at number ten after six weeks.[28][29]

In the United Kingdom, "Dress You Up" was released on December 12, 1985. It entered the UK Singles Chart at number 12 and reached a peak of five, being present on the chart for a total of 13 weeks.[30] The song was certified Silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), for shipments of 200,000 copies.[31] According to Official Charts Company, the song has sold 210,000 copies there.[32] In Australia, the song peaked at number five in October 1985, becoming Madonna's sixth top-ten single there.[33] The song also reached the top 20 in Belgium, France, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland and the European Hot 100 Singles chart.[34][35][36][37]

Live performancesEdit

Madonna performing a flamenco themed medley of "Dress You Up", "Into the Groove", "Everybody" and "Lucky Star" during the Rebel Heart Tour, 2015

Madonna has performed "Dress You Up" on four of her world tours, namely The Virgin Tour in 1985, the Who's That Girl World Tour in 1987, the 2009 leg of the Sticky & Sweet Tour, and Rebel Heart Tour in 2015–16. On The Virgin Tour, "Dress You Up" was the opening song of the set. Madonna wore a blue see-through crop-top, revealing her characteristic black bra. She also had lacy leggings and crucifixes around her ear and her neck. As the beat of the song started, Madonna entered the stage and posed on the stairs before reaching the microphone to sing the track.[38] A performance of the song from the Virgin Tour was included on the VHS release Madonna Live: The Virgin Tour.[39]

During the Who's That Girl World Tour of 1987, Madonna performed it in a medley with "Material Girl" and "Like a Virgin". She wore an elaborate costume, inspired by Dame Edna Everage. It consisted of a hat strewn with fake fruits, flowers and feathers, jeweled batwing spectacles with heavy, black frames, a ruffled skirt and a bodice covered with objects such as watches and dolls and fishnets. Author Carol Clerk stated that the dress was more "ludicrous for Madonna, than humorous."[40] Two different performances of the song on this tour can be found on the videos: Who's That Girl: Live in Japan, filmed in Tokyo, Japan, on June 22, 1987,[41] and Ciao Italia: Live from Italy, filmed in Turin, Italy, on September 4, 1987.[42]

A backing track was created to accompany the performance of "Dress You Up" on her 2004 Re-Invention World Tour, however Madonna found it difficult to learn the guitar chords for the song, choosing to perform "Material Girl" instead.[43] In 2008, Madonna performed the first verse and chorus of the song during the request section of the Sticky & Sweet Tour. The song was performed at Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Rio de Janeiro, Toronto, Valencia and Vienna.[44] Madonna finally added "Dress You Up" to the 2009 leg of the Sticky & Sweet Tour, replacing the rock version of "Borderline". It was performed as part of the 'old school' segment and featured the groove from The Knack's song "My Sharona" and "God Save The Queen" by the Sex Pistols.[45]

In 2015, while appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show as part of promotion for her thirteenth studio album, Rebel Heart, Madonna and host Ellen DeGeneres sang the song during a revival of DeGeneres' bathroom concert series. They were dressed in matching robes and sang the song while sitting on a chair, adding commentary in between. At one point, Madonna removed the robe to reveal another dress with prints of hearts on it, and danced around DeGeneres, who also used props like oversized sunglasses and a leopard print cowboy hat for Madonna.[46] The song was later included in the setlist of the Rebel Heart Tour, performed in a flamenco-style medley with "Into the Groove", "Everybody" and "Lucky Star". During the sequence the singer dressed in a Latin and gypsy inspired dress, created by Alessandro Michele for Gucci, consisting off a shawl, flamenco hat, lace, skirts and jacquard bodysuit.[47][48]


In 1985, the song was included on the Parents Music Resource Center's (PMRC) "Filthy Fifteen" list, for the sexual content of its lyrics. The Center's founder Tipper Gore had heard her daughter listening to the song, and considered the line "Gonna dress you up in my love" as exemplifying 'vulgar music'. The PMRC called upon the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to give parents a consumer-friendly means of identifying rock records unsuitable for minors – a rating system based on lyrical content. "Dress You Up" received a rating of 'S', for "sex and obscenity", from the RIAA.[49] Gore commented on the song: "Popular culture is morally bankrupt, flagrantly licentious and utterly materialistic—and Madonna is the worst of all." According to Bruce David Forbes and H. Mahan in their book Religion and Popular Culture in America, Madonna's fans took the attitude "Can't you cultural conservatives see what she is trying to do—to annoy people like you! If you don't like it, don't listen to it. Stop trying to police my morality!"[50] The campaign was successful and led to the creation of the Parental Advisory sticker.[51]

In 1999 "Dress You Up" was sung by a group that included Alex Greenwald, Rashida Jones and Jason Thompson, for Gap's "Everybody in Vests" TV commercial. Music for the song was created by the Dust Brothers.[52] A cover of the song by Apollo Heights was included on the 2007 Madonna tribute compilation Through the Wilderness.[53] The band Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer, and Reel Big Fish, covered the song on their 2007 EP Duet All Night Long.[54] United Kingdom dance artist Kelly Llorenna recorded a new version of the song in 2008. The cover was released as a single in 2009.[citation needed] In 2013, the song was covered in the Glee episode "Feud", mashed-up with Elton John's "The Bitch Is Back".[55]

Track listing and formatsEdit

Credits and personnelEdit

Credits adapted from the Like a Virgin album and the 12" single liner notes.[61][62]


Certification and salesEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
France 264,000[82]
Japan (Oricon Charts) 11,800[83]
United Kingdom (BPI)[31] Silver 210,000[32]


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External linksEdit