Like A Prayer celebrates it's 30th anniversary this week and remains a standout moment of rebellion from one of pop music’s most consistently progressive stars.
When it came time to write her fourth album, hyper-aware that her fan base was growing up with her, Madonna looked within and wrote from a more personal place than she had in the past. Her Catholic upbringing had left the pop star with a lingering hangover of guilt, so she decided to channel this religious pre-occupation into a song. Judging by how long "Like A Prayer" stayed in the charts, the topic hit a nerve with more people than even Madonna could have predicted!
"Sometimes I'm wracked with guilt when I needn't be, and that, to me, is left over from my Catholic upbringing. Because in Catholicism you are born a sinner and you are a sinner all of your life. No matter how you try to get away from it, the sin is within you all the time." – Madonna, March 1989 issue of Rolling Stone.
She describes "Like A Prayer" as being about a passionate young girl "so in love with God that it is almost as though He were the male figure in her life" and wanted the video to be more provocative than any of her previous work, which, from the creator of “Like A Virgin”, was quite a challenge!
In true Madonna style, she managed to achieve that and then some. In fact, you could say that she hit the ball right out of the park with this one. The video for “Like A Prayer” manages to tackle all of the big three when it comes to contentious issues - race, religion and gender. Religious groups worldwide including the Vatican, immediately protested the video, describing its use of Christian imagery as blasphemous. Even Pope John Paul II couldn’t help but get involved, encouraging fans (unsuccessfully) to boycott the singer in Italy altogether.
When you set out to make a music video more controversial than anything that had come before it and end up with the Pope himself calling for your banishment? Congratulations Madonna - I think we can mark that one down squarely in the win column.
Here's to many more years of trailblazing from the woman whose influence on pop culture can actually be studied at university. Check out our I Like: Madonna playlist, and relive all catchy and controversial moments that have made this star an icon.
Listen to Like A Prayer on Spotify
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