Like a Prayer at 25: Billboard Track-by-Track Review
To celebrate its 25th anniversary today, March 21, Billboard.com features their track-by-track look back at Madonna’s classic studio album, 1989’s “Like A Prayer.”
By early 1989, the world had come to know Madonna as a dance-pop provocateur with quirky-sexy style. She was the biggest female celebrity on the planet, and yet for all her fame, few realized just how much pain and self-doubt this soon-to-be-divorced 30-year-old lapsed Catholic from Detroit was carting around. With Like a Prayer, that would all change.
Recorded amid the dissolution of her marriage to actor Sean Penn, Like a Prayer was Madonnas most introspective and eclectic album to date. Unlike the three that came before, it blended classic psychedelic rock with then-current synth-pop sounds. And now, a quarter-century after its March 21, 1989 release, it doesnt sound a bit dated. Lyrically, its about growing up, moving on from bad romance, and getting right with God and family. At least two of the songs center on the death of Madonnas mother, a childhood trauma that had a strong part in making the singer who she is.
Before Like a Prayer was even released, Madonna made it clear this wouldnt be just another album. Three weeks before the release, she debuted the video for the title track, the first of five top 20 Hot 100 singles spawned from the album. Featuring depictions of murder, interracial love, and cross burnings, the clip juxtaposed notions of religious and sexual ecstasy, leaving some folks puzzled and just about everyone talking. Catholics denounced her; Pepsi dropped ads featuring her (and ended plans to sponsor her tour). Fans, of course, ate it up.
Controversy aside, Like a Prayer is among Madonnas finest moments, and over the next 10 tracks, its namesake album never lets up. Its funky, poignant, and even a little kooky. And while Madonna is the quintessential singles artist, this chart-topping LP stands as one of her most fully realized collection of songs.
Read Billboard’s classic track-by-track review by clicking here.