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Super Bowl (#110 of 18)

Through the Years: Madonna’s "Like a Prayer" at 25

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Through the Years: Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” at 25
Through the Years: Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” at 25

“Like a Virgin” may be Madonna’s most iconic hit, but “Like a Prayer,” which turns 25 today, is by all accounts her most broadly beloved contribution to the pop-music canon, landing at #7 on our list of the Best Singles of the 1980s. Even the singer’s most ardent critics can’t help but bow at the altar of the song, a gospel-infused conflation of spiritual and sexual ecstasy that helped transform Madge from ’80s pop tart to bona fide icon. To celebrate this sacred anniversary, we’re taking a look back at the song’s evolution over the last quarter century.

On Trend The Year of Beyoncé

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On Trend: The Year of Beyoncé

Columbia Records

On Trend: The Year of Beyoncé

If you’ve walked through New York City lately (or, in all likelihood, any major city), you’ve probably been unable to escape Beyoncé’s face. It’s on the posters still pushing her heavily-rotated HBO doc, Life Is But a Dream; it’s on Pepsi ads that first emerged for her Super Bowl halftime show, sponsored by the soda; it’s on promos for Love Songs, the Destiny’s Child compilation album released earlier this year; and it’s on the cover of the March issue of Vogue, which unapologetically declares that the “Queen B” “rules the world.” Written by Jason Gay, the Vogue article, like the HBO film, isn’t especially revealing, and it feels as if it were shaped, to some degree, within the diva’s control, right down to the closing sentence that wholesomely acknowledges the promise embodied by Blue Ivy Carter, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s one-year-old daughter. The story—which, in a rarity for Vogue, includes a straight-on shot of its subject smiling—registers as one more part of the carefully calibrated Beyoncé machine, which is programmed to put forth an image as sexy and glamorous as it is untarnished and accessible. Such is not to say, necessarily, that Gay’s article rings false, but that it, like the artist herself, carries a constant aura of choreographed perfection, which, now, in the wake of marriage, childbirth, and continuing endorsements from the First Family, is tinged with a new layer of human transparency. Perhaps that layer was always there, and is just now more apparent. In any case, of the many affirmations made within the commendatory Vogue spread, one that leaps off the page is already clear to anyone with eyes: This year, “Beyoncé will be in your life like she’s never been before.”

Beyoncé‘s Super Bowl Power Surge

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Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Power Surge

Columbia Records

Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Power Surge

Beginning with a James Bond-style oscilloscope of concentric red lights throwing Beyoncé into silhouette, tonight’s half-time set at Super Bowl XLVII was quick, elegant, and full of elation. From laidback opener “Love on Top” through the rumored-therefore-guaranteed public reunion of Destiny’s Child, the set swung, stomped, and seduced in equal measure. And after that little brouhaha over having lip-synched the National Anthem at President Obama’s second inauguration last month, the singer made it clear as can be that this was real singing, in real time—with teensy exceptions, including the first verse of “Halo,” but one doesn’t like to nitpick.

Video Review: M.I.A., “Bad Girls”

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Video Review: M.I.A., “Bad Girls”
Video Review: M.I.A., “Bad Girls”

This Sunday, Maya Arulpragasam is going to the Super Bowl, which is like Harold Bloom going to Disney World. It’s hard to imagine M.I.A. having much fun at America’s premiere chauvinist orgy of consumption, and her recent interview with BBC’s Radio 1 suggests she was still trying to psych herself up for the event. “If you’re gonna go the Super Bowl,” she told Zane Lowe, “you might as well go with America’s biggest female icons.” And indeed, it’s somewhat gratifying to think of M.I.A., Nicki Minaj, and Madonna unleashing the hot pink stinker that is “Give Me All Your Lovin’” on the most hallowed ground of American masculinity, during a halftime show typically dedicated to the geezer-rock pantheon. Ultimately, though, not even M.I.A. can make playing the Super Bowl sound badass or defiant. Walking into the epicenter of the American media to sing and dance between millions-per-minute car commercials with two thoroughly mainstreamed pop stars can mean only one thing, and that’s that you yourself must also be a pop star.