Thursday marks 30 years since the release of Madonna's Like A Prayer album. The Material Girl's fourth full studio effort and her encore after ruling a decade of music was released on March 21st, 1989.
The album immediately courted controversy thanks to the title track's video, sparking outrage from the Catholic Church and adding another chapter of intrigue to go along with the singer's pop perfection. For an artist so synonymous with reinvention, some of her most personal and sincere work on Like A Prayer proved to be some of her most disruptive.
At the time it was considered a confessional album from Madonna. Like A Prayer touches on the death of her mother, her strong feminist view, and the ties of family and her father. It was inspired and delivered something new from the ever-evolving star despite the stress of unreal expectations. Brands were buying the rights to songs before they were even released, video budgets were the highest ever at the time. It all could have failed spectacularly. Like A Prayer came at a critical juncture for the Queen of Pop, where acting missteps and the end of a marriage loomed large. Yet somehow Madonna still managed another amazing moment that still stands out across her iconic career.
You could trace the biggest moments of Like A Prayer with your eyes closed. The soaring and spiritual title track, the brassy empowering anthem of "Express Yourself", and the warm and bubbly bounce of "Cherish." They are pop standards that have embedded themselves into our fabric over three decades. However, the song that doesn't get the same attention is the album's criminally underappreciated duet with Prince.
"I am ready" coos Madonna at the beginning of "Love Song."
"Are you are ready too?"
Together, two of music's most legendary figures co-wrote "Love Song" along with longtime Madonna collaborator Patrick Leonard. Recorded in Prince's studio at Paisley Park, the two embark on a slow-burning funk trip. "Love Song" is filled with trademark Prince keyboards as the two intertwine. Gaining power and momentum, they complete a passionate climb and slink away with breathy and romantic runs. It's everything you dream a Prince and Madonna duet would be, yet rarely finds space in conversation about both artists.
"We were friends and talked about working together, so I went to Minneapolis to write some stuff with him" Madonna has said about the making of the track. "We ended up writing it long-distance, because I had to be in L.A. and he couldn't leave Minneapolis, and quite frankly I couldn't stand Minneapolis. When I went there, it was like 20 degrees below zero, and it was really desolate. I was miserable and I couldn't write or work under those circumstances."
Despite the temperature, both manage to steam up "Love Song" for a confident, strutting slow jam. The most overlooked moment of Like A Prayer.
Prince also contributed uncredited guitar work to several songs on Like A Prayer, including the opening licks to the title track. The two have a rich history, but "Love Song" might stand as their best moment together.