Friday, March 21, 2014


March 21, 1989 is a day that will live in infamy. For countless homosexuals people around the world, we will always remember the day we got Madonna's pop/art masterpiece Like A Prayer and listened to it like our lives depended on it for the next few years....and then some. The original ARTPOP, indeed. Madonna, by the late 80s, was already an icon. She had some of the most recognizable and celebrated singles of the decade, was the most photographed woman in the world and had two #1 album, six #1 singles and 14 consecutive top 10 songs under her belt. Her fourth album was highly anticipated and no one could imagine what direction it would take; the underground dance vibe of her debut, the pop soul of Like A Virgin, or the driving, confident, eclectic feel of True Blue. What Like A Prayer produced was some of the most introspective, honest songs of Madonna's career, especially up to that point, and, as Rolling Stone put it, an album, " close to art as pop music gets." Like A Prayer became Madonna's third #1 album and topped the US Billboard 200 for over a month. Critics and fans alike praised the albums autobiographical songwriting and the scope of the songs themselves. There's gospel tinged numbers like the title track, straight up R&B grooves like Express Yourself, Love Song (with Prince) and Keep It Together, as well as the softer, more romantic Madonna on Cherish and Spanish Eyes. Some of the most beautiful and surprising songs on Like A Prayer come from Madonna's willingness to go deep and reveal things about herself, her relationship with her father (Oh Father) her abusive marriage to Sean Penn (Till Death Do Us Part) and the death of her mother (Promise To Try). Of course, the album wouldn't be a REAL Madonna album without a little controversy. Just before debuting the lead single, Like A Prayer was used by Pepsi as part of an endorsement deal with Madonna. A commercial was shot and aired during the Grammy Awards in 1989. It showed Madonna revisiting childhood memories and watching her younger self celebrate a birthday with her family. You can watch it HERE.  Then the actual video came out and all hell broke loose. Almost literally. Burning crosses, kissing a black saint, rape, jiggling breasts in a church building; it's all there, girl. Madonna kept the $5 million dollars she was paid for the commercial but, due to consumer pressure, Pepsi pulled the commercial for good. Some suggest Madonna knew the controversy would cause Pepsi to pull the ad and she was fine with that as she didn't really want to appear in commercials anyway. Win/Win! The video for Like A Prayer went on to win the Viewer's Choice Award at the MTV VMAs that year and was nominated for Video of the Year. The next single, Express Yourself, caused quite a stir with its video as well. Madonna is shown several times grabbing her crotch, quite aggressively, and people did not take kindly to it. Of course, Madonna simply pointed out that Michael Jackson grabs his crotch all the time, why shouldn't she, as a woman, do it as well. Another point of controversy was Madonna being shown naked, chained to a bed. In response to critics saying it degraded or dehumanized women, Madonna said the difference is that she had chosen such bondage and therefore was still in control of her sexuality. The clip is held up by most as an example of Madonna empowering women on many levels and a strong feminist statement. The video for Express Yourself was nominated for Best Female Video at the 1989 MTV VMAs and won for Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Direction and Best Art Direction. Billboard gave it the award for Video of the Year. From that point forward, most of the focus went purely back to the music . Cherish, inspired by the sound of 1960s girl groups, became Madonna's 16th consecutive top 10 single on the Hot 100 and had a simple, black and white Herb Ritts video that featured her soon-to-be boyfriend Tony Ward (yummy) and several other hunky Pepperdine water polo players as mermen. HOT! Fourth single, Oh Father, one of Madge's deepest, most haunting ballads, was also her first single since Holiday to not reach the top 10 on the Hot 100, peaking at #20. The haunting ballad about her difficult relationship with her father after the death of her mother was accompanied by arguably one of Madonna's most powerful, beautiful videos of all time. Shot in black and white and directed by David Fincher, it's more of a short film than a music video, telling the story of Madonna's difficult childhood and on through her abusive relationship with Sean Penn. The video was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Short Form Music Video in 1991. Dear Jessie was released as a single in the UK and hit #5 there accompanied by an animated video in which Madonna only appears a cartoon pixie. Fifth and final US single, Keep It Together, returned Madonna to the US top 10 without the help of a video, one of the rare Madonna singles not to have a visual component.  The album Like A Prayer stands as a milestone in the career of the greatest pop star of our, and arguably any, time. Madonna began to be taken seriously by critics and established herself as a serious artist. Shockingly, Like A Prayer was completely snubbed by the Grammy voters that year -- jealous much? -- but is considered by most to be one of the most influential, artistic and successful albums of the 80s. It appears on almost every list of "greatest albums of all time" and is certainly one of the highlights of Madonna's career. It also sounds as fresh today as it did 25 years ago. A true pop classic by an artist who completely changed the game for women in music...hell, music in general.... Like A Prayer is a testament to an artist taking control of her destiny and baring her soul. Below are the videos released from Like A Prayer. Enjoy and Happy Madonna Friday.
) ) ) ) )

No comments:

Post a Comment