On July 25 1998, the music video for Drowned World/Substitute For Love premiered in Europe. The video was directed by Walter Stern and was filmed on June 26 & 27 1998 at London’s famous Claridge’s Hotel and Piccadilly Circus.
The video caused some controversy when the British press reported that it would feature scenes of Madonna’s car being chased by paparazzi on mopeds, concluding that it was a reference to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the previous year. Liz Rosenberg responded by denying that the scenes were intended to draw comparison to Diana’s death and insisting that the video was about Madonna’s own relationship with fame.
Sadly the video was not serviced to video channels in North America, and with online steaming and downloadable videos not yet prevalent at the time, most fans outside of Europe were only able to enjoy the video for the first time when it appeared on the 93:99 video collection over a year later.
On June 29 1998, Madonna’s Ray of Light single peaked at #3 on RPM’s Top 100 Canadian Singles chart.
As with all the singles from the Ray of Light album, the title track was issued by Warner Music Canada as a 2-track CD single and as a CD maxi-single. In the U.S. the album’s CD singles were issued in cardboard sleeves with “draw pack” trays and the CD maxi-singles in “FLP digipak” cases, while in Canada the two configurations for each of the album’s four domestic singles were packaged in standard CD jewel cases with printed inserts.
On May 9 1998, Ray of Light debuted and peaked at #2 on the UK Singles Chart. It was held back from the top spot by another debut entry, All Saints’s double A-side charity single, Under the Bridge/Lady Marmalade.
Ray Of Light was the 68th best-selling song of 1998 in the UK, with the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) certifying it Silver for shipment of 200,000 copies.
On April 12 1998, the television special Madonna Rising premiered.
Produced as part of the promotional activities for the Ray Of Light album, the special featured Madonna reminiscing about her formative years in New York with pal Rupert Everett as they visited some of her pre-fame dwellings and hang-outs. Interview segments with Nile Rodgers, Debi Mazar, Seymour Stein, Maripol and others were also included for good measure.
On April 6 1998, an exclusive studio performance of Frozen was broadcast during the Hey! Music Awards II on Fuji-TV in Japan. Madonna was also honoured with an award during the ceremony, and offered the taped performance and acceptance speech in lieu of attendance.
On March 23 1998, Madonna attended 70th Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles where she presented the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Buoyed by the success of her new album, Ray Of Light, it was all about the music for Madonna on the red carpet as well, as she chatted and posed for photographs with an impressive assortment of musical divas: Fiona Apple, Cher, k.d. lang & Joni Mitchell.
Prior to her shared Rolling Stone cover with Courtney Love & Tina Turner the previous year, Madonna had – at least publicly – tended to shy away from aligning herself too closely with other musicians – particularly other women in the industry. Be it a result of a renewed sense of spirituality, motherhood, maturity, or simply shrewd self-marketing (perhaps all the above?), one thing is clear: Madonna’s newfound camaraderie and supportive attitude towards her peers felt refreshing and inspiring!