Tuesday, May 31, 2022

"Like a Prayer" by Madonna

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  3841
Date:  03/18/1989
Debut:  38
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Over the course of three studio albums, Madonna became a music and cultural icon. Yet she didn't follow the path that some suddenly successful pop artist do and simply pump out songs similar to the ones that made them famous. Madonna paved her own road that took her into new territories. No one could really predict where she was headed to next and that was key to her continued success. After the #1 multi-platinum showing of her third studio album, 1986's True Blue, Madonna took a little time to do other things like film and stage work, but there would be the inevitable return and as the spring of '89 came along, she was ready to unleash her next effort Like a Prayer. To kick things off, the title track would be released as the LP's first single. It was treated like an event with a Pepsi promotion and heavy coverage on MTV. The song made an immediate impact on the Pop chart debuting inside the Top 40 and then making a beeline for the top spot where it would remain for three weeks. It was Madonna's seventh #1 and her first single to go platinum. The album debuted at #11 and two weeks later would reach #1. It remained there for six weeks, which still remains the longest run at the top spot for a Madonna album. By the end of May, it would already be certified at double-platinum.

ReduxReviewLike a Prayer was Madonna's most introspective and mature album to-date. She was already a music star, but it was this LP that folks began to truly regard her as an artist. Filled with personal themes, it was certainly a lot different from her previous works with even the music and arrangements taking steps forward. This dark track was certainly the highlight. From its dramatic opening to the stop/start of beats between the verses and the chorus to the joyful gospel choir section, it wasn't like anything that Madonna had previously done. It was art pop as were several other tracks on the album. Yet Madonna was smart enough to make sure there was still some juicy commercial hits among the songs, but even those had a more mature feel. After this, there was no going back. She laid down her artistic statement and set a new bar for herself that for me she wouldn't hit again until '98's Ray of Light. I still think this song easily remains as one of Madonna's career and artistic high points.


Trivia:  Madonna was certainly not a stranger to controversy and it accompanied her when "Like a Prayer" came out. Prior to its release, Pepsi entered into a deal with Madonna for a cross promotion. They would not only be the sponsor of her upcoming Blond Ambition tour, but they would feature her and the song in a commercial. Madonna wanted to use the ad for the launch of the single and so a two-minute ad was created. The commercial even had a title ("Make a Wish") and a storyline that had Madonna revisiting her childhood. The ad was treated as an event and made its debut during the Grammy telecast in February of '89, then again during an airing of The Cosby Show, which was the biggest show on TV at the time. It all was going great until the actual music video for "Like a Prayer" was released. Religious groups were immediately up in arms saying that the video's use of Christian imagery was blasphemous. Even the Vatican protested the video. Groups began to organize protests against Pepsi for endorsing Madonna and eventually they folded under and chose to cancel their deal with Madonna (although she got to keep a $5 million advance they had already given her). Regardless of the reactions from religious organizations, MTV supported Madonna and the video and it went immediately into heavy rotation. Of course the controversy only sparked more interest in Madonna, the video, and the song, all of which came out pretty much unscathed.


1 comment:

  1. Thankfully, there would be no such push back today.