Today in Madonna History: June 23, 1998

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On June 23 1998, the music video for Ray of Light was released by Warner Reprise Video as a limited edition video single of 40,000 VHS copies. It sold 7,381 copies within its first month of release, becoming one of the best-selling video singles of the Nielsen SoundScan era. Madonna’s previous video single release, Justify My Love, which predated SoundScan, was certified quadruple-Platinum by the RIAA (for shipment of over 200,000 copies).

The reason behind Ray of Light being issued as a video single were twofold. Madonna was very pleased with the outcome of her first collaboration with director Jonas Åkerlund and her record company felt that there would be enough interest to warrant its commercial release. Secondly, Warner’s marketing team correctly sensed that the song’s then-experimental sound would be a tough sell at radio, so the decision was made to pull out all the stops to ensure the release outperformed on the sales chart. Another prong in this strategy was the inclusion of album outtake Has To Be as the b-side to the two-track single, while excluding it from the maxi-single in an attempt to persuade fans to purchase the single in multiple formats. The strategy proved successful, with the song’s number-five debut and peak on the Billboard Hot 100 mainly due to its sales strength. According to Billboard, the music video single boosted its first-week sales by roughly 7%, helping it to secure its place in the top-five.

Shortly after Ray of Light‘s release as a video single, Billboard magazine published an article musing on whether renewed interest in the relatively obscure format could ever prove lucrative for the music industry. A video buyer for a major retail chained remarked:

“Madonna’s Ray of Light video single is a success because she has a fervent fan base. There are very few artists with videos that consistently get people’s attention, but Madonna is one of those artists. It’s too early to tell if there’s a true market for video singles. Right now, it seems like record companies are trying video singles to see what happens. I think we’re going to see the lines becoming more blurred in how audio and video singles are marketed.”

Indeed. Within the next five years (and two Madonna video singles later), the emergence of online file sharing would obliterate the physical singles market in North America, and video streaming sites would soon spell an end to the prospect of marketing music video singles as a physical format. In digital form, however, music video singles may be selling in larger numbers than ever due to increased availability through iTunes. Strangely, however, sales of music videos through iTunes are not reported to Billboard and no longer count towards a single’s chart position (reportedly due to iTunes’ monopoly on digital sales of the format), while streams of music videos through sites like YouTube and Vevo are used in Billboard’s chart methodology.

Today in Madonna History: June 16, 2007

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On June 16 2007, the Live Earth website premiered a video for Madonna’s charity song, Hey You. It featured a series of images from all over the world, related to energy consumption and global warming, with natural catastrophes and world leaders.

Recorded during early sessions for Madonna’s Hard Candy album and co-produced by Madonna and Pharrell Williams, Hey You is registered in both the Warner/Chappell and ASCAP publishing databases with Madonna as its sole songwriter, making it the first entirely self-written song Madonna had released since 1985’s Gambler (with the exception of The Funny Song – an interlude from the Drowned World Tour DVD, which is credited to Madonna alone). The demo version of I Love New York (as featured in the I’m Going To Tell You A Secret documentary and CD) is credited solely to Madonna in the release’s liner notes – however, in separate entries from the Confessions on a Dance Floor version, the ASCAP and Warner/Chappell databases both credit the “movie version” to Madonna and Stuart Price.

Madonna adapted some of the lyrics for Hey You from two unreleased (at the time) tracks, Keep The Trance and It’s So Cool (the latter was later officially released as a bonus track for Celebration, although both songs had previously leaked in demo form).

Today in Madonna History: June 11, 1998

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On June 11 1998, Ray of Light became Madonna’s highest debuting single, peaking at number-five in its first week on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.

The title-track from her seventh studio album was present for a total of twenty weeks on the Hot 100, and placed at number seventy-five on the year-end chart. Much of its chart success was due to strong sales, while on the Airplay chart it fizzled out at number twenty-six. The remixes earned Madonna another number-one on the Hot Dance/Club Play chart, spending four weeks at the top spot and seven weeks in the top-five.

Outside the U.S., the Ray of Light single reached number-three in Canada, number-two in the UK, Italy and Finland, and number-one in Spain.

Today in Madonna History: June 5, 1993

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On June 5 1993, Just A Dream, written and produced by Madonna & Patrick Leonard and performed by Madonna’s long-time backing singer/dancer Donna De Lory, peaked at number-ten on Billboard’s Dance/Club chart. The song was released as the second single from De Lory’s self-titled 1992 album for MCA Records.

Just A Dream had originally been written and recorded during the Like A Prayer sessions. Although Madonna had clearly intended that the album move beyond the boundaries of pure dance/pop and crossover into other styles, she reportedly felt that including Just A Dream would have tipped the balance too far in the direction of rock. When De Lory approached Madonna a few years later about the possibility of providing a song for her first album, Madonna offered Just A Dream, sensing that the song’s rock-edge would be better suited to Donna’s vocal style than her own. Madonna did, however, allow the use of her own vocals on the track, which can be heard blending with Donna’s in the song’s chorus, bridge and, most prominently, during its fadeout.

While unconfirmed, it is assumed that no new production-work – aside from the addition of De Lory’s lead vocal – took place on the released album version of Just A Dream, with the the original Like A Prayer session tracks carried over to Donna’s version and Madonna’s original lead vocal being mixed down to background vocals. The original cut, featuring Madonna’s complete lead vocal track, has yet to surface.

Check out the video for Donna’s version of Just A Dream at the 13:00 minute mark in the following video interview compilation featuring Donna discussing our favorite topic – Madonna:

Today in Madonna History: June 4, 1983

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On June 4 1983, Burning Up/Physical Attraction spent its third and final week at its peak position of number-three on Billboard’s Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in the U.S.

Available only on 12″ single in the U.S., the release charted as a double A-side single. Its run on the Dance/Club chart spanned a total of sixteen weeks, seven of which were spent in the top-five. In a rather strange marketing twist, a music video was produced for Burning Up while only Physical Attraction was promoted to radio – with an edited version of the latter being featured on both sides of the rare 7″ promo.

To further confuse matters, the version of Burning Up that was featured on the 12″ was in actuality not a remix, but rather the original Reggie Lucas production of the song. Instead, the two distinct versions of the song that later turned up at separate times on her debut album were in fact remixes by John “Jellybean” Benitez. Physical Attraction was also remixed by Benitez, although his version appears on both the single and the album.

Today in Madonna History: June 2, 2005

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On June 2 2005, Madonna.com confirmed Madonna’s participation of Live 8:

“Sir Bob Geldof confirmed in a press conference yesterday the details and confirmed the artists featuring in Live 8 – a series of five live shows in London, Paris, Philadelphia, Rome and Berlin on Saturday July 2nd. The concerts have been organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure as part of a campaign to force the world’s richest nations to relieve poverty in the third world. The concerts – which will be free – are aimed at raising awareness of poverty just before leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations meet in Scotland…”

Madonna went on to perform a three-song set from London’s Hyde Park consisting of Like A Prayer, Ray Of Light & Music.