Sugarland and Little Big Town cover Madonna's 'Like a Prayer': Should it have been a country song from the get-go?

Should Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” maybe have been a country song this whole time? Don’t worry: I realize what I’ve opened myself up to by asking that question.

Madonna freaks—i.e. most of the world—will fry me. (I welcome the hate commentary below!) But seriously, that’s what I asked myself as I watched this cover of the classic Madge song by Sugarland and Little Big Town, recorded live at a concert in Bloomington, IL, on Friday night. It’s real good.

I think my affection for “Like a Prayer” as a country song is a three-parter: 1) I’m so familiar with the song. Like, what cover of “Like a Prayer” wouldn’t be good? 2) The semi-religious undertones (overtones?) in the song—well, at least the use of the word “prayer”—very much seem at home in any country song. Right? Seems like it to me, at least, and the Sugarland/LBT folks give it a pureness. And, lastly, 3) Jennifer Nettles just rules; her voice gives me chills. Throw in Little Big Town—who Sugarland is pretty regularly collaborating with at this point—and it’s just all that much better. This six-some did Madonna justice. Watch here:

A country style suits “Like a Prayer,” right? What do you think Madonna would say about this? Do you agree with me that Sugarland and Little Big Town did Madonna proud? Sound off below!

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

The Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix

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Comments (77 total) Add your comment
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  • MsDT1323

    I was front row in the show in Charleston, SC on 3/11/11…this video has nothing on actually being there! The vocals at the show were AMAZING! I saw this clip earlier & actually seeing it live, it is 100x’s better. Sugarland rocks :)

    • MsDT1323

      I meant the vocals on Like a Prayer were just plain awesome. All of the show was fabulous, the cover of “Forget You” was great too!

      • Leslie

        I love them and was amazing

    • John

      To call Sugarland a “country band” is being a tad too generous. Seriously, the “country version” was actually the same song, same cadences,harmonies, note-by-note, with a slightly different instrumentation that wasn’t even too country-sounding. This is what Shania and Garth hath brought…every band with a twang and some steel guitar is called :country” Laughable.

      • MsDT1323

        I can totally understand that John. It is more “new country” or whatever. I have been a fan of Kristian Bush for a about 18 years now & I go where he goes, lol. But you are right…this is not typical country music.

      • Jay

        “New” Country… “Old” Country… doesn’t matter. all of it is terrible



    • Strepsi

      @ TANNER STRANSKY — this well done, but it is not a Country version of the song at all. It is the same rhythm and arrangement. It’s a pop cover.

      • AcaseofGeo

        Another @ Tanner: What makes you think Madonna’s fans would be fuming or go ballistic because one of her songs got “countrified”? Do you think that Madonna’s fans are so one-note that they cannot appreciate various forms of music? I am a HUGE MADONNA fan and I’m far more offended by your assumption that I might BE offended by the cover. Most of what you write is way off base not only in the gay community but as a serious writer in general.

    • Kevin

      I would love to see them! Even though I am not a huge Madonna fan, I love “Like a Prayer” and any rendition I hear of it, Glee’s version is epic.

  • Katie Hall

    Jennifer Nettles > Madonna

    • MsDT1323

      I like your style Katie ;) I am a diehard Kristian Bush fan myself. He has more musical talent in his pinky than many of the artists out today & he is a very humble, down to earth guy as well. Jennifer is just as sweet as she can be too!

      • zeezee

        and he is hot to boot! great song! great cover! Madge should be proud! (and I have another version of that song on my ipod now!)

    • Paul


    • Dustin

      Sleep with one eye open Katie Hall!

      • James Hetfield

        …gripping your pillow tight-ta!
        EXIT LIGHT!
        TAKE MY HAND…

    • sarah d

      You seem excited. You should take a step back and get some perspective on who Madge is and her impact on Culture before you go throwing around you little Algebraic symbol.

  • lostidol

    Not really a country version of the song. It’s still pop. Being sung by a country band doesn’t necessarily make it country. Still, it was good…if just a bit too reminiscent of the original.

    • MsDT1323

      It really sounds better live, still not “country” but it was a fabulous cover live :)

    • Lori

      I was going to say exactly the same thing, so thanks for saying it first!

    • schmed

      Exactly–there’s nothing particularly country about it. And psst…almost any Madonna song would be better sung by a better singer

      • KSG


  • Paul

    I like it, but I think the lyrics aren’t spot-on enough to be “country.” Not that country can’t be deep, but I think the beauty of Like A Prayer’s lyrics the depth and metaphor. It’s a different type of deep.

  • j

    i like it, but it sounds like the glee cover

  • yes

    jennifer nettles is amazing and always have been.

  • Meg

    THIS was a country version of Like A Prayer? Sounded like the same song with a little extra crunch of guitars and sung by a stronger voice. Does that make it country???

    • MsDT1323

      I do have to agree with that Meg…because a “country” group does a cover means it is a country cover, no, not to me. Now, they do a cover of Twisted (Beyonce? Destiny’s Child) & it is much more “county” than Like a Prayer. Check that one out on You Tube, it is pretty good & their covers of Mumford & Sons are great too!

      • SirLizard

        And I agree with both of you… Not country.

      • Jay

        I disagree with you both… I listened, and it it’s just country enough for me to loathe it. To someone like me who hates all country, I can hear it pouring out

      • Lulu

        Just so you know, Sugarland has done Beyonce (“Irreplaceable”).

    • Kelly

      You beat me to the question – it sounds like a pretty straight-up cover. It’s a really good cover, but I didn’t hear something that would strike me as a country version of the song.

      • MsDT1323

        Check out their cover of Twisted on You Tube. I think that is more on the country side, but honestly don’t know the original well.

  • Marc

    Not a bad rendition at all, but it doesn’t sound radically different from how Madonna herself has been performing it live the last few years. Personally, I’d love for her (just once) to stick to the original arrangement. Bring back that jangly rhythm guitar and bass, and funk it up again. Take it back to church…but more Baptist and less Catholic, if you know what I mean. More joyous, less solemn.

  • Molly

    It’s a great cover, but just because they are country bands doesn’t make it a country song. They didn’t bother to put any country spin on it.

    • MsDT1323

      They do about 3-4 covers at their show. To be honest, I don’t think that they have put a country spin on any of them except Twisited (Beyonce or Destiny’s Child, not sure who did the original) That one was very cool.

  • Me

    They’ve got nothing on Madonna. End of.

  • Enrique

    I can hardly tell that the song has been done in a “country style”. The main reason you like this so much is probably ’cause the vocals are awesome. Anybody doing awesome vocals on a good song are gonna do it justice.

  • Brian

    This isn’t a “country version” of the song. It’s just a cover.

  • JD

    Great hearing new life breathed into one of the greatest songs ever. I’ve heard of Sugarland before, but it may be time to take a closer look…

    • Lola

      While you’re at it, check out Little Big Town as well. Amazing harmonies. They are the group (two guys, two girls)who are singing “back up” – or are the “choir” when Jennifer sings “…let the choir sing…”

      • cookiemac

        I agree Lola. Nobody in music today has harmonies anywhere near Little Big Town. I saw them open for Carrie Underwood and man, gave me chills whent they sang “Stay” accapella.

  • John Bata

    …and country has done soooo much for the gay community. I am offended by this.

    • Lola

      What? What does country (country music?) have to do with socio-political issues of the 21st century. If you’re “offended” don’t listen. Kinda like why I don’t listen to rap.

  • EC

    Ugh. Original 1000 times better. First Life is a Highway, then Walking in Memphis, Life in a Northern town, etc. Why must county bands cover/ruin perfectly good rock/pop songs? Be original – PLEASE. I heard a new cover of Ring of Fire the other day. Great, now they are killing great country songs too…..

    • ALM

      “Life is a Highway” was Rascal Flatts, dude.

      • Strepsi

        Life is a Highway is a Canadian Rock song by Tom Cochrane

      • ALM

        @Strepsi: you’re right, sorry, I should have been clearer. I was refering to the cover of “Life is a Highway”.

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