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Like a Prayer is Madonna's fourth album and, along with Ray of Light, it's her most critically acclaimed album. It generated hits such as "Like A Prayer", "Express Yourself", "Cherish", and "Dear Jessie". Time Magazine included it in 2006 in their list of 100 essential and timeless albums. The album was listed at #239 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time .


Tracklist:

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

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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.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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: Her infamous and controversial video for "Like a Prayer" features a black Jesus.
  • 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.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Dear Jessie" —> "Oh Father".
  • Le Film Artistique: The music video to "Express Yourself".
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The heretical/blasphemous music video to "Like a Prayer" got airplay.
  • 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, but the last four seconds will make you jump out of your seat.
    WHAT DO YOU MEAN, IT'S NOT IN THE COMPUTER?!
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Raised Catholic: A huge theme in all the lyrics.
  • 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.
  • Sweet Dreams Fuel: "Dear Jessie", a song to a young girl, wishing her joyful dreams.
  • Title Track: "Like A Prayer".
  • Unscaled Merfolk: The "Cherish" video.
  • 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.

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