Today in Madonna History: July 17, 1993

Rain Canadian Cassette Single Cover 2 Rain Canadian Cassette Single Back Cover 2

On July 17 1993, Rain was released as a single in North America. It was the fourth and final North American single from the Erotica album.

Following a cold reception to Madonna’s previous North American single – the bleak-but-beautiful Bad Girl Rain was given a glossy makeover by French record producer Daniel Abraham to help ensure that it would receive a warmer welcome from radio programmers. The U.S. promotional CD that was serviced to radio by Maverick/Warner offered the choice between the sweetened “Radio Remix” (in full-length and edited form) or an edited album version, which was fittingly used in the song’s gorgeous music video. As her label had correctly predicted, radio indeed favored the smoother sound of the “Radio Remix” over the darker, more dynamic (and in our opinion – more interesting) production-work of the original mix. While not an all-out smash hit, Rain was the first single from the Erotica album to impact Billboard’s Hot AC chart, where it reached the Top 10, and it is generally viewed as an initial recovery step following the backlash Madonna had faced in the wake of the Sex book.

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Written and produced by Madonna & Shep Pettibone (unlike the majority of the tracks from Erotica, Tony Shimkin has not been added as co-writer, according to the Warner-Chappel publishing database), Rain was one of the earliest songs conceived during the Erotica album sessions. It appears as the first track on a two-cassette collection of demos from the album sessions submitted to the U.S. Library Of Congress for copyright registration. The infamously sought-after set is often referred to by fans as The Rain Tapes because of the song’s prominent placement in its sequencing and also due to the likely unintentional visual prominence of the song’s title in the handwritten sleeve notes that accompanied the tapes.

Rain US Cassette Maxi Single Inner Sleeve

The Rain maxi-single was perhaps most notable for its inclusion of a non-album track, Up Down Suite, which was for all intents and purposes a dub remix of album outtake, Goodbye To Innocence (which remained unreleased at the time, aside from some vocal samples used in a promo-only remix of Fever). A new remix (featuring Everlast) of the album track, Waiting, was also included on the North American maxi-single, while its original album version served as the single’s North American b-side.

With its poetically poignant and emotionally charged lyrics, percussive urgency and one of Madonna’s most ambitious uses of layered self-harmonization (not to mention it being accompanied by one of the most beautiful music videos ever created), it isn’t difficult to understand why Rain remains such an enduring fan favorite.

It’s strange
I feel like I’ve known you before
And I want to understand you
More and more and more
When I’m with you
I feel like a magical child
Everything strange
Everything wild

Waiting is the hardest thing
I tell myself that if I believe in you
In the dream of you
With all my heart and all my soul
That by sheer force of will
I will raise you from the ground
And without a sound you’ll appear
And surrender to me, to love

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 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 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: May 18, 2015

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On May 18 2015, the remix EP for Ghosttown was released by digital retailers. The release followed the news that song had hit the number-one position on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Club chart. It became her 45th song to top the dance chart – the most number-ones for any artist on any Billboard chart.

Tracklist:

01 – Ghosttown (Offer Nissim Drama Remix) – 07:17
02 – Ghosttown (Armand Van Helden Remix) – 06:16
03 – Ghosttown (S-Man Mix) – 06:08
04 – Ghosttown (Razor N Guido Remix) – 07:46
05 – Ghosttown (Mindskap Remix) – 05:35
06 – Ghosttown (Don Diablo Remix) – 04:47
07 – Ghosttown (Dirty Pop Intro Remix) – 05:20
08 – Ghosttown (DJ Mike Cruz Mix Show Edit) – 07:05
09 – Ghosttown (THRILL Remix) – 06:27
10 – Ghosttown (DJ Yiannis String Intro Mix) – 01:40

Today in Madonna History: April 13, 1995

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On April 13 1995, Bedtime Story was released as a single in North America by Maverick/Sire as the third single from the album Bedtime Stories. The song was written by Björk, Nellee Hooper & Marius DeVries and was produced by Madonna & Nellee Hooper.

The commercial maxi-single featured remixes by Junior Vasquez and Orbital. Additional promo-only remixes by Mark Picchiotti & Teri Bristol were also later serviced to clubs.

Bedtime Story was released in Europe in February but the release was delayed for several months in North America due to the prolonged chart reign of her previous single, Take A Bow.

Today in Madonna History: April 3, 1993

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On April 3 1993, Fever entered the UK Singles Chart at its peak position of number-six. Without the support of a proper music video at the time of its release (Warner UK instead issued a rarely seen compilation video of previous clips), the single spent only six weeks on the UK charts, dropping to number-seven the following week.

Strangely, Madonna did eventually decide to film a video for the song in late April  – nearly a month after its release in Europe. By the time the video premiered during the second week of May, Fever was spending its final week on the UK Singles Chart.

In North America the remixes for Fever had been issued commercially on Madonna’s previous international single, Bad Girl. Fever was also serviced to clubs as a promotional single in its own right, but it was not promoted to radio despite the video being added to into rotation on MTV and MuchMusic. While the release of the music video managed to coincide with Fever’s single week atop the Hot Dance/Club Play chart, its number-one status had already been confirmed several days prior to the clip’s debut, making the video’s intended purpose and the timing of its release all the more puzzling.