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Music / Like a Prayer

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Just like a prayer, your voice can take me there
Just like a muse to me, you are a mystery
You don't need diamond rings
Or eighteen karat gold
Fancy cars that go very fast
You know they never last, no no

What you need is a big strong hand
To lift you to your higher ground
Make you feel like a queen on a throne
Make him love you 'til you can't come down
(You'll never come down)

Don't go for second best, baby
Put your love to the test
You know, you know, you've got to
Make him express how he feels
And maybe then you'll know your love is real
"Express Yourself"

Like a Prayer is is the fourth studio album recorded by American pop musician Madonna. It was released through Sire Records on March 21, 1989. It generated hits such as "Like A Prayer", "Express Yourself", "Cherish", and "Dear Jessie".


Side One
  1. "Like a Prayer" - 5:30
  2. "Express Yourself" - 4:39
  3. "Love Song" - 4:52
  4. "'Til Death Do Us Part" - 5:16
  5. "Promise to Try" - 3:36

Side Two

  1. "Cherish" - 5:03
  2. "Dear Jessie" - 4:20
  3. "Oh Father" - 4:57
  4. "Keep It Together" 5:03
  5. "Spanish Eyes" 5:15
  6. "Act of Contrition" 2:19

Cherish these tropes:

  • Abusive Parent: "Oh Father", which combines the parental abuse with a dark religious aspect, the child confessing their "sins" against his or her "father".
  • Album Title Drop: "Like A Prayer".
    Just like a prayer, your voice can take me there.
  • Anti-Love Song: "Love Song", which even states in the lyrics that "this is not a love song".
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: "Keep It Together" and "Oh Father" about an abusive father.
  • Bilingual Bonus: At the start and during "Love Song" Madonna speaks some Gratuitous French.
  • Break Up Song: "Till Death Do Us Part" about a woman left behind by a man.
  • Call-Back: The album and its title track has a similar title to Like a Virgin.
  • Cat Girl: Madonna shapeshifts into a cat, drinking milk from a plate as a woman, in the music video of "Express Yourself".
  • Changed for the Video: The "Express Yourself" video uses the Shep Pettibone remix instead of the original album version.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Madonna references Catholicism frequently in her lyrics.
  • Clear Their Name: The music video for "Like a Prayer" revolves around this.
  • Continuity Nod: "Love Song" has the line Time goes by so slowly, which Madonna re-used in "Hung Up" (2004).
  • Curtain Call: In the music video of "Like a Prayer", a curtain comes down at the end.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The "Oh Father" video was shot in black-and-white.
  • Divine Race Lift: In her infamous and controversial video for "Like a Prayer", viewers often assume the statue of the black saint who comes to life is meant to be Jesus. He's actually St. Martin de Porres, the first black saint from the Americas.
  • Domestic Abuse: "'Til Death Do Us Part" and "Oh Father" both deal with abuse, first husband/wife, and second parent/child. The video for the latter song incorporates both types of abuse into its imagery, suggesting that people who grew up in abusive homes end up in abusive relationships of their own.
  • Dramatic Choir Number: "Like a Prayer" has her singing alongside a gospel choir, first in "oohs" at the beginning of the sing, then showing full force beginning at the second chorus.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Dear Jessie" —> "Oh Father".
  • Le Film Artistique: The music video to "Express Yourself".
  • Forgiveness and Freudian Excuse: This verse from "Oh Father":
    Maybe someday,
    When I look back I'll be able to say
    You didn't mean to be cruel;
    Somebody hurt you too.
  • God-Is-Love Songs: The title track, "Oh Father" and ''Act Of Contrition" all express her Catholic faith. But in "Spanish Eyes" she questions God's existence, because her loved one was apparently killed.
  • Gospel Choirs Are Just Better: "Like a Prayer" makes use of a choir.
  • Gratuitous French: "Love Song"
    Je suis prête.
    Est-ce que vous etes prête, aussi?
  • Grief Song: "Promise To Try" about her mother's death at age five. "Spanish Eyes", about a man shot during combat in the streets.
  • Hot Men at Work: The muscular men in the "Express Yourself" video.
  • In Medias Res: The music video for "Like a Prayer" opens up with the heroine running in distress toward a church, while flashbacks of what has happened before briefly appear.
  • Jump Scare and Last Note Nightmare: The final song "Act of Contrition" is pretty ominous (a prayer that's only familiar to Catholics, recited over the choir chant from "Like a Prayer" played backwards), but the last four seconds will make you jump out of your seat.
    • This also doubles as Last Note Hilarity, as it suddenly transforms a sincere prayer to Jesus Christ ("I resolve, I resolve, I reserve...") into a scene at a fancy restaurant where Madonna's reservation isn't showing on the busboy's computer.
    • Madonna recites the Catholic Act of Contrition, asking God's forgiveness for sins and promising ("I resolve") to amend her life and avoid temptation. She changes "I resolve" to "I reserve", then "I have a reservation. I HAVE a RESERVATION... WHAT DO YOU MEAN, IT'S NOT IN THE COMPUTER?!", thus losing her temper (a sin) which means she'll have to confess and start all over again. Every Catholic out there knows this experience.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "'Til Death Do Us Part", a bouncy song about a woman who vows to leave her abusive husband, only to go back to him and the implication that "'Til Death Do Us Part" is going to be the only way she'll get free from him.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: The singer of "Keep It Together" speaks of being a middle child among siblings.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: A close-up of Madonna adjusting her belt.
  • Missing Mom: Madonna's mother died when she was very young. Her song "Promise to Try", which was played during a scene from the documentary film Truth or Dare, is about her coming to terms with her mother's absence in her life. In the video for "Oh Father", the absence of the mother also affects the father's relationship, resulting in domestic abuse in one scene where the actor playing him roughly scolds the little girl playing the young Madonna for wearing her mother's clothes and jewelry.
  • Mood Whiplash
    • "Act of Contrition" has Madonna praying over the closing part of "Like A Prayer" being played backwards. It sounds quite avant-garde to the other more poppy songs.
    • The cheery childhood song "Dear Jessie" segues into the dark and brooding "Oh Father" through the use of old Victrola record-player music.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Strong muscular men work in the factory in the music video of "Express Yourself".
  • Music Video Overshadowing: For "Like a Prayer". Song: A passionate young girl is in love with God the Almighty as if he were the male figure in her life. Video: A young woman sees a clan of white gang members assaulting a white woman and stabbing her to death while a black man tries to stop it and gets framed and arrested in the process. In despair, the woman runs off to a small church and prays for guidance to a black saint (inspired by St. Martin de Porres), who comes to life from the cage and tells her to do the right thing and to clear the name of the innocent man; all the while she is having visions of stigmata, an all-black choir, her hanging out with and caressing the saint, and burning crosses in a World of Symbolism. (BTW, this video drew protests from the religious right, including St. John Paul II, due to its symbolic "controversial" nature.)
  • One-Woman Song: "Dear Jessie".
  • One-Word Title: "Cherish".
  • Pep-Talk Song: "Express Yourself" encourages the listener to not settle for second-best when looking for a mate, that they don't need diamond rings, 18-karat gold, or fancy cars to feel loved or appreciated.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: The music video for "Like a Prayer" caused huge international controversy. In the video Madonna kisses a statue of a black saint (inspired by St. Martin de Porres) which comes alive in the form of an attractive African American man. After embracing one another he leaves and then Madonna notices stigmata on her hands. In Italy the video was banned. For anyone old enough to remember the controversy it can be a bit difficult to discern the song from the scandal surrounding it.
  • Real Life Writes the Song:
    • "Dear Jessie" was inspired by Jessie, the daughter of Madonna's record producer Patrick Leonard.
    • "Promise to Try" and "Oh Father" were inspired by the death of Madonna's own mother at age 5. The music video of the latter shows a mother lying in a casket with her lips sewn shut. This was an image Madonna remembered from her own youth.
  • Rearrange the Song: "Express Yourself" was given a house-style beat when it was remixed by Shep Pettibone for the video. That version was likely the influence for Lady Gaga's "Born This Way".
  • Religion Rant Song: "Oh Father" as a Type 1, where she rants not only against her own abusive father, but also against God the Father, as she was raised without her mother in a strict Catholic home.
  • Record Producer: Madonna, Patrick Leonard, Stephen Bray, and Prince.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: In 1989, Pepsi-Cola paid $5 million to use Madonna's single "Like a Prayer" in a commercial, but the soft drink company chickened out after protests by religious groups in the wake of the song's video release... A video that, for anyone that doesn't know, includes burning crosses, stigmata, and Madonna having sex with what they assumed to be "Black Jesus".note  Mmm, Pepsi.
  • Sexy Packaging: A close-up of Madonna while adjusting her belt.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Smells Sexy: The original album package had the scent of her favorite fragrance, patchouli.
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: Madonna is seen holding a cigarette pipe in the music video of "Express Yourself" where her outfits appear to be a shout-out to Marlene Dietrich.
  • Snow Means Death: The death of the girl's mother in the "Oh Father" video takes place in winter.
  • Special Guest: Prince during "Love Song".
  • Stock Sound Effects: A laughing baby can be heard in the middle of "Dear Jessie".
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song and Surreal Music Video: "Dear Jessie", a children's bedtime song in which the music video adds animated fairy tale characters.
  • Title Track: "Like A Prayer".
  • Unscaled Merfolk: The "Cherish" video features [[Meattractive attractive mermen]] swimming around. Madonna dances and cuddles with a child who is also merfolk. These smooth-skinned merfolk appear to be part dolphin instead of part fish.
  • Wholesome Cross Dresser: Madonna is wearing a man's suit in the music video of "Express Yourself".
  • World of Symbolism: The music video of "Like a Prayer" makes use of many Christian symbols, like crosses, Jesus Christ and stigmata.