The song “Like A Prayer” became a turning point in Madonna’s career. After her, the critics’ attitude towards the singer changed, and she was recognized as a great performer. However, the history of the song’s creation turned out to be difficult: Madonna had to fight with the producer to ensure that “Like A Prayer” sounded exactly the way she wanted. In this article, we will look at how the development of the song went, and try to understand the meaning of the lyrics separately from the video and along with it.
The making of Madonna – Like A Prayer
Initially, two producers, Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray, wrote some musical ideas and showed them to the singer. What Patrick Leonard wrote seemed more interesting to Madonna, and she chose him as a producer.
When Madonna finally realized what she wanted from her music, she wrote the lyrics to “Like A Prayer” in just three hours. However, Patrick Leonard did not appreciate it and asked to rewrite some moments in which hidden subtext was visible. We will talk about it a little later. Madonna did not make changes to the text, as she saw it that way, and the producer had to accept it.
Recording was more than usual, as Madonna and Patrick Leonard had different views on how music should sound, and they constantly argued on this basis. The singer wanted the song to be gospel-only with minimal musical instrumentation, while the producer wanted to add more guitar and drums. In the end, they came to a compromise, but Madonna often asked to change some places right during the recording.
In addition, an incident occurred during the creation of the song, which further slowed down the whole process. Patrick Leonard hired bass player Guy Pratt, who in turn brought in drummers. However, on the day of recording, they simply did not come, because of which the producer urgently had to look for others.
Madonna and Patrick Leonard met with Andre Crouch and his choir and were signed to backing vocals. The chorus was recorded after the full version of the song was ready, and was added only in post-production.
So, finally, the song was completely ready.
Meaning of Madonna – Like A Prayer
First, we’ll look at text without clip support. As Madonna herself said, “Like a Prayer” is sung from the perspective of a passionate young girl who “is so in love with God that He replaces her male figure.” To me, this wording perfectly describes the meaning of the whole song. When I first heard it and learned the translation, I decided that the lyrical heroine was singing about her lover, and comparing his words with a prayer only emphasizes how sublime her feelings are.
Of course, in the song, for which the singer herself chose just such a wording, double meanings cannot be avoided. Already at the very beginning, in the verse there are the words: “<…> I’m on my knees, I want to take you there.” At first glance, everything is clear: a prayer is often said, kneeling. However, in context, the line takes on a new meaning, due to which it can be regarded as a metaphor for fellatio. By the way, it was these words that Patrick Leonard asked to remove.
Also the line “You, like a child, gently whisper to me. / You are under control, just like a child.”, which without context is quite harmless and even sweet, in the general outline of the song takes on a shade of eroticism. A picture is immediately drawn in my head, as two lovers lie in bed, and one whispers tender words to the other.
It can be assumed that the lyrical heroine is at the vicissitudes of life, at a difficult stage. She feels herself “falling from heaven” and asks God for help. Perhaps at this point in the song, the heroine begins to doubt her faith. In the end, this line comes to its logical conclusion, and, thanks to the line “You are here with me,” one can understand that the heroine is only strengthening in faith.
A completely different story develops in the clip. In it, Madonna witnesses the murder of a young white woman by a group of white men. The black man sees the same. He runs up to the victim to help, but the perpetrators run away just as the police arrive. Employees begin to suspect the murder of a black man.
Madonna escapes and ends up in the temple. In it, she sees a statue of Jesus, very similar to a black man who was accused of murder. Madonna lies down on a bench and falls asleep. In a dream, she sees a black woman who instructs her in a righteous deed and throws her into the air. Madonna is in the church. Then there is a cut from different shots: the statue of Christ kisses the heroine on the forehead and leaves, the Madonna cuts her hands, dances against the backdrop of burning crosses, and then – in the church along with the choir. The dream ends and Madonna goes to the police to exonerate the black man.
There are many symbols in the clip that reveal the meaning from different angles, but to analyze them all, a separate article is required, so we will consider only the main ones. A black woman is considered by some to be the personification of divinity, the second – the Virgin Mary, and still others – the inner righteousness of the Madonna herself. Burning crosses are considered by many as a symbol of the Ku Klux Klan. The wounds that the Madonna inflicts on herself are a manifestation of the stigmata.
So we have analyzed the history of the creation of “Like a Prayer” and its main symbols. I hope that now the song has become more understandable to you!