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CLASSIC ALBUM LIKE A PRAYER MADONNA

MADONNA’S FOURTH STUDIO ALBUM IS AN IMMACULATE COLLECTION OF SONGS WHICH SAW THE SUPERSTAR LOOKING INWARDS FOR DIVINE INSPIRATION – TAKING IN GRIEF, LOSS, REDEMPTION AND EMPOWERMENT. WITH THE CELESTIAL LIKE A PRAYER, SHE CREATED HER OWN NEW TESTAMENT.
Madonna and Sean Penn were divorced in 1989, the year of Like A Prayer
© Jeffrey Asher/Getty Images

Though Madonna had already established herself as the definitive female pop artist of the 80s with a catalogue of classic hits under her Boy Toy belt, she had found herself at a crossroads in her public and professional life when she entered the studio in 1988 to work on her fourth album. Devastated by the breakdown of her marriage to actor Sean Penn and having recently turned 30, Madonna was feeling increasingly introspective, compelled to confront her feelings about the life-altering events that she had brushed aside for years.

Two years on from True Blue, her most successful album to date, and feeling immense pressure to follow it up, she was desperate to shift focus back to her work from the tabloid caricature that she was becoming thanks to her tumultuous union with Penn.

Sean’s propensity to lash out at paparazzi photographers had made him public enemy number one in the tabloids and even landed him in jail. Madonna’s willingness to stand by her man made her guilty by association and earned the couple the moniker, ‘the Poison Penns’.

Meanwhile, her ‘scandalous’ antics with openly bisexual comedienne Sandra Bernhard – dressing in matching outfits for an appearance on David Letterman’s talk show which implied their relationship was more than platonic, and teaming up with Dirty Dancing’s Jennifer Grey and dubbing themselves ‘the Snatch Batch’ (a take on Sinatra’s Rat Pack) to frequent New York’s infamous lesbian nightclub, Cubbyhole, only fanned the flames of her tabloid notoriety.

As the press plotted her inevitable downfall and primed the likes of Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and Taylor Dayne for pop supremacy, Madonna began work on her next album. Having spent her hiatus from the spotlight collaborating with playwright David Mamet on her Broadway debut Speed- The-Plow, and working with filmmakers Woody Allen and Howard Brookner, she was inspired to make the record much more personal than her previous work, delving deep into her psyche and purging her feelings on subjects such as the breakdown of her marriage, the death of her mother as well as her strict Catholic upbringing.

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About Classic Pop

Issue 48 is on sale now! In our latest issue we look ahead to the most hotly-anticipated album of 2019 – it’s the return of Madonna. We also analyse her six personas that changed the face of pop and wax lyrical about her classic album Like A Prayer. We’ve got outrageous must-read interviews with Paul Heaton plus Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch and Ultravox fans will love our chat with the legendary Midge Ure. Our panel of experts look back over the year to count down their pick of the finest albums, reissues, compilations and books of 2018 and elsewhere we catch up with The Fizz to hear about their rollercoaster year as well as tracing the make-or-break record that saved The Jam’s career. We review new releases by Trevor Horn, Joe Jackson and Fun Lovin' Criminals while in our packed reissues section we look at Simple Minds, Depeche Mode, Brian Eno and much more. We also check out gigs by Heaven 17, Rick Astley and Blancmange.