“Life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone
I hear you call my name
And it feels like home
When you call my name it's like a little prayer
I'm down on my knees, I wanna take you there
In the midnight hour I can feel your power
Just like a prayer you know I'll take you there.”
Where’s the Meaning?
This ultimate classic by the ultimate icon, Madonna, is quite possibly one of her most controversial songs, and especially videos, ever. The lyrics, “I hear you call my name, and it feels like home” can symbolize many things—the almighty, a past lover, even oneself, perhaps. The repeating chorus, with a melody bound to be stuck in your ear for days, refers to “a little prayer.” The imagery of midnight and prayer draw a certain mystery and higher power being called through her words.
The video, showing Madonna calling to a saint (a black actor, as well, countering typical Christian iconography of the time) and dancing with a black church choir evoke joy and human connection. Cut scenes show Madonna being rescued by the Saint actor, who subsequently becomes arrested. In the most discussed controversy in the video, Madonna is seen dancing in front of burning crosses. She almost burns her hope and rises from the ashes—backed by a church choir—and eventually rescues her savior from imprisonment.
It’s now been 30 years since the video’s release, as Madonna shared with a photo on her Instagram calling it “a video that caused so much controversy because I kissed a black saint and danced in front of burning crosses!” Before the video was released, Madonna signed a $5 million deal with Pepsi, who ended up blindsided when the video premiered, and Pepsi ended up pulling the ad (which featured the gospel choir scenes from Like A Prayer) following threats to boycott the company. Madonna has stood by the iconic song and video throughout the years, making it all the better (even performing it in front of the Pope in 2008!)
How can be counteract racism and illustrate other voices in our society?
How have the dominant cultural/religious imagery we are raised with influenced us?
How has religion affected those of different races, sexualities, genders, abilities, etc.?
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is a civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909 as a bi-racial endeavor to advance justice for African Americans by a group including W. E. B. Du Bois, Mary White Ovington and Moorfield Storey.