Billboard interviews Patrick Leonard on Like A Prayer’s 25th Anniversary

Mention the name Patrick Leonard to a Madonna fan, and their ears should immediately perk up. After all, it was Leonard who co-wrote and/or co-produced many of Madonna’s classic hit singles like “Live to Tell,” “Open Your Heart,” “Frozen” and “Like a Prayer.”

The latter cut was the lead single and title track from Madonna’s 1989 album, which now celebrates its 25th anniversary. It was released by Sire/Warner Bros. Records on March 21, 1989, and shot to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 shortly thereafter. It spent six weeks atop the chart — her longest run at No. 1 for any album.

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Madonna celebrating purim holiday as Daenerys Targaryen

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Classic album revisited: Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” turns 25

Madonna-Like_a_Prayer-Frontal.jpgTwenty-five years ago this March, after months of feverish anticipation, one of the most successful pop albums of the ‘80s hit stores with a whiff of patchouli and a heavy dose of controversy.  Madonna’s commercial and artistic momentum had been building steadily since her first hit, “Holiday,” reached a modest #16 six years earlier. By the time 1989 had arrived and she was preparing to release her fourth album she’d amassed six #1 singles and was second only to Michael Jackson in the galaxy of pop stardom. WithLike a Prayer she delivered a knockout that became a global smash, generated six hit singles, and sold millions of copies worldwide. Like a Prayer enjoyed critical acclaim as well as commercial success. Released on March 21, 1989, it spent six weeks at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart during the spring of ’89. A quarter-century later, Like a Prayer still holds up as an outstanding collection of top-notch material. Overall, as a complete piece of work, it is arguably the finest album of Madonna’s three-decade-plus career.

Thumbnail image for Like_a_Prayer_Single_Cover.jpgThe album was preceded by the release of the fantastic title-track on March 3. The single “Like a Prayer” did nothing to dampen expectations for the new album, and it quickly shot to #1 all over the world. The provocative video directed by Mary Lambert had religious conservatives in a tizzy and prompted Pepsi to drop Madonna from a major ad campaign (although all the pearl-clutching by those denouncing the video was surely more effective promotion than any advertising money could buy).  The religious-themed clip — which features Madonna  tenderly kissing a black saint that she had transformed from statue to flesh and blood with a sensual caress of her hand, and then dancing amongst flaming crosses in a skimpy black dress while wearing a crucifix — was condemned by no less than the Vatican itself. “Like a Prayer” is one of the great singles of the ‘80s and was brilliantly produced by Patrick Leonard. The sequence between 3:04 and 3:38 (on the album version) is particularly stunning. “Like a Prayer” includes a strong gospel element, and some commentators have noted a striking similarity between it and David Bowie’s 1986 single “Underground” from the movie Labyrinth (although even Bowie would have to admit that “Like a Prayer” is by far the stronger of the two). The title song and album opener set the stage for an assemblage of songs that are personal, strongly commercial, and brilliantly executed. Pop music doesn’t get much better than this.

Express_Yourself_Single_cover.jpgWhen you consider any two ‘80s singles that were released by an artist in secession, it’s hard to top the one-two punch of “Like a Prayer” and “Express Yourself.”  Perhaps Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and “Beat It”, or Prince when he unleashed “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” as the first two singles from Purple Rain— but not many others even come close. “Express Yourself” is a jubilant dance/pop anthem of independence and individuality that remains one of Madonna’s signature songs. With a blistering horn arrangement and one of those classic melodies that seems to have been beamed straight from Heaven, “Express Yourself” became another massive single for Madonna, reaching #2 over the summer of ’89. It was held out of the top spot by two rather feeble songs in comparison that don’t hold a candle to “Express Yourself” in terms of cultural significance:  Martika’s “Toy Soldiers” and Simply Red’s cover of the old R&B chestnut “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.”  Just goes to show ya once again — chart position isn’t everything.

She follows “Express Yourself” with her quirky duet with Prince, “Love Song.” It’s clearly a Prince song musically and lyrically — he’s not known to cede control in the studio (or anywhere else) — but Madonna’s presence definitely blends nicely within Prince’s typically inventive vocal arrangement. It’s nice that a superstar duet wasn’t a made-for-radio love ballad, but rather an offbeat, funky little number that would have fit nicely on the album Prince released the prior year, Lovesexy. Next up is the jittery “Til Death Do Us Part,” an obviously personal song inspired by the well-publicized split between Madonna and her former husband, actor Sean Penn. Before turning darker, the music at first give the impression of a cheery pop tune, but it quickly becomes evident that’s far from the case. “Til Death Do Us Part” tells of a relationship that has disintegrated and become violent. Madonna delivers lines like “He takes a drink, she goes inside. He starts to scream, the vases fly” in an unsettling deadpan voice that sounds completely convincing. It’s a harrowing song that makes the listener feel like they are peering directly into the artist’s most personal thoughts and emotions.

Next up is the melancholy piano-ballad “Promise to Try” — she goes from the pain of a fractured relationship to the anguish of the loss of her mother. It’s a beautifully poignant song, and quite simple — just Madonna’s voice over a piano and a tasteful string arrangement. She sings it beautifully and with real heart and feeling — if you ever hear someone make the claim that Madonna can’t sing, play them “Promise to Try” immediately.  There’s more to singing than hitting octaves — conveying genuine feeling isn’t always about vocal theatrics.

Madonna-Cherish-5523.jpgAfter the emotional ending of Side One, the breezy, cheery “Cherish” is a nice mood switch to open Side Two. As the third single fromLike a Prayer, the ebullient “Cherish” — featuring a video with Madonna frolicking on the beach — also peaked at #2 (at least this time she was kept out of the top spot by a classic, Janet Jackson’s “Miss You Much.”)  “Cherish” has an endearing quality to it, and while it might not seem to have the emotional power of some of the album’s tracks, that’s precisely the point. Like a Prayer covers a range of emotions, and happiness and joyful love is one of them.

The whimsical “Dear Jessie” is next, a merry little ditty with a childlike charm and a jubilant string arrangement. It was a single in some territories (not the US). “Dear Jessie” is sheer joy to play and adds beautiful color to the second half of the album. The Dear_Jessie_single_cover.jpglightheartedness is necessary, as next she delves back into her more personal material with the stunning “Oh Father,” a powerfully confessional track presumably inspired by the strained relationship with her own father. Once again Madonna’s vocals are up to the task and hold up to the power of the song. Released as a single in the US, the dark and introspective track struggled to #20, her lowest chart showing in America since “Holiday.” That hardly matters — “Oh Father” is a stunning reminder of how great pop music can be at its best.

The high-energy “Keep it Together,” released as a single in January, 1990, fared much better commercially, rising to #8 on the pop charts and reaching the top of the dance chart. “Keep it Together” is something of a forgotten gem — even though it was a Top 10 hit, it was omitted from all three of Madonna’s hits Keep it together.jpgcompilations: 1990’s The Immaculate Collection, GHV2 from 2001 and her 2-disc Celebration released in 2009 (one of only three of Madonna’s Top 10 hits to suffer this indignity, the others being “True Blue” and “Angel”). The sultry ballad “Spanish Eyes” follows, and then the album closes with the wonderfully offbeat “Act of Contrition.”  It features portions of “Like a Prayer” played backward over a blazing guitar freak-out (widely assumed to be played by Prince, although he is not credited) and somewhat self-deprecating humor as she insists repeatedly “I have a reservation!” before shouting, “What do you mean it’s not in the computer?” Only Madonna would have the guts to cause a scene at the pearly gates.

Like a Prayer has aged extremely well. The production is strong, and the songs stand the test of time. There really is no weak link, as the album veers from jubilant pop/dance to tracks that are intensely dramatic and personal. She would never again record an album this diverse, or with the depth and strength of songwriting on every track. Madonna is still enjoying an amazing career, and she’s never really put out a bad album (even MDNA has its positive attributes, andAmerican Life is drastically underrated), but Like a Prayer is her crowning achievement.  As Like a Prayer reaches the quarter-century milestone, it’s a good time to give it a thorough listen and rediscover one of the truly great pop albums of our time.

Source: Metro Weekly

I’m Going To Tell You A Secret Tour Documentary Now On iTunes

Madonna’s 2005 “I’m Going To Tell You A Secret” tour documentary, which was originally released on DVD, is now available on iTunes! 

The 2-hour documentary directed by Jonas Akerlund follows Madonna and her band on stage and backstage during her 2004 Re-Invention Tour and includes live performances from the show. 

Download your copy now!

Malawi gov’t blocking Madonna’s charity

The dream of American Pop Singer Madonna to carry out a number of charitable works in Malawi will remain in jeopardy if what a local newspaper has reported is anything to go by that the board of Non-Governmental organizations (NGO) has turn down an application by the pop star to have her Trust registered in Malawi.

Madonna is linked to be the brain behind Raising Malawi Trust though other reports indicate that she is just one of the trustees.

The Sunday Times newspaper has quoted an undisclosed source from the Civil Society community in Malawi who has revealed that the Joyce Banda government is deliberately frustrating any moved by Madonna attributing the whole scenario as “bad blood” between President Joyce Banda and Madonna.

Madonna and his adopted Malawian son David Banda

“From the look of things, Madonna’s work in the country will continue facing challenges as long as the current administration continues to call the shots” the source is quoted as saying.

The source further claimed that some top government officials have been pressing the NGO board not to accept Madonna’s application.

Board Chairperson for NGO’s Board in Malawi Emily Banda has since turned down the claims and revealed that Madonna own no single NGO in Malawi but rather is one of the trustees of a number of NGO’s including the Raising Malawi Trust.

“Let me mention that Madonna the musician does not have an NGO that applied for registration; rather, Madonna is one of the trustees in several organizations that applied for registration. One that I call that we have not registered is Raising Malawi Trust,” Banda told the paper.

She claimed that the trust failed to meet the required registration requirements.

The NGO chief however could not completely rule out Raising Trust Malawi, saying they still stand a chance if they bring forward the other required documents.

Meanwhile, 380 NGO’S have been registered according to Banda.

She has however asked all registered NGO’s to always comply with the country’s registration laws and failing which they will be fined or completely turned down.

Ariana Grande: Madonna ‘Is My Idol’


The 20-year-old singer chatted with V Magazine for their big music issue about her love for Madonnaand how her fans perceive her.

On her love for Madonna: “She is my idol as far as attitude. I just love how she stands up for what she believes in and surprises people by not eff-ing up when they want her to so badly. Madonna has always surprised people and she has always had her head on straight. Even when she pretends not to. When she shocks people and everything, there is always a method behind it.”

"Know what I love the most about Madonna? When a bad review came out, she was the first person to say ‘F**k you.’ When someone said she sounded like Minnie Mouse, she crawled into bed naked except for Minnie Mouse ears.It’s such a good attitude to have, It’s inspiring to me because there are times when I think I’ve been a weak, people-pleasing little mouse my whole life.”

On friends versus fame: “That’s what I am learning right now, that I have to become stronger in this industry. I’ve learned over the past year that you don’t have time to chase after every person who doesn’t understand you. The people that know me know that I’m a nice girl. My fans know that I’m a nice girl. My friends know that I’m a nice girl. And ultimately, that’s all that matters.”

Nile Rodgers: ‘I want to work with Madonna again’


Nile Rodgers wants to work with his best friend Madonna after revealing he’ll be making more music than ever after beating cancer.

The 61-year-old Chic star wants to team up with Madge again, having previously hit the studio with her on her Like A Virgin album.

‘I adore Madonna. If she ever wants to work, I am totally down,’ he said, adding that she had helped him kick drugs two decades ago.

‘For a gazillion years I have always said she is the hardest-working person I have ever worked with. She is the most dedicated. The most focused and I absolutely adore her.’

He also told fans to expect to hear a lot more from him in the charts after being given the all-clear from prostate cancer.

‘A little over three years ago I was diagnosed with extremely aggressive cancer and, I don’t mean to make light of it, but they were counting me out. And I thought “You know, I’m going to do more music and more records than I have ever done in my life”,’ he said

Bay City native Madonna to be honored with new signs



Good news for Madonna fans: The Queen of Pop will be commemorated in her birthplace of Bay City. New signs will be placed at city entrances saying, “Welcome to Bay City: Birthplace of Madonna.”

The idea came with much enthusiasm at a meeting Monday night. Bay City Commissioner Chris Girard, 6th Ward hopes honoring the diva will bring some tourism to the town.

"People see something like that," said Girard, "They may have interest in exploring our town a little more. I think it’s something we’ve missed the boat on for many years, and so let’s take advantage of that fact."

The Material Girl was born in Bay City, and frequently visited her grandparents during her childhood. Their home on the west side of the city still attracts some tourists.

A simple sign or two can do a lot to re-brand the city.

"When I go in the community and people ask me where I’m from, I say, I’m right here!," explained Girard holding up his hand, "Bay City, Michigan! I also talk about Madonna’s birth town, and I think a lot of other people I’ve talked to kinda do the same thing."

For years, the city has had a love/hate relationship with the Queen of Pop. After she publicly called her birthplace a “smelly little town in Northern Michigan.” This was not out of distaste for the town, but in reference to the smell from a petroleum plant close by that is now closed.

But now, city commissioners think it’s time to change that image.

"Just having that name on there," said city resident Rody Dodd, "I think a lot of people will see that when they come in to town. I think that’ll be great."

Other cities honor their famous residents, so Bay City wonders: why not them?

"I grew up in New Jersey," said George Herron in Bay City, "and Martha Stewart grew up there and they honor her. I think we outta do the same idea to Madonna here."

The new signs will be funded privately and visible to citizens not too long in the future.

Copyright 2014 WNEM (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

Madonna went to see rehearsals of NYC Ballet yesterday and a few pictures have surfaced on Instagram.

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