1989, Music

Like a Prayer (1989) by Madonna

Many years ago I was drinking at a bar in grad school, when the title track came on. A colleague of mine said it was a good song, I scoffed and we got in an argument, with everyone else siding with him and getting annoyed at me for being stupid. For my entire life I have always been skeptical of what’s popular. If something was popular, and I didn’t instantly like it, I always worried that there was something nefarious behind that things popularity. I think I rationalized this by pointing to all the crap people like, and all the people I knew who liked crap (and sometimes not crap) but couldn’t defend their choices, or didn’t know why they liked something (and didn’t care that they didn’t know). This resulted in a contrarian hot takes such as “”Like a Prayer” is not a good song” that often got me into trouble with other people. (It should be noted that, when I was cultivating my snobbery in my teen years, this only applied to what I thought was dumb popular music, and didn’t apply to, say, really dumb action movies, which I ate up as any good teenage boy should.)

As an older and hopefully wiser person I’ve come to realize that pop music isn’t bad, even if it isn’t for me. Moreover I’ve come to recognize that there are good pop songs, one of which is “Like a Prayer.” There are other good pop songs on this record, one of which features so much Prince it sounds more like a Prince song than a Madonna song. This record is yet another reminder to me that pop music can be sophisticated and, also emotionally substantive (see “Oh Father” for instance) even though it’s really catchy. (Imagine that.)

There are a few missteps here, as far as I’m concerned and I am still very much on the fence with the last track – I am glad she took the risk but I’m not sure that it adds anything to the record.

But yes, I was wrong. Madonna is good. She may not be my cup of tea, but she makes objectively good music. I was an ass when I was younger. What can you do? (Write mea culpas on the internet, that’s what you can do!)


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