I was going to open with something like “Time for the big one now” but after True Blue, it’s difficult to see how it could have got much bigger. After the more sophisticated pop of True Blue, it seemed that it was time to get a more serious.
If I’m honest, I was never that FUSSED about this album much. Sure the singles were great but it never seemed to live up to the hype. I think that’s more a problem about the hype than the music as I have enjoyed listening to this a lot. It’s not perfect, and the weak links are clear for me, but it’s still pretty great.
It was a bit of a watershed moment for Madonna, and lent her some artistic credibility for a while. Evidently this didn’t sit too well, as it wasn’t long before she released her SEX book.
09 Like a Prayer – Well, a big one to open with. I always LIKED Like a Prayer, and it’s obviously one of her blockbuster moments, but I think it’s turned into such a sacred cow that I have trouble feeling too much for it. It’s like Imagine or Angels – as a Madonna song it is one of the favourites for a large proportion of people, which leads to the consensus that it’s her best single. That’s a totally individual and personal title for a song to have, which is probably why I never agreed. Sure it’s great, but it would never be my favourite. I can’t help but think that a lot of that might be not being really exposed to it at the time of its release, which I think would have helped a lot.
08 Express Yourself – Again, an anthem for some but never my favourite. It’s a good song, I have no objections but I never felt anything particular for it. In fact for a while I used to muddle it up with Open your heart, which has led to a comparison in my head that Express Yourself doesn’t come out of well. Listening again I can finally hear the “Born this way” similarities. Weird I can’t really hear it the other way around!
04 Love Song – Remember I was talking about weak links? Here we are… I rarely like Prince, and this is not one of those rare occasions. What a piece of crap. HATE IT. Sounds and feels like being hit over the head with a pipe. But what’s this? “Time goes by so slowly for those who wait, those who run seem to have all the fun”?! I had a bit of an OMG moment there. Foreshadowing alert!
10 ‘Til death do us part – NOW we are talking, I love this so much, that weird news bulletin noise running through is amazing, as do the other little hooks that I can’t describe. The song is brilliant too, I love the pacing, how it all starts out quite sweet and happy but then goes a bit cold and sad, I’m totally ENGROSSED. Then the spoken bit! Then BACK into the music for a last little encore. BRILLIANT.
08 Promise to try – Slowing it down now. I feel like this is a bit of a weak song but I’m always a sucker for this sort of sentimental song, piano & strings *dies*. It gives the album a bit more of the atmosphere that I always associate with it. It does drag a little bit, and it’s a bit timid for the ballbusting Madonna we all know, but it’s nice.
09 Cherish – OMG. A totally jarring change of pace, but it’s CHERISH. I think this is one of her most gorgeous songs, and she looks incredible in the video. It feels a bit like “True Blue”, except without feeling so awful and artificial. As usual I’m not very good at describing WHY I love songs, so I will just settle for saying it is a total joy to listen to it, even after all this time.
08 Dear Jessie – I used to turn my nose up at this a bit really, it didn’t feel like a Madonna song (and certainly didn’t look like a Madonna video). But I’m finding it very difficult to dislike it, it makes a bit more sense as part of the album, I feel like Madonna is trying to deal with her childhood experiences on this, “Promise to Try” and “Oh Father”. Obviously there is a childish theme to this song, but it’s not as if she’s a stranger to retarded lyrics. Definitely a grower for me, especially at the carousel segment into the 2nd half.
10 Oh Father – What a segue too, I hadn’t really noticed that before. Anyway, the piano and sweeping strings are back again, so I fall in love quickly. Another one of her beautiful videos, especially the snow and the little girl dancing in the graveyard *chills*. More issues here, can someone tell me if this is about God or her actual father? I’m presuming it’s the former… Anyway, that odd electronic noise popping out throughout I love, the whole thing is just lovely.
07 Keep it together – I feel like there is a great album waiting to get out of Like a Prayer, but it does feel a bit all over the place. This track is another odd-one-out for me, I don’t dislike it, certainly feels like more obviously like an 80s track, rather than the last 5 tracks which felt more like “90s Madonna” (whatever that means). It’s alright but sounds like a song anyone could have done. Paula Abdul? Another autobiographical one by the sound of it, but sometimes this isn’t a great source of lyrics, something about this sounds a little immature.
08 Pray for Spanish Eyes – Back to 90s Madonna now. The intro is great, getting an instrumental version of the chorus before the singing starts. I don’t know why draw attention to that, I think it just highlights how much I love the music to it, and how it’s instantly recognisable just by that hook. It always felt like this was the more polished version of “Promise to Try” for some reason, with some obvious Latin tinges to it. It’s not my favourite on here, it does go on a little too long, but still a decent final (proper) track. That is, if it wasn’t for…
05 Act of Contrition – WTF? I don’t really understand. I can recognise Like a Prayer backwards in there, but what the hell? I can barely hear what she is saying, but try not to listen too hard because all of a sudden WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S NOT IN THE COMPUTER? Still, better than Love Song. Weird to hear shreds of it that ended up in “Girl gone wild” over 20 years later. I wonder what 1989 Madonna would have made of “MDNA”.
Well it’s a great album, I can conclude. While True Blue felt so strong because it was short with a load of great songs, I feel like Like a Prayer could have done with following the same idea. Love Song just needs to GET OUT. A little disjoint in places, but even the album tracks are pretty special. I am prepared to be criticised for not collapsing to my knees weeping at the epic majesty of Like a Prayer, but twenty years of people saying it’s the best thing ever has really ruined it for me.
I’m a little worried about what’s coming next, the Madonna train seems to de-rail a little after this point, at least commercially. I just hope the next 3 albums aren’t as much of a slog as I’m imagining (with the exception of Erotica perhaps).
Keepers for the iPod – Like a Prayer, Oh Father, Til death do us part, Cherish, Dear Jessie, Promise to Try, Pray for Spanish Eyes.