Review #331: Like A Prayer, Madonna
#331: Like A Prayer, Madonna
Okay, no spoilers, but PLEASE go watch the Weird Al movie if you want a completely true, 100% honest depiction of how Madonna rose to fame using Weird Al as a stepping stone. (Fun Fact #1, Yankovic didn’t get her permission for this — not that he needed it.)
As RS points out, Madonna was angling for a bit of respect with this record, and the album cover calling out the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers means that she wasn’t messing around. And that’s not the only other group of performers that she references — she says that the emotional “Oh Father” was a tribute to Simon & Garfunkel, and the funky “Keep It Together” was one to Sly & the Family Stone.
But honestly, the thing that does it for me is all the Catholic iconography. I know the Vatican got all mad about the “Like A Prayer” video, but I loved it. I know that the burning crosses and stigmata are blasphemous and everything, but it’s just such a brilliant twist on otherwise traditional symbols. She sings with her heritage in mind on other songs too, like “Pray For Spanish Eyes” about the AIDS epidemic, and “Act of Contrition,” a terrifying sacrament performed for a guitar-shredding Prince.
Prince actually plays uncredited guitar on three of these songs, including the title track, but his biggest (and only credited) contribution was the industrial and edgy “Love Song.” (Fun Fact #2, the hook from “Hung Up” is actually lifted straight from this song: Time goes by so slowly for those who wait.) In fact, the only reason there aren’t MORE Prince contributions is because Madonna hated Minneapolis.
Prince’s presence, plus all Madonna’s smart musical references, are what makes this record brilliant. But what makes it so smart is that it’s still so much FUN. I can’t stop myself from singing along to songs like “Til Death Do Us Part” and “Cherish,” which are both extremely embarrassing songs to catch yourself singing along to. And despite all that “Born This Way” nonsense, “Express Yourself” is an absolute blast. Express yourself/ So you can respect yourself. Yes ma’am.
So I guess the verdict is that Catholic Madonna is my favorite version of Madonna. (Just like Catholic Gaga is my favorite version of Gaga.) After all, what is pop but idolatry?
Wild Card: “Dear Jessie,” a kiddie melody written for producer Patrick Leonard’s daughter.
Favorite Vocal Performance: “Promise To Try,” a piano ballad about her late mother.