Today in Madonna History: May 9, 1989

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On May 9 1989, Madonna released Express Yourself, the second single from her Like A Prayer album.

Lyrics:

Come on girls
Do you believe in love?
‘Cause I got something to say about it
And it goes something like this

Don’t go for second best baby
Put your love to the test
You know, you know, you’ve got to
Make him express how he feels
And maybe then you’ll know your love is real

You don’t need diamond rings
Or eighteen karat gold
Fancy cars that go very fast
You know they never last, no, no

What you need is a big strong hand
To lift you to your higher ground
Make you feel like a queen on a throne
Make him love you till you can’t come down
(You’ll never come down)

Don’t go for second best baby
Put your love to the test
You know, you know, you’ve got to
Make him express how he feels
And maybe then you’ll know your love is real

Long stem roses are the way to your heart
But he needs to start with your head
Satin sheets are very romantic
What happens when you’re not in bed

You deserve the best in life
So if the time isn’t right then move on
Second best is never enough
You’ll do much better baby on your own
(Baby on your own)

Don’t go for second best baby
Put your love to the test
You know, you know, you’ve got to
Make him express how he feels
And maybe then you’ll know your love is real

Express yourself
(You’ve got to make him)
Express himself
Hey, hey, hey, hey
So if you want it right now, make him show you how
Express what he’s got, oh baby ready or not

And when you’re gone he might regret it
Think about the love he once had
Try to carry on, but he just won’t get it
He’ll be back on his knees

To express himself
(You’ve got to make him)
Express himself
Hey hey

What you need is a big strong hand
To lift you to your higher ground
Make you feel like a queen on a throne
Make him love you till you can’t come down
(You’ll never come down)

And when you’re gone he might regret it
Think about the love he once had
Try to carry on, but he just won’t get it
He’ll be back on his knees

So please

Don’t go for second best baby
Put your love to the test
You know, you know, you’ve got to
Make him express how he feels
And maybe then you’ll know your love is real

Express yourself
(You’ve got to make him)
Express himself
Hey, hey, hey, hey
So if you want it right now, make him show you how
Express what he’s got, oh baby ready or not

Express yourself
(You’ve got to make him)
So you can respect yourself
Hey, hey
So if you want it right now, then make him show you how
Express what he’s got, oh baby ready or not

Today in Madonna History: April 11, 1990

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On April 11 1990, Madonna’s Keep It Together single was certified Gold by the RIAA for shipment of over 500,000 units in the U.S.

Keep It Together was Madonna’s last 7-inch single to be issued with a picture sleeve by Warner Bros. Records in the U.S. until the release of a 4 Minutes/Give It 2 Me double 7-inch set eighteen years later.

Today in Madonna History: March 21, 1989

On March 21 1989, Madonna’s Like A Prayer album was released.

Written and produced by Madonna with Patrick Leonard, Stephen Bray and Prince, the Like A Prayer album was considered to be a major artistic leap forward for Madonna, and was certainly her most personal offering to date at the time of its release.

Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine offered this 5-star (out of 5) review of the album:

Out of all of Madonna’s albums, Like a Prayer is her most explicit attempt at a major artistic statement. Even though it is apparent that she is trying to make a “serious” album, the kaleidoscopic variety of pop styles on Like a Prayer is quite dazzling. Ranging from the deep funk of Express Yourself and Keep It Together to the haunting Oh Father and Like a Prayer, Madonna displays a commanding sense of songcraft, making this her best and most consistent album.

Happy 30th anniversary to one of our favorites – the phenomenal Like A Prayer!

Today in Madonna History: March 20, 1990

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On March 20 1990, the lead single from Madonna’s I’m Breathless album, Vogue, was released.

Vogue was written and produced by Madonna and Shep Pettibone in December 1989.  The song was recorded with the intention of being the b-side to the upcoming (and last single for the Like A Prayer album), Keep It Together (released on January 30 1990).

The finished product was too good to be a single b-side, so it was decided that Vogue would be a stand-alone single on Madonna’s forthcoming album, I’m Breathless (even though the song had nothing to do with Dick Tracy).

Today in Madonna History: February 2, 1990

On February 2 1990, the fifth North American single from the Like A Prayer album, Keep It Together, was reviewed in Billboard magazine.

Today in Madonna History: January 25, 1989

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On January 25, 1989, following eight months of negotiations, Pepsi announced that they had signed Madonna to a year-long endorsement contract, for which they would pay her $5 million. In return, Madonna would appear in a series of television commercials and Pepsi would sponsor the Like A Prayer World Tour, tentatively slated for later that year.

Pepsi was undaunted by Madonna’s image in the tabloids. “Her appeal is in her music and her acting. That’s where people’s interests are,” announced Pepsi spokesman Tod MacKenzie.

If the Like A Prayer World Tour had gone ahead as planned, do you think it would have been drastically different from Blond Ambition? What would have changed? Vogue and all the songs from Dick Tracy (or I’m Breathless) would have been omitted. What else? 

Today in Madonna History: October 24, 1989

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On October 24 1989, Oh Father was released in North America as the fourth single from the Like A Prayer album. France, Japan, the Philippines and Australia also opted to issue the single in 1989, while other European markets waited for Madonna’s 1995 ballads compilation, Something To Remember, to promote the song. Oh Father was written and produced by Madonna & Patrick Leonard.

According to the song’s string arranger, Bill Meyers, Oh Father was recorded in a “dingy studio” in New York City’s Garment District while Madonna was appearing in the play, Speed-The-Plow. Since the bulk of the album would be completed in California after the completion of her Broadway run, this would suggest that Oh Father was likely the first song recorded for the project. Leonard recently provided further evidence of this when he shared an image of a demo tape sleeve containing working titles of songs from the latter sessions on his Instagram, noting that Oh Father was not among the tracks listed because it had been completed earlier.

Leonard recalled the recording of the track in a 2014 interview with Billboard Magazine:

My favorite thing that we ever recorded, ever – or wrote – is Oh Father. That to me is the best thing we ever did. So, it didn’t surprise me because we knew when we did it, that there was something about this that was in a way kind of the most real thing.

For that song, the ‘record’ button was only pressed three times. It was pressed to do the track, live, with her singing live. Then we did the orchestra. And then we did a double of her vocal when we were mixing. That’s it. So it’s real. It’s something that I really wanted to do and she was kind enough to say “let’s try this,” and it was not easy.

There’s two or three guitar players playing. I’m playing keyboards. Jai Winding was playing keyboards. There was a percussionist and a drummer – and she’s singing – all at the same time.

These days, people go “wow, that seems crazy.” Those days it wasn’t uncommon for everybody to be playing together even though you’re not a band. But it was one of those things where the arrangement was tricky enough, that it really took some working out to get it all right.

Even all those weird synth overdubs and things – all those things were being done live. We worked out all the parts, had all the sounds. I remember that we cut it live, and then put the orchestra on. You’re not doubling the orchestra, so it’s one pass for the orchestra.

When I say [the ‘record’ button was] pressed three times, it might have gotten pressed 10 times that day, but it was ultimately one that stayed there. If you see what I’m saying. When we were mixing it, [mixer] Bill Bottrell suggested that we double the choruses. I remember even being a little upset about it (laughs). Like, look, “we’ve got an amazing record that we only pressed the record button twice – can’t we leave it?” He said, “three isn’t exactly shameful.” We doubled the lead vocal on the choruses, and that was it.

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