“This is the moment Madonna peaked as a pop star and mass media manipulator. First, the manipulation. In the title’s track’s video, Madonna kisses a saint, shows off some self-induced stigmata and dances in a field of burning crosses. Caving in to protests from religious groups, Pepsi pulled out of a Madonna sponsorship deal (she held on to a $5 million payday) and the whole episode generated enough publicity to ensure the album’s debut at No. 1. Brilliant” (Tyrangiel/ Light).
“As it happens, so was the record” (Tyrangiel/ Light). “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” (Erlewine).
“Madonna displays a commanding sense of songcraft, making this her best and most consistent album” (Erlewine). “Like a Prayer was a genuinely soulful first single” (Tyrangiel/ Light) and “Express Yourself merged Madonna’s dance sensibility with her strongest feminist message” (Tyrangiel/ Light).
Alongside the “deep funk of ‘Express Yourself’ and Keep It Together” (Erlewine) and “the haunting Oh Father” were a “few middling tracks” (Tyrangiel/ Light) “rescued…with production” (Tyrangiel/ Light) from “Stephen Bray, Patrick Leonard and Prince (yes, that Prince)…that elevated Madonna’s voice out of its early bubble gum phase and into something resembling a real instrument” (Tyrangiel/ Light).