Recorded amid the dissolution of her marriage to actor Sean Penn, 'Like a Prayer' was Madonna’s 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 doesn’t sound a bit dated. Lyrically, it’s 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 Madonna’s 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 wouldn’t 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 Madonna’s finest moments, and over the next 10 tracks, its namesake album never lets up. It’s 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 on for our classic track-by-track review.
To read Billboard's track-by-track review visit: www.billboard.com/articles/review