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Madonna - Like A Prayer (1989)

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  • 80's Score80's Score80's Score80's Score 80's score: 3.66

"Like a Prayer" is a song recorded by American singer Madonna for her fourth studio album of the same name. Sire Records ...

"Like a Prayer" is a song recorded by American singer Madonna for her fourth studio album of the same name. Sire Records released it as the album's lead single on March 3, 1989. Written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard, the track heralded an artistic and personal approach to songwriting for Madonna, who believed that she needed to cater more to her adult audience. Thematically the song speaks about a passionate young girl in love with God, who becomes the only male figure in her life.

"Like a Prayer" is a pop rock song and incorporates gospel music. It features background vocals from a choir and also a rock guitar. The lyrics contain liturgical words, but they have dual meanings of sexual innuendo and religion. "Like a Prayer" was acclaimed by critics and was a worldwide success. It was Madonna's seventh number-one single on the United States' Billboard Hot 100, and topped the singles charts in many other countries, including Australia, Canada, Spain, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Rolling Stone listed "Like a Prayer" among The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The music video, directed by Mary Lambert, portrays Madonna witnessing a young white woman being killed by a group of white men. While a black man is arrested for the murder, Madonna hides in a church for safety, seeking strength to go forth as a witness. The clip depicts a church and Catholic symbols such as stigmata. It also features the Ku Klux Klan's burning crosses and a dream about kissing a black saint. The Vatican condemned the video, while family and religious groups protested against its broadcast. They boycotted products by soft drink manufacturer Pepsi, who had used the song in their commercial. The company canceled their sponsorship contract with Madonna, but allowed her to retain the fee.

"Like a Prayer" has been featured on five of Madonna's concert tours, most recently on the Madame X Tour in 2019–2020. It has been covered by numerous artists. The song is noted for the mayhem surrounding the music video, and the various interpretations of its content, leading to discussions among music and film scholars. Along with the parent album, the track has been considered a turning point in Madonna's career, with critics starting to acknowledge her as an artist rather than a mere pop star.

Music video

The highly controversial music video for "Like a Prayer" was directed by Mary Lambert and was shot in January 1989 at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, California, and at San Pedro Hills in San Pedro, California. Madonna wanted the video to be more provocative than anything she had done before. She wanted to address racism by having the video depict a mixed-race couple being shot by the Ku Klux Klan. But on further thinking she finalized on another provocative theme to keep with the song's religious connotations. The singer would play the song over and over again and wanted the visuals to display,

This story of a girl who was madly in love with a black man, set in South, with this forbidden interracial love affair. And the guy she's in love with sings in a choir. So she's obsessed with him and goes to the church all the time. And then it turned into a bigger story, which was about racism and bigotry.

Lambert had a different visual aspect of the song on her mind. She felt that it was more about ecstasy, especially a sexual one, and how it related to religious ecstasy. She listened to the song with Madonna a number of times and together decided to include the ecstasy part. A sub-plot about Madonna as a homicide witness was included, which became the trigger for the sexual and religious ecstasy. Actor Leon Robinson was hired to play the role of a saint; the part was inspired by Martin de Porres, the patron saint of mixed-race people and all those seeking interracial harmony.

The video was shot over four days, with an extra day allotted for re-shooting some of the scenes. Originally Lambert had casts taken of Robinson's face, hand and feet to create the statue of the saint which would be used as a decoration. The actor only enacted the live scenes. However during post-production, Lambert found that the statue did not look like Robinson, who was asked to re-shoot the respective scenes. He had to act as the statue and required special make-up for the retakes. The actor recalled that standing like a statue was difficult since "first of all, I didn't realize how hard it is on the back to stand absolutely tall and straight and not move. Secondly, as a performer you have this nervous energy—and my requirements here were total antithesis of that."