Like A Prayer: How Madonna’s Controversial Hit Became An Unquestioned Classic


Like A Prayer: How Madonna’s Controversial Hit Became An Unquestioned Classic

Three days ago, Louise Ciccone – the undisputed Queen of Pop – celebrated her birthday and, here at Radio, that got us thinking: what’s the best Madonna song?h
Now that’s a tricky question, and every fan will undoubtedly have their answer. After all, with fifty billboard #1 hits under her belt, ’s career is a multi-decade-spanning juggernaut of iconic tracks. From ‘80s hits like “Material Girl” and “La Isla Bonita” to more recent releases like “Future” and “God Control,” choosing one Madonna song to best represent her entire career seems like an impossible task.
That being said, there is one song that’s through and through. It’s a track that musically, lyrically, and aesthetically represents the Queen at her best. It’s a track that caused a stir on the first release and has kept people dancing ever since. It’s a track incorporating the best of that late ‘80s sound while still feeling relevant today. And that track’s name is “Like A Prayer.”


In many ways, 1988 was a challenging year for Madonna. Between the recent commercial failure of two major film projects and the end of her marriage to Sean Penn, she was at a complicated point in her life. She needed her next album to be something special. It needed to be both personal to her and relatable to her audience. She wanted to draw on her own emotions and find a way of presenting them to others, as great music often does.
“Like A Prayer” ultimately became the title track to that album and one of the most memorable songs she has ever written. Drawing on her experiences of growing up Catholic, she worked with producers Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard to write a song that expressed her complicated feelings towards God. As she put it, the song was ultimate about a girl “so in love with God that it is as though He were the only male figure in her life.”


When “Like A Prayer” was first released, it saw its fair share of controversy. The video features a black saint (played by Leon Robinson), a mixed-race couple, and even a depiction of systemic racism within the policing system.
Suffice it to say that religious imagery to tackle themes relating to sexuality and racism received significant backlash from Christian conservatives. The Catholic Church encouraged people to boycott the song and managed to stir up protests. In an effort to avoid bad press, Pepsi pulled an advert featuring “Like A Prayer” despite the fact that it meant letting keep the $5 million advance. Almost every TV station refused to air the music video, except for MTV, which played it regularly.
In the face of all this backlash, however, responded with admirable class, stating that “art should be controversial; that’s all there is to it.”

Three Decades On

Thirty-three years after its initial release, it’s hard to deny that “Like A Prayer” was ahead of its time. Not only is it an iconic single, but it’s a song that uses its powerful imagery to throw a spotlight on ideas that our culture is still grappling with today. took a deeply personal feeling about her connection to God and used it to spark discussion.
As we said, “Like A Prayer” is through and through. It combines meaningful themes and powerful music to create an emotional experience that will stay with you forever.
Happy Birthday Madonna! We can’t wait to hear what incredible music you’ll give the world next.

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