Today in Madonna History: February 21, 1998

On February 21 1998, an article by Larry Flick focusing on the anticipation building around the release of Madonna’s album, Ray Of Light, was published in Billboard magazine. The feature included interviews with Madonna and William Orbit along with a teaser of the album cover.

NEW YORK – Is the world ready for a spiritually enlightened Madonna? The numerous pre-release radio and Internet leaks of “Frozen,” the lead single from the pop chameleon’s new Maverick/Warner Bros. album, “Ray Of Light,” certainly hint that she may be embarking on her most successful musical voyage to date.

With its worldwide release slated for March 3, the album is unarguably her most adventurous. She has teamed with techno pioneer William Orbit for a collection that sews intense, soul-searching words into edgy electronic/dance instrumentals. The result is a gave, visionary effort with the commercial potency needed to finally elevate electronica beyond its current status as a limited hipster movement into a true mass-appeal attraction.

“My intention was to make a record that I’d enjoy listening to,” Madonna says of her first studio set since 1994’s “Bedtime Stories,” which has sold 2 million units in the U.S., according to SoundScan. “This album is reflective of where I am in my life right now – in terms of my musical interests and in terms of my personal beliefs. I feel like I’ve been enlightened, and that it’s my responsibility to share what I’ve learned so far with the world.”

It appears much of the world is clamoring to hear the results. The Singapore Madonna Link, an unofficial, fan-operated World Wide Web site, began offering an unauthorized snippet of “Frozen” Jan. 23. The site has received more than 140,000 hits.

There have also been approximately a dozen leaks of “Frozen” on top 40 radio around the U.S. since Jan. 26. WKTU New York is among those stations that played “Frozen” to rabid listener response.

“The phones blew up,” says assistant PD/GM Andy Shane, adding that the station has continued sneaking the single on the air in advance of its official airplay date of Thursday (19). “For the days we haven’t had it on, people have been calling nonstop begging to hear it.”

Erik Bradley, music director at WBBM (B-96) Chicago, witnessed similar listener response when his station leaked “Frozen” Feb. 7. “People are going crazy for it,” he says. “It’s a compelling record that you can’t shake from your mind after you hear it. That’s the mark of a smash. Clearly, American pop radio needs Madonna.”

So does the rest of the world, apparently. “Frozen” has had “fantastic” early support across Europe, according to Jon Uren, marketing director, U.S. labels, for Warner Music Europe. The single has been A-listed at BBC Radio 1 in the U.K. and hit the airplay charts in France, the Netherlands, and Germany in its first week after a Jan. 23 release.

The project’s retail forecast is equally bright, with Jonathan Rees, head of rock and pop for the HMV chain in the U.K., describing its prospects as `very positive.”

Tim Devin, GM of Tower Records in New York, wholeheartedly agrees. “Quite frankly, I can’t wait for it. The anticipation surrounding this album is amazing. The industry needs an exciting, mega-star release, and this will fill that important void.”

That’s precisely how Phil Quartararo, president of Warner Bros. (U.S.), views “Ray Of Light.” “What Madonna does that’s so admirable is that she always manages to land on the cusp of what we call contemporary music,” he says. “In 1998, every established artist faces the dilemma of maintaining their importance and relevance. Madonna never fails to be relevant.”

The creative seeds for “Ray Of Light” were planted last year, when Madonna phoned Orbit and asked if he was interested in co- writing a few songs. “I’ve been a fan of all kinds of electronic music for many years, and I wanted to incorporate that sound into my music,” she says, adding that her admiration for Orbit’s catalog of recordings put him at the top of her wish list of collaborators. “I love the haunting, trance-like quality of his records. I’ve also always found something melancholy about his music. Since I’m attracted to that sound, and since I tend to write a lot of sad songs, we seemed like a good match.”

Upon introduction, Orbit handed Madonna a tape of five instrumental tracks. “It basically was a sketchbook of fantastic ideas,” she says. “Every track was so inspiring. I took them and gave them structure.”

Among the first songs to evolve from that tape was “Swim,” a guitar-driven electro-funk odyssey on which Madonna meditates on the perils of bad karma and its ongoing effect on the world at large. “It gave me shivers the first time I heard it,” Orbit says. “We both knew we were onto something special.”

From there, the two decided to guide the overall production of “Ray Of Light” together. In addition to the five songs she wrote with Orbit, Madonna collaborated with veteran pop tunesmith Rick Nowels, Nellee Hooper protégé Marius De Vries, and Patrick Leonard, with whom she created such early hits as “Live To Tell” and “Open Your Heart.” Leonard co-wrote “Frozen.”

After locking themselves away in the studio for six months “like a pair of mad scientists,” as Orbit puts it, they emerged with a high- concept collection that combines cutting-edge underground club elements with pure pop melodies and a generous slathering of what they call “teenage-angst guitars.”

Fresh from the rigors of 1996’s “Evita” film and soundtrack, Madonna has also found comfortable new vocal ground between the theatrical demands of that project and the more casual vibe of her early recordings, showcasing a fluid, flexible range that’s executed to haunting effect. “Training my voice has opened me up immeasurably, and it’s allowed me to do things with my voice that I never thought were possible,” she says.

“I’m so proud of the way the album came out,” Madonna adds. “But for a moment after I first finished it, I cringed. I thought, `What have I done ?’ Emotionally and sonically, it went in such a different territory for me.”

Orbit is equally pleased with the set’s results, primarily because Madonna “wasn’t at all interested in compromising or watering down” the electronic textures of his productions. If anything, he says, she `insisted upon purity in the arrangements, which worked astonishingly well with her pop songs at the core.”

Of those songs, both are irreversibly stuck on the title cut – the likely single follow-up to “Frozen” – which is a euphoric, deliciously over-the-top anthem that builds from a percolating trance-disco groove into a collision course of futuristic keyboards and assaulting metal riffs. “It’s totally out of control,” she says, laughing. “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.”

The sprawling, unedited version of “Ray Of Light” is already earmarked for inclusion on “Veronica Electronica,” a compilation of single remixes and album outtakes, due in the fall.

“Veronica Electronica” is also a potential stage persona that Madonna is toying with as she ponders hitting the road for her first concert trek since 1993’s Girlie tour. Unlike that eye-popping spectacle, she says she’d like to do something “totally scaled down” this time, with a set list culled exclusively from “Ray Of Light,” “Bedtime Stories,” and 1992’s “Erotica.” If she decides to tour, it won’t happen until late summer/early fall.

Until then, she’ll test live waters with several European TV performances, including a gig on the U.K.’s “National Lottery Live” show Saturday (21), as well as her first U.S. club date in more than 10 years. On Saturday (14), she’ll take the stage of New York’s Roxy nightclub for a performance of three tunes from the album.

Today in Madonna History: February 20, 1999

On February 20 1999, Madonna began rehearsals for her performance of Nothing Really Matters at the Grammys with Donna De Lory and Niki Haris. It marked their first live performance together since The Girlie Show Tour in 1993.

Today in Madonna History: February 19, 2015

living-for-love-february-dance-single-1

On February 19 2015, Living For Love became Madonna’s 44th #1 Billboard Dance Club hit in the USA.

Here is a list of Madonna’s 44 number one Dance hits so far:

1983 – Holiday/Lucky Star
1984 – Like A Virgin
1985 – Material Girl
1985 – Angel/Into the Groove
1987 – Open Your Heart
1987 – Causing a Commotion (Remix)
1988 – You Can Dance (LP Cuts)
1989 – Like A Prayer
1989 – Express Yourself
1990 – Keep It Together
1990 – Vogue
1991 – Justify My Love
1992 – Erotica
1993 – Deeper and Deeper
1993 – Fever
1994 – Secret
1995 – Bedtime Story
1997 – Don’t Cry for Me Argentina
1998 – Frozen
1998 – Ray of Light
1999 – Nothing Really Matters
1999 – Beautiful Stranger
2000 – American Pie
2000 – Music
2001 – Don’t Tell Me
2001 – What It Feels Like for a Girl
2001 – Impressive Instant
2002 – Die Another Day
2003 – American Life
2003 – Hollywood
2003 – Me Against the Music – Britney Spears featuring Madonna
2004 – Nothing Fails
2004 – Love Profusion
2005 – Hung Up
2006 – Sorry
2006 – Get Together
2006 – Jump
2008 – 4 Minutes
2008 – Give It 2 Me
2009 – Celebration
2012 – Give Me All Your Luvin’
2012 – Girl Gone Wild
2012 – Turn Up the Radio
2015 – Living for Love

Today In Madonna History: February 18, 2001

eminem1

On February 18 2001, Madonna wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Times newspaper in defence of controversial rap artist Eminem over the public and media criticism of his offensive song lyrics and Grammy Award nominations:

“What is the big deal about Eminem? Since when is offensive language a reason for being unpopular? I find the language of George W. much more offensive. I find the hypocritical nature of most popular figures in our culture much more offensive. I like the fact that Eminem is brash and angry and politically incorrect. At least he has an opinion. He’s stirring things up, he’s provoking a discussion, he’s making people’s blood boil. He’s reflecting what’s going on in society right now. That is what art is supposed to do. And after all he’s just a boy. Thank God he’s rebellious and not well-groomed. He gets my vote. Yours truly, Mrs. Ritchie.”

Today in Madonna History: February 17, 2007

madonna-singles-dance-chart-februrary-1 madonna-singles-dance-chart-februrary-2 madonna-singles-dance-chart-februrary-3 madonna-singles-dance-chart-februrary-4

On February 17 2007, Madonna had four singles in the top 10 Billboard Hot Dance Single Sales Chart:

  • #2 – Jump (14 weeks on the chart)
  • #8 – Sorry (51 weeks on the chart)
  • #9 – Get Together (37 weeks on the chart)
  • #10 – Hung Up (65 weeks on the chart)

Today in Madonna History: February 16, 1984

On February 16 1984, Madonna appeared on the cover of Smash Hits magazine.

The article indicates that Madonna’s “next project is a follow-up LP. It’s to be produced by Trevor Horn, possibly Nile Rodgers and John “Jellybean” Benitez – her on and off boyfriend (off at the moment).”

Madonna is quoted in the article as saying, “Three to four years ago dancing was the most important thing – now it’s music. That will lead on to something else .. acting. Above all I want to be an all-round entertainer. And happy.”

Today in Madonna History: February 15, 1985

Vision Quest (Coreman) 2 550 Vision Quest (Coreman) 1 550

On February 15 1985, the Vision Quest original motion picture soundtrack was released on Geffen Records. To promote the release, music videos for Crazy For You and Gambler were both serviced to MTV together in late January.

Despite Gambler only being released as a single in markets outside North America, its video received moderate rotation from MTV nonetheless – possibly due to the fact that there were no competing videos produced for the final two singles from Like A Virgin.

Gambler was Madonna’s last entirely self-written single until the 2007 release of the charity single, Hey You. Other singles for which she received sole writing credit include Everybody (which was in fact a Stephen Bray co-write–however a publishing arrangement granted him sole credit for another of their collaborations, Ain’t No Big Deal, in trade), Burning Up, Lucky Star and Sidewalk Talk. Album tracks Think Of Me, I Know It and Shoo-Bee-Doo were also entirely self-written.

Gambler LOC entry 550

A third Madonna song that was recorded for the Vision Quest soundtrack, Warning Signs, was eventually dropped from the project. A cassette copy of the song, which is also credited to Madonna alone, was submitted to the Library of Congress for copyright registration in February of 1984, at the same time as Gambler.

Warning Signs LOC entry 550

With Stephen Bray having confirmed his involvement in the song’s production (which he described as “a cool synth track”), it appears that its production credits would mirror those of Gambler, which was produced by Jellybean Benitez and arranged by Bray. Given that early press for Vision Quest (including an on-set interview with Madonna herself) mentioned the inclusion of three new songs, footage of Madonna performing Warning Signs was likely filmed but ended up on the cutting room floor. Surprisingly, this additional footage has never resurfaced and the song has never leaked.

%d bloggers like this: