Thursday 12/15/22 11pm ET: Feature LP: Madonna – Like A Prayer (1989)

Like a Prayer is the fourth studio album by American singer and songwriter Madonna, released on March 21, 1989, by Sire Records. Madonna worked with Stephen Bray, Patrick Leonard, and Prince on the album while co-writing and co-producing all the songs. Her most introspective release at the time, Like a Prayer has been described as a confessional record. Madonna described the album as a collection of songs “about my mother, my father, and bonds with my family.” The album was dedicated to Madonna’s mother, who died when she was young.

The album uses live instrumentation and incorporates elements of dance, funk, gospel, and soul into a more general pop style. Madonna drew from her Catholic upbringing, as seen on the album’s title track, which was also released as its lead single. The lyrics deal with themes from Madonna’s childhood and adolescence, such as the death of her mother in “Promise to Try”, the importance of family in “Keep It Together”, and her relationship with her father in “Oh Father”. Madonna also preaches female empowerment in “Express Yourself”.

Like a Prayer received universal acclaim, with Rolling Stone hailing it as “close to art as pop music gets.” Commercially, the album was an international success, reaching the top of the charts in multiple territories, and was certified quadruple platinum in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America. Six singles were released from the album: the title track, “Express Yourself”, “Cherish”, “Oh Father”, “Dear Jessie”, and “Keep It Together”. “Like a Prayer” became Madonna’s seventh number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, while “Express Yourself” and “Cherish” peaked at number two and “Keep It Together” became a top-ten hit. Worldwide, the album has sold over 15 million copies.

With the singles’ accompanying music videos, Madonna furthered her creativity and became known as a leading figure in the format. The music video for “Like a Prayer” was a lightning rod for religious controversy, using Catholic iconography such as stigmata and burning crosses, and a dream about making love to a saint, leading the Vatican to condemn the video and causing Pepsi to cancel Madonna’s sponsorship contract. The video for “Express Yourself” was the most expensive video at its release. Like a Prayer preceded Madonna’s ground-breaking Blond Ambition World Tour. At the end of the 1980s, following the release of the album, Madonna was named “Artist of the Decade” by several publications.

  1. “Like a Prayer” 5:41
  2. “Express Yourself” 4:37
  3. “Love Song” (with Prince) 4:52
  4. “Till Death Do Us Part” 5:16
  5. “Promise to Try” 3:36
  6. “Cherish” 5:03
  7. “Dear Jessie” 4:20
  8. “Oh Father” 4:57
  9. “Keep It Together” 5:03
  10. “Spanish Eyes” 5:15
  11. “Act of Contrition” 2:19

Madonna – vocals, synthesizers
Niki Haris – background vocals
Marilyn Martin – background vocals
Donna DeLory – background vocals
Ali Nadirah – background vocals
Lynne Fiddmont – background vocals
Rose Banks – background vocals
Marcos Loya – background vocals
The Andraé Crouch Choir – background vocals
Jonathan Moffett – drums
Jeff Porcaro – drums
John Robinson – drums
Luis Conte – percussion
Paulinho da Costa – percussion
Guy Pratt, Randy Jackson – bass
Chester Kamen – guitars
David Williams – guitars
Prince – guitars
Dann Huff – guitars
Bruce Gaitsch – guitars
Marcos Loya – requinto
Jai Winding – synthesizers
Stephen Bray – synthesizers
Patrick Leonard – acoustic piano, Hammond B3 organ, clavinet, synthesizers
Joe Porcaro – marimba
Sandra Crouch – tambourine
Chuck Findley – brass section
David Boruff – brass section
Steven Madaio – brass section
Dick Hyde – brass section
Joseph Mayer – French horn
Richard Todd – French horn
Larry Corbett – cello solo
Chuck Findley – horn arrangements
Bill Meyers – string arrangements, conducting
Suzie Katayama – concertmaster