While I’m blogging about iconic 80s albums like Michael Jackson’s Bad, I can’t pass up what I feel is one of Madonna‘s best albums, Like a Prayer. To me, these two albums stand out because both of them were released in the years during my awkward transition from junior high to high school.
I remember buying Like a Prayer on cassette tape, and the insert or case itself smelled of patchouli oil, adding to the entire experience. One of my memories of Like a Prayer was, interestingly enough, it was the tape I’d pop in the Walkman when I was mowing my parents’ lawn.
There was the whole controversy over the “Like a Prayer” music video, which featured burning crosses and “a black Jesus” (who actually was supposed to be a saint) and stigmata, among other things. I didn’t quite understand what the whole fuss was about because I interpreted the video as Madonna’s character trying to free the man charged with a crime he didn’t commit and that (perhaps) having been inspired by her Catholic faith and the particular saint who happens to look like the accused man. Then again, I was only 15 and a bit naive. It might pay for me to go back and watch the video in close detail again.
Another great hit was “Express Yourself”. If that wasn’t a bit of a toe-tapper for a gay teenager, I don’t know what is. And the music video was full of eye candy, too. If you have any doubt of that, Google “Cameron Alborzian” for a few images of Madonna’s main interest in the video.
(In college, one of my dorm-mates said she’d give me her carpet if I dressed like Madonna and did a floor show to “Express Yourself”. I did… and got a free carpet in the process.)
I won’t go into every minute detail on every song on the album, but I think Like a Prayer was one of the first albums where I understood that an album can tell a story and have an overarching theme, where the order and inclusion of songs is important to the overall flow, and sometimes the songs you like the most will never make it to radio. (I now call these my hidden gems.) It also was the first Madonna album I owned and turned me in to a fan of hers for her career so far.