11 Songs, 51 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Madonna's fourth album opens with something unexpected—jagged, refracted guitars. A nervy move for the woman who was the reigning queen of pop, renowned for bringing together the most cutting-edge elements of the world's underground subcultures with the splashy pageantry and big hooks that made her an MTV superstar. But Like a Prayer had an unexpected genesis of its own, coming on the heels of Madonna's first few public stumbles: There were her coolly received forays into acting and her marriage to her Shanghai Surprise co-star Sean Penn, which ended two months before the album's release. And then there was the controversy over the title track's video, so white-hot it incurred the wrath of the Catholic Church and made Pepsi scuttle an endorsement deal. But as this vibrant album still shows, Madonna's low points only served as springboards to reach her highest heights.

In terms of lyrical content, Prayer exists in stark contrast to the giddy, retro-minded True Blue, but it's also a leap forward for Madonna's brand of pop innovation. The title track combines gospel-choir exuberance, grimy riffs, and existential angst with a forceful vocal; "Express Yourself" is anthemic and strutting, its demands for a higher love seeming to rise from her divorce papers' ashes. Madonna slips into the confession booth often, and her least guarded moments are arresting: The mournful "Oh Father" grapples with grief and family, while "Till Death Do Us Part" pairs hyperactive beats with wistful coulda-been lyrics. Prince, one of the few pop acts whose late-'80s stature rivaled Madonna's, adds heat to the lightly funky "Love Song" and manic riffing to the album-closing pastiche "Act of Contrition." That finale both bookends “Like a Prayer” and puts it in a blender, as Madonna riffs on the demands of Catholicism and the foibles of fame. It is a winking close to an album that stretched the boundaries of pop, and, in the process, elevated a true icon to even greater heights.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Madonna's fourth album opens with something unexpected—jagged, refracted guitars. A nervy move for the woman who was the reigning queen of pop, renowned for bringing together the most cutting-edge elements of the world's underground subcultures with the splashy pageantry and big hooks that made her an MTV superstar. But Like a Prayer had an unexpected genesis of its own, coming on the heels of Madonna's first few public stumbles: There were her coolly received forays into acting and her marriage to her Shanghai Surprise co-star Sean Penn, which ended two months before the album's release. And then there was the controversy over the title track's video, so white-hot it incurred the wrath of the Catholic Church and made Pepsi scuttle an endorsement deal. But as this vibrant album still shows, Madonna's low points only served as springboards to reach her highest heights.

In terms of lyrical content, Prayer exists in stark contrast to the giddy, retro-minded True Blue, but it's also a leap forward for Madonna's brand of pop innovation. The title track combines gospel-choir exuberance, grimy riffs, and existential angst with a forceful vocal; "Express Yourself" is anthemic and strutting, its demands for a higher love seeming to rise from her divorce papers' ashes. Madonna slips into the confession booth often, and her least guarded moments are arresting: The mournful "Oh Father" grapples with grief and family, while "Till Death Do Us Part" pairs hyperactive beats with wistful coulda-been lyrics. Prince, one of the few pop acts whose late-'80s stature rivaled Madonna's, adds heat to the lightly funky "Love Song" and manic riffing to the album-closing pastiche "Act of Contrition." That finale both bookends “Like a Prayer” and puts it in a blender, as Madonna riffs on the demands of Catholicism and the foibles of fame. It is a winking close to an album that stretched the boundaries of pop, and, in the process, elevated a true icon to even greater heights.

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Ratings and Reviews

4.6 out of 5
546 Ratings
546 Ratings
Chasepgh ,

madonna at her best

i remember the vinyl offering of this album.... the insert was scented with an herbal aroma (which was madonna's never released perfume, holy water). Though her antics garnered more attention than her music (but when have they not?) this album really showcased the madonna that would be (ray of light, evita, music, american life): a talented song writer who was more than a pop tart dance act. And I love the LIke A Prayer Video.... it has a good message if people would look to that instead of the imagery the speaks to the message.

PhillyTeacher ,

Madonna's BEST album.

This is, by far, Madonna's best cd. Great songwriting and a nice variety of songs.

DamHam ,

Like A Prayer

Simply put, "Like A Prayer" is Madonna's masterpiece. A musical feast!!!

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