Like a Prayer (1989) :: Madonna
It was the year after I lost my virginity, the year after I reclaimed my innocence and lost it on my own terms, it was the year after I redesigned and redefined the girl I had been, and it was the year after my very first break-up. I was teetering on a high ledge, hanging upside off its steep precipice, dangling my heart and lungs on a tight rope across a big city, neon casting colors in my dyed hair. I let myself fly, fail and fall in love with the wrong boy who was the right boy for a little while, I danced all the time, I ran as fast I could to chase away the shadows of a past I wanted to leave so far behind, and I listened to music nearly every hour of every day. Like a Prayer was one of the albums I played more than often, and the mis-matched messages of religion and sexuality, self-expression, love, lust and taking control over who you are, they were just what I needed and right on the spot where I was in my life.
It has been ages since I have listened to the album from start to finish, so many of the songs are so known on their own, singles living on into musical oblivion, but there was a time, in 1989, when it was an album that I played song-by-song and in order. Today I will do the same, sharing the songs as I go, and my three reason exclamations on why it is one of My Favorite Albums.
Please share your thoughts on Like a Prayer in the comments, I would love to read them.
Like a Prayer
A parochial school survivor, I had long since parted ways with religion and all of its trappings, though I still wore the scars from it all (I still do). In many ways love became my religion, and I chased after it, wanting so much to give my soul to it. I wanted to fall hard, sacrifice everything, body and soul, for love.
It was hard to believe in myself after years of being made to feel so much less than what I was supposed to be. I was still chasing after a love that would make me feel like enough, a love that would make me feel more than just a second choice, a love that would not be an after thought, or that would make me more than “the other woman”. For a moment I really thought I had found it, but I really should have been trying to find it in myself.
One of these days I will gather up a playlist of “not love song” love songs and one night stand not love but lust songs, because sometimes they are oh so relevant. This track, a duet with Prince, would definitely be among them, as well as a later Madonna song, Justify My Love. I love the way their voices sound together.
Til Death Do Us Part
The year before I had gone through my first real break-up, and though it was not the most damaging, or the most life changing, it definitely took its toll on my heart. I was very much a second choice for him, someone he would pull close and then throw me back, time and again, until I could not take it anymore. I remember though, as I walked away, wishing he would have asked me to stay.
Promise to Try
I left pieces and parts of me behind, I felt like I had to in order to survive and in order to find some kind of life that was not shrouded in abuse and disappointment. In the process I think I hurt pieces and parts of me more than even what I had lived through had. I created my own fear of abandonment by abandoning myself, and it is a pattern I still try to fight now.
I thought I had found true love, true love in that capital letter TL kind of way, where your stomach is full of butterflies and your heart full of song, and you feel like every love song was written just for you. There was an innocence to it that I had never felt before, and a sweetness that I had longed for back when I had been an adolescent, it felt like every eighties teen love story come true. I cherished every moment we spent together, even when I realized that the basis of us was built on a lie, I still wanted to believe.
There were magic moments though, the stuff of cotton candy sticky sweet dreams and candy kisses and too much too drink, and happily ever afters. I wore a ring on my finger that you gave me even though we would never marry, in many ways were more than married to each other. We saw beauty in the broken sides of ourselves, we danced in each other’s eyes and shared the most passionate of moments together, and I never forgot any of our kisses, or promises, or times we spent in each other’s arms; I will keep them with me forever.
This song always hurt to listen to. It still hurts, actually. Being left by your father, not once, but twice, leaves scars that never truly heal.
Keep It Together
We went dancing more nights than we stayed in. I kept a change of clothes, or two, in my car at all times. One night you dressed me up as a boy, and we went from club to club, gender swapped and holding each other so close, forgetting who we were for one night.
Pray for Spanish Eyes
He left without saying a word to me, left me a ring, a jacket, a stack of mixed tapes, and memories. He taught me more in the short time we loved each other than any other man ever would. He told me to just be myself, to find a way, no matter if he was with me, or not.
Act of Contrition
Religion and I would never make up, we would never make peace, we would just agree to forgive, but not forget. There is a part of me that still feels repressed by her past religious background, the part that still makes her doubt, the part that still makes her feel shame. She saw too much pain under the name of religion, too much judgement, too much cruelty to ever return, so she just tries to be free, to forgive, to have her own sense of spirituality, and peace.