Episode 57: Women Behaving Boldly #4. Ann Powers on Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” (1989)

Episode 57

25th October 2018

Music writer extraordinaire Ann Powers (NPR) joins the Heat Rocks crew to talk about Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.” Listen as we express yourselves.

Episode notes

For the fourth installment in our Women Behaving Boldly mini-series, we spin the clock back to an episode we first aired a year ago: Ann Powers, talking about Madonna’s Like a Prayer from 1989. From the beginning, we knew this episode in particular would make a perfect fit with the WBB series. After all, few pop artists, female or male, have done more to transform the pop landscape since the 1980s than Madonna, often times inviting scrutiny and criticism in the process for pushing the proverbial envelope on what people found acceptable by musical artists in that era. And to have Ann Powers, one of the country’s premier music critics, here to break down Madonna’s import was a gift unto itself. If you missed this the first time, we’re excited for you to hear it now. And if you heard it before, revisit this gem from our vaults.

The album: Madonna: Like a Prayer (Sire, 1989)

This week, Morgan and Oliver are joined by Ann Powers of NPR Music and author of the new book, Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music. Together, the three dug into Like a Prayer, Madonna’s critical breakout album form 1989. As Ann lays out, Madonna had already established herself as an MTV-era mega-star with her previous albums but Like a Prayer, with its then-controversial sexual politics and surprising personal candor, marked a new level of artistic ambition.

More on Madonna and Like a Prayer

More on Ann Powers:

Tracklisting (all songs from Like a Prayer unless indicated otherwise):

  • Like a Prayer
  • Madonna: Like a Virgin
  • Till Death Do Us Part
  • Express Yourself
  • Act of Contrition
  • Love Song
  • Cherish
  • Keep it Together
  • Like a Prayer

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on there
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In this episode...


  • Ann Powers

About the show

Hosted by Oliver Wang and Morgan Rhodes, every episode of Heat Rocks invites a special guest to talk about a heat rock – a hot album, a scorching record. These are in-depth conversations about the albums that shape our lives.

Our guests include musicians, writers, and scholars and though we don’t exclusively focus on any one genre, expect to hear about albums from the worlds of soul, hip-hop, funk, jazz, Latin, and more.

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