Madonna: Videos by albums Take 4 – ‘Like a Prayer’.

Time to continue my Madonna research and reach one of my favorite albums: Like a Prayer!

Madonna – Like A Prayer

I have already taken a look at “Like a Prayer” in a previous One on One…

However, I think it deserves a deeper look. The album was released in 1989. It was a personal intimate album in which she took on her mother´s death (when Madonna was just a child), growing up as a Catholic, female empowerment, geniusly done through pop music with pop, funk, gospel and soul influences.  I personally love the track that titles the album and also “Express Yourself”, but there are more good songs in there also.

The video starts and we see Madonna running away from something…we don´t know what it is but we can hear sirens in the background, so I am guessing the police. The first important thing to notice is that she has changed the color of her hair! She is platinum blonde madonna no more,… all trace of Marilyn is gone, in the video she looks like this:

Madonna in "Like a Prayer" video.
Madonna in “Like a Prayer” video.

As if that were not enough of a shock for many, the scene that follows is the burning cross.

The burning cross.
The burning cross.

 

Now, this obviously caused a stir, and Madonna is no stranger to controversy (see more here) but let´s look at this image calmly, since there are other meanings to it.

Traditionally the cross burning has been used by the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate their “targets”. Also, the catholic church was offended (well, let´s face it, it´s always offended) but it is extra sensitive to crosses…but, there is also another cross on fire, the fiery cross, is “an English language term for a wooden object, such as a cross or baton, carried by a messenger and used by Northern Europeans, for example in Scotland and Scandinavia, to rally people for things (assemblies) and for defence or rebellion”.

I think this is what she intended, or her director. Or the illuminati running the show… whatever, but they were clearly sending a message. I personally think that is what artists must do, they must stir things in their respective creative outlets, they must leave things different than how they found them. I don’t think pop singers, and in this case Madonna, should make everything about a message, but it definitely makes a difference between a performer and an artist. I once saw an interview she did, and i thought it was very candid and spot on, she said something along the lines that she didn’t start singing because she thought she had the most beautiful voice, she said she starting singing because she had something to say.

I am my own experiment. I am my own work of art.

 

Madonna and her exposed lingerie make it into a church, not before a glimpse of a black man being arrested by the police, and we see typical church imagery. She stares at the statue of a black saint. YES. That also drove people crazy, even though the Catholic church has a long list of black saints.    (Why did we included that link? Because we want you to know we do our research…it is not coming out of our brilliant heads, this takes work and dedication people.) Anyway, the saint comes to life and starts crying, and Madonna uses the oldest trick in the book: while approaching someone in a vulnerable state she starts to seduce him. (Maybe that was what had so many people outraged?) She lies on a pew. Then she opens the church niche where the saint is and he tells her a secret and kisses her on the forehead. (Oh! Maybe that is what had people upset, the interracial thing.) The saint leaves her in the church and she looks down only to find a knife, pick it up and cut herself with it.
Madonna Stigmata
Feeling they had not pushed enough buttons, they take on the stigma. The markings, sores in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ. Then the choir starts to sing and the video shows us what happened. Some guys stab a woman, Madonna was watching, she flees, a black guy (the one we saw arrested before) trying to help the wounded woman and the police mistaking him for the one that committed the crime. Madonna starts dancing to the choir, and there is a woman touching her forehead, and images of Madonna and the saint kissing. True communion? Then we see Madonna “waking up” in the pew. Good excuse, it was all a dream. She goes to the police station and tells them the have arrested the wrong guy, he is freed and then a curtain falls. I think they knew they were in trouble and were trying to get out of it: “Oh, but it was all a dream”, “Oh! it was a play, didn´t you see the curtain fall?“. In any case she was unapologetic when the shit hit the fan, and I respect her for it. I do think it is ironic how the song today has done a 180 in the public´s perception and is sang almost in a religious way.

Madonna – Like A Prayer – Live 8 – 2005

As I´ve said before, it´s funny how in life you end up becoming and doing everything you criticized, I don´t know if she intended it to be an “anthem” for hope, specially with that video, when she was rebelling and standing up for what she believed in by tearing down institutions and belief systems around her, but that is where it lives now, and I personally love it.

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4 thoughts on “Madonna: Videos by albums Take 4 – ‘Like a Prayer’.

  1. I have always been intrigued by several things here. Number one the cross fascination. Let’s say you were shot and by some miracle of Future type Stephen- Hawking- science you are raised from the dead only to see a room full of people wearing gold chains with a gun as a charm on the front? You might think they were in on your original murder or they were out to do you in again or worse yet were celebrating your demise!!!. I know, I know the sacrifice and the holy stuff I get it, but I always thought the reverence granted to an item that was used as a murderous torture device was odd. And Jesus never said to wear it on your neck did he? (Clears throat) Secondly fanboys, nerds, pop aficionados go batsh!t crazy when anyone dares to suggest changing casting in a classic movie role – for example Idris Elba as James Bond – OH NO!!!!(screams, crashes) Yet for some reason it is always OK for movies to cast ALL biblical characters as European…White British to be more precise even though Most of the stories in the bible take place in a region where the people had color – I mean mix it up a bit will ya?? Thirdly the interracial reaction. Yes people went nuts after 1. there was a black saint and 2. Madonna kissed the saint 3. the saint was black!! Yes she managed to strike a chord with all of these scenes and generated the necessary buzz a pretty mediocre video needed. Oh the stigmata was a nice touch, the “holy wound” is a big deal and this formerly catholic girl knew that if you get the Catholic church involved – the more press you can expect. And finally the burning cross. I believe it served two purposes as you stated “shock” and “rebellion” it was successful at delivering both messages. But for me as with most of this video, it seemed disconnected almost like throwing a sprig of parsley on top of a bowl of ice cream. yeah I noticed it but was it necessary? I think she did the right thing by not apologizing for any of it -Lastly I mean not that this is important, but did they catch the 4 crazy lunatics going around stabbing people? The “play” was a bit mum on whether or not they solved the crime.. I also love the fact that saying “he didn’t do it” was enough to get the guy let out of jail…. Looking at the video now I wonder what the hell was all of the noise about it for? when you get to the song Express Yourself I will be back…I LOVE that song! Great post.

    1. Hello!!!
      Finally here!!!
      Yes, I will let you know when I get to “Express yourself” although a bit more to go before.
      I am also a former catholic school girl and get what you say about getting more press and drawing attention once you mention anything related to it.
      This first comment about being shot and coming back and finding people in tunics with guns on their necks…I LOVE IT. I think you are truth and speak truth. Had never thought about it like that before and will now think about it in that way always…well done you: INCEPTION!!!!!!!!
      YOu rock my friend. I love your comments!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I think you are right, although I loved her look on “Don´t tell me”
      Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

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