The Madonna Challenge to Isaac

Indulge me, if you will, in a little moment of common-sense assumption: what self-respecting citizen of this universe does not know ‘Like A Prayer’ by Madonna? It was the first Madonna song that won both critical and popular acclaim, topping the charts when it was released, and it remains one of her most beloved songs by fans and non-fans alike. (Even those “people” who don’t like Madonna tend to give it up for ‘Like A Prayer’.) So you can imagine my delight when, on an unlikely evening of karaoke at a local bar, I saw that my pal Isaac was going to perform the song, kamikaze-style.

Is it really possible to kamikaze someone with a Madonna song? Especially ‘Like A Prayer’? I repeat, who doesn’t know it?

Enter Isaac.

After knocking out a couple of Doors’ ditties, surely he’d transform ‘Like A Prayer’ into a highlight of the evening, leaving us aghast at his expert musical maneuverings, imbuing the song with a new grace and power, igniting the chorus with vocal stylings and flourishes the likes of which haven’t been heard since the glory days of the rat pack, melding past and present, rock and pop, into an orgiastic amalgamation of pure unadulterated funky freshness.That is not quite what happened. Words like ‘travesty’, ‘disaster’, and ‘debacle’ seem too quaint for what we witnessed that night. The wreck of a performance found Isaac begging for someone to salvage something of the song, to no avail. The damage was done, the words seemed to be highlighted faster than he could read and fit them into the song, the hapless people trying to help him at the end could only barely bring things up to a base level of ‘horrendous’.

I was stunned. It took a few minutes for me to collect myself (and the second of my two-for-one drinks), before I cautiously made my way over to Isaac and used all my self-control not to slap him on behalf of the Church of Pop Culture and the Lady of Creamy Smooth Pop Icon Goddessness. He offered apologies and amends – and promised to make it up by learning one Madonna song (my choice) should we ever find ourselves in a karaoke situation together again. I felt that was fair. The only question that remains is which song…

In 2005 Madonna included a song called ‘Isaac‘ on her Confessions on a Dancefloor album, but I think that might prove a bit too obscure for a karaoke song, even if it was named after him. I toyed with her Sondheim work forDick Tracy, thinking that might be more suited to Isaac’s theatrical speed, as well as her turn as Evita by way of Andrew Llloyd Webber, but both of those diluted the Madonna I knew – the Madonna of ‘Like A Prayer’, and the Madonna that Isaac had so sacrilegiously blasphemed. For him to make proper atonement, it would have to be something more pop, more dance-like, more… Madonna.

He asked that I take into consideration his range of keys, but that proved almost impossible to tell by the wretched atrocity perpetrated upon ‘Like A Prayer’. However, to be fair and give him a fighting chance, I’m going to give him the choice of five:

Sorry - It fits the theme of redemption.
Dress You Up – Straight-up Classic Madonna at her pop best.
Hanky Panky – Because a spanky is the least he deserves, (and it would be hilarious to see him, or anyone, sing this).
Ray of Light – Not the easiest song to sing (even Madonna gets tripped up sometimes), but a crowd-pleaser if done right.
Open Your Heart – It’s just a great fucking pop song.

He can decide which one best suits his voice. Don’t ever let it be said that I don’t give people a chance. Isaac, learn this lesson well, and you’ll live to tell.

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