For a woman who proclaimed ‘time goes by so slowly’ in her 2005-disco inspired hit, ‘Hung Up,’ we’ve found nothing could be further from the truth as today brings with it the 30th anniversary of Madonna‘s smash, ‘Like a Prayer.’
Released March 3, 1989, join us inside as we pay homage to the Queen of Pop’s turning point hit:
From the early days of her career, the terms “Madonna” and “controversy” were borderline synonymous. If she wasn’t nabbing headlines for humping the inaugural MTV VMA’s stage in a wedding gown or “promoting” teen pregnancy, she was pissing off the Catholic church for continually blurring the lines of religion and sexuality thanks to the imagery featured in her music videos. Credited as the leading female moving the needle forward with the then-burgeoning medium, Madge quickly discovered that ‘music made the people come together’: even if that unison was a combined effort in opposition of her.
The lesson was one she learned in earnest when she teamed with Pepsi for the kick off of the ‘Like a Prayer’ era.
Easily the music industry’s most in-demand diva thanks to the success of her preceding efforts – 1986’s ‘True Blue’ album and the subsequent ‘Who’s That Girl’ world tour and movie soundtrack – the soft drink giants signed her to a $5M deal and were set to sponsor her next world tour. The premiere of the commercial seen above served as a global lift off to the singer’s next offering, housing snippets of the tune ‘Like a Prayer’ in the background.
Much to the horror of the cola makers, however, Madonna premiered the song’s official music video the day after the commercial’s unveiling.
Her most controversial visual to that date (which was no easy accomplishment for a woman who’d already pushed so many buttons), the clip dropped jaws for its intertwining of sexual and religious imagery to heights even the then-30 year old hadn’t lifted them to. From dancing in front of burning crosses to romancing a Black Jesus, piercing her hand in stigmata fashion, and so much more, the public outcry – led by the Vatican – called for a boycott of Pepsi products and its affiliates. The company was all too eager to dissociate themselves from the melee, a feat that actually worked to M’s benefit many-fold: 1) she kept the $5 million advance and 2) the commercial and hoopla around the video only helped increase public interest in the song. The result? The singer walked away with her 7th #1 single, another platinum hit, and launched an era (of the same name) many fans deem her magnum opus – especially among her releases that preceded 1998’s ‘Ray of Light.’
Finally, while the song may not have gotten much love from the Recording Academy at the next year’s Grammy Awards, critics have long hailed the controversial work as one of Madonna’s best for its sonic interpolation of Rock, Pop, and Gospel and its BDSM-inspired lyrics in disguise.
Even M herself joined in the salute earlier today: