Today in Madonna History: July 25, 1998

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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.

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, receiving a boost from the inclusion of non-album track, Has To Be, on the b-side of the two-track single, as well as the commercially-released VHS video-single. On the Airplay chart, however, the song fizzled out at number twenty-six due to radio’s tepid support of the single’s unconventional sound. Meanwhile, there was nothing tepid about the response from club DJ’s, with the remixes earning Madonna another number-one on the Hot Dance/Club Play chart where it spent four weeks at the top 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: May 12, 1998

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On May 12 1998, Madonna’s Ray of Light video premiered on MTV.

The video was directed by Jonas Åkerlund, with Madonna’s scenes being shot on March 25–26, 1998 at Raleigh Studios and Florentine Gardens nightclub in downtown Los Angeles. The images of various cities include Los Angeles, New York, London, Las Vegas and Stockholm.

The video was ranked No. 40 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Videos, listed No. 1 on Back In… 98’s Top 5 Best Videos, ranked No. 7 on Listed’s Top 40 Memorable Videos Pt. 1 & 2, on MuchMoreMusic, and ranked No. 26 on MuchMusic’s 100 Best Videos. It was ranked at number four on “The Top 100 Videos That Broke The Rules”, issued by MTV on the channel’s 25th anniversary in August 2006.

The video received a total of eight MTV Video Music Awards nominations, becoming Madonna’s second most-nominated video at the award show, after “Vogue” in 1990. It won five awards for Video of the Year, Best Female Video, Best Direction, Best Editing and Best Choreography, becoming her most-winning song at the show.

Today in Madonna History: May 9, 1998

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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.

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 25, 1998

For the weeks of April 25, and May 2, 1998, Madonna’s Frozen was the #1 dance single on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.

Today in Madonna History: April 12, 1998

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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.

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