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: May 28, 1994

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On May 28 1994, Madonna’s I’ll Remember (Theme From With Honors) hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA.

Matthew Rettenmund ranks the Guerrilla Beach Mix of I’ll Remember (by William Orbit) as the #9 of 25 Best Madonna Mixes. Here’s what Matthew says about the remix:

Madonna’s easy-listening staple I’ll Remember from the hard-to-watch With Honors got a deep remix by Orbit, which could be heard as spacey or as originating at the precipice of a vast ocean. (I’m thinking of Sinead O’Connor’s “Jackie” here.) I’m embarrassed I forgot this remix when I first created this list, but I’m not embarrassed to say I think it’s markedly superior to the lovely but unassuming original.

We love this remix and we love Matthew’s blog (Boy Culture)!

How does this remix rank among your top Madonna favourites?

Today in Madonna History: May 6, 1998

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On May 6 1998, Ray of Light was released by Maverick Records. The title track from her seventh studio album was issued internationally as the album’s second single.

Ray Of Light is based on a track called Sepheryn by Curtiss Maldoon, and was included on their 1971 self-titled album. In 1996, Christine Leach, Maldoon’s niece, recorded her version of the track with William Orbit. Leach said she had always loved Dave Curtiss and Clive Maldoon’s work and noted that Sepheryn had a dream-like quality. Leach revised the chorus melody while Orbit provided new music for the song. After Madonna heard Leach’s version of the track, she immediately took to it and began reworking its lyrics.

Maldoon said he “couldn’t believe it” after he heard it, and was pleased with what Madonna had done with his original composition. Madonna said about the song: “It’s totally out of control. The original version is well over 10 minutes long. It was completely indulgent, but I loved it. It was heartbreaking to cut it down to a manageable length.”

Madonna’s original unedited version was set to be included on a remix album titled Veronica Electronica that was initially discussed as a follow-up to Ray Of Light, but plans for the collection apparently never made it past the drawing board.

Today in Madonna History: April 2, 2012

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On April 2 2012, the third single from Madonna’s MDNA album, Masterpiece, was released in the United Kingdom.

Masterpiece was composed by Madonna, Julie Frost and Jimmy Harry and produced by Madonna and William Orbit.

When Madonna was directing her film W.E., her manager Guy Oseary persuaded her to compose a song for the soundtrack. Frost was living in Los Angeles at that time and was assessing her priorities in the music world, and wanted to collaborate with a number of artists, Madonna being the first. “She is an icon”, Frost said, “But most importantly she has some of the best Pop songs in the history of music… so yeah it’s always a dream to work with people like her.” Orbit, who was working with Frost and Harry on an assignment, contacted them for collaborating with Madonna on Masterpiece. He had heard Frost’s initial composition of the song and knew that Madonna would love it. According to Frost the theme explained to them was about bittersweet love and the hardships felt being in a relationship. Madonna, Frost and Harry sat together with this idea and brainstormed and came up with the lyrics and the melody. Over time, Madonna changed the structure of the song and the final version was ready for recording.

Madonna recalled:

“Guy harangued me for the entire time I was filming and editing my movie to write a song. And I said, ‘Please, Guy, I’m trying to focus on being a director and I want people to pay attention to the film and I don’t have time.’ So then I finished the film and I started making my record and somehow magically and miraculously the song emerged, ‘Masterpiece,’ so thank you, Guy Oseary, for being so irritating.”

Today in Madonna History: June 20, 1998

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On June 20 1998, Madonna’s Ray of Light became the #1 dance single on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart. The hit single remained #1 for 4 weeks!

Ray of Light was written by Madonna, William Orbit, Clive Muldoon, Dave Curtiss, Christine Leach, and produced by Madonna and Orbit.  Ray of Light is based on Curtiss Maldoon’s Sepheryn.

“It took a long time to do the album, months. And it wasn’t like we were slacking. We actually did have to work fast, and there were many times when we had to move on. One of Madonna’s favorite phrases was: ‘Don’t gild the lily.’ In other words, keep it rough, and don’t perfect it too much. It’s a natural urge for computer buffs to perfect everything because they can, and we were very wary of that.”

—William Orbit on working with Madonna; Keyboard magazine

Today In Madonna History: March 8, 1994

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On March 8 1994, Madonna’s I’ll Remember (Theme From The Motion Picture With Honors) single was released.

I’ll Remember was written by Madonna, Patrick Leonard, and Richard Page.

I’ll Rememeber later appeared on Madonna’s ballads collection, Something to Remember.

Lyrics:

Say good-bye
To not knowing when
The truth in my whole life began
Say good-bye
To not knowing how to cry
You taught me that

And I’ll remember
The strength that you gave me
Now that I’m standing on my own
I’ll remember
The way that you saved me
I’ll remember

Inside
I was a child
That could not mend a broken wing
Outside
I looked for a way
To teach my heart to sing

And I’ll remember
The love that you gave me
Now that I’m standing on my own
I’ll remember
The way that you changed me
I’ll remember

I learned
To let go
Of the illusion that we can possess
I learned
To let go
I travel in stillness

And I’ll remember
Happiness
I’ll remember
(I’ll remember)
(I’ll remember)

And I’ll remember
The love that you gave me
Now that I’m standing on my own
I’ll remember
The way that you changed me
I’ll remember (I’ll remember)

No I’ve never been afraid to cry
Now I finally have a reason why
I’ll remember (I’ll remember)
No I’ve never been afraid to cry
And I finally have a reason why
I’ll remember (I’ll remember)

No I’ve never been afraid to cry
And I finally have a reason why
I’ll remember (I’ll remember)
No I’ve never been afraid to cry
And I finally have a reason why
I’ll remember (I’ll remember)