Today in Madonna History: August 24, 1998

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On August 24 1998, Drowned World/Substitute For Love was released as the third single from Ray Of Light in most major markets outside North America. The song was written by Madonna, William Orbit and David Collins (Rod McKuen and Anita Kerr were also credited for sampled use of their composition “Why I Follow The Tigers” performed by The San Sebastian Strings) and was produced by Madonna and Orbit.

With the album’s title track being issued as the second single in North America a month after its release in other markets, it was decided to release Drowned World/Substitute For Love to fill the gap until her next international single release, The Power Of Good-bye. The single peaked at number-ten in the UK, at number-five in Italy and at number-one in Spain. Despite not being released in Canada, the song managed to reach number eighteen on the Canadian singles chart based solely on sales of the European import single, and without any promotion from radio or music video stations. Club play of the imported single, which featured remixes of both Drowned World/Substitute For Love and its b-side, Sky Fits Heaven, prompted a brief appearance by the latter on the U.S. Hot Dance/Club Play Chart, peaking at number forty-one.

The music video, filmed in London by director Walter Stern, caused a minor controversy due to scenes of Madonna’s car being chased by paparazzi on motorcycles, an image still fresh in the public’s mind at the time due the circumstances surrounding the death of Princess Diana. Liz Rosenberg denied that the scene had anything to do with the late Princess, adding that the video was about Madonna’s own experience and relationship with fame.

The song is often ranked as a fan favorite and seems to be highly-regarded by Madonna as well, considering her 2001 concert tour was named after the song and it was used as the show’s opening number. It was also performed during 2006’s Confessions Tour and appeared on her second greatest hits collection, GHV2. An early demo version of the song believed to be produced with Patrick Leonard titled No Substitute For Love leaked online in the early 2000’s. The demo contains similar lyrics but a completely different musical backing track and melody. The music that was used on the final version of the song was a previously composed instrumental track by William Orbit.

Famous faces, far off places
Trinkets I can buy
No handsome stranger, heady danger
Drug that I can try
No ferris wheel, no heart to steal
No laughter in the dark
No one-night stand, no far-off land
No fire that I can spark

Today In Madonna History: August 23, 2003

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On August 23 2003, the Hollywood remixes hit number-one on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in the US. It was her 30th single to reach the top of the dance charts.

Today in Madonna History: August 22, 2009

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On August 22 2009, Madonna scored her 55th Billboard Hot 100 hit with Celebration. The lead single from Madonna’s career spanning greatest hits collection of the same name debuted at #71.

Celebration was written and produced by Madonna, Paul Oakenfold and Ian Green, with additional writing from Ciaran Gribbin.

Billboard reviews Celebration:

Madonna’s latest single won’t start any new trends, but it does return the singer to her dance-floor roots. “Come join the party … ’cause everybody wants to party with you,” she sings on Celebration, the title track and one of a reported two new songs on her best-of set that’s due September 29. A notable assist comes courtesy of trance DJ/producer Paul Oakenfold, who co-wrote and co-produced the buoyant stomper. He supplies a surging beat that could easily have been lifted from the star’s Confessions On A Dance Floor period (Hung Up, Sorry) but can be traced even further back to her 1992 hit Deeper And Deeper. The melody, meanwhile, recalls her last single, 4 Minutes, in its urgency. Consider Celebration a score for Madonna’s retro-futuristic fan base and a nice bookend to her collection of chart glories.

Today in Madonna History: August 21, 1993

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On August 21 1993, Rain made its debut on the Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Single Sales chart, bowing in at #32.

While the inclusion of non-album track Up Down Suite (essentially a dub remix of Erotica outtake Goodbye To Innocence, retitled) and a remix of Waiting provided enough incentive for most fans to pick up the Rain maxi-single, interest apparently did not extend very much further. The maxi-single peaked at #13 the following week and would drop off the Maxi-Single Sales chart altogether after an unusually brief (by Madonna’s standards) six-week run.

Today in Madonna History: August 20, 2001

On August 20 2001, Sal Cinquemani published this review of Madonna’s Music album in Slant magazine:

After her hugely successful and critically-lauded Ray Of Light, Madonna could have gone in one of several possible directions: (1) a more hardcore trance route, enlisting a world-class DJ like Sasha (who remixed a few tracks from Ray Of Light and whom Madonna allegedly dismissed after collaborating on several tracks early in the recording process of this new album); (2) staying in safe territory by writing and recording once again with William Orbit, the mastermind behind Ray Of Light; or (3) a weird, more experimental direction, commissioning someone like French electronica guru Mirwais Ahmadzai. Madonna once told producer Shep Pettibone “You can never do the same thing twice…ever,” but two new collaborations with Orbit, “Runaway Lover” and “Amazing,” prove that when you do, it will probably be completely uninteresting. “Runaway Lover” sounds like a Ray Of Light outtake with uninspired couplets like “It doesn’t pay to give away what you lack/You’ll never get your money back.” But amid the clichés, Madonna throws in profound food for thought like “You get your education from your lovers.” “Amazing” is incredibly catchy and has a Supremes-like melody but that’s where it ends. The track borrows the drum loop Orbit used in “Beautiful Stranger” (which was originally the loop from his “Ray Of Light” remix), and proves that he may not have had enough tricks up his sleeve for an entire new album anyway (and perhaps Madonna knew that).

As such, Madonna enlisted Mirwais for most of the rest of the album in question, Music. The title track, a retro hands-in-the-air club song reminiscent of Debbie Deb’s “When I Hear Music” and Madonna’s own “Into The Groove,” is the singer’s best dance floor-beckoning track since “Vogue.” She sings “Music makes the people come together” like a track off of her debut album, and as an added bonus she uses words like “bourgeoisie” and “acid-rock” with equal abandon. If you can get past the initial horror of hearing Madonna’s voice get the Cher “Believe” treatment on “Nobody’s Perfect,” another Mirwais collaboration, you’ll find a brilliant song full of genuine sorrow. The track opens with an intentionally imperfect and somber “I feel so sad,” and it is indeed believable. Lyrics like “What did you expect? I’m doing my best” are sung with an intriguing juxtaposition of human emotion and mechanically detached vocalizations. Though hard to swallow at first (like most on the album), the track is one of the singer’s best creations. With its distorted vocals and grinding electronic burps, “Paradise (Not For Me)” is another distinctive Mirwais production. At a turning point in the song, Madonna awkwardly struggles to speak the words “There is a light above my head/Into your eyes my face remains” while strings swell and bring the song to a climax. It is at this point that “Paradise” resembles the cinematic grandeur of tracks like “Frozen,” and it is also one of the few moments throughout Music that recalls the spiritual introspection of Ray Of Light.

Two tracks take a striking folk direction. “I Deserve It” finds Madonna once again singing with a warm yet detached voice, but this time her vocals are completely untouched by effects. “Gone” ends the album and is possibly one of Madonna’s best performances. In the vein of “Live To Tell,” the song seems to sum up everything Madonna has tried to tell us about being the most famous woman in the world. Earlier attempts have seemed obvious and sometimes trite (“Goodbye To Innocence,” “Survival,” “Drowned World”), but this song seems to be particularly telling. It is also, perhaps, the most human she has ever been. Self-deprecation and vulnerability have never been Madonna’s strong-suits, but the way she sings “I won’t let it happen again/I’m not very smart” could make you wonder. Music seems more like a collection of songs than a cohesive album, and it is an unexpected answer to Ray Of Light. But strangely, in an attempt to make a “fun,” less-introspective album, Madonna has revealed more of herself than ever. No longer shrouded with pedantic spirituality, she has become even more human, exposing her fears on tracks like “Nobody’s Perfect” and “Paradise,” her soul on “Don’t Tell Me” and “What It Feels Like For A Girl,” and revealing her joys on “Impressive Instant” and “Music.”

Today in Madonna History: August 19, 1997

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On August 19 1997, Buenos Aires (from Evita) was released as a promo-only single to club DJs and radio stations in the USA to promote Evita on video.

Here is a full listing of the different mixes of Buenos Aires:

World Mix Edit
World Mix Edit – Shorter
Te Amo 12″ Extended Vocal Version
Te Amo 12″ Extended Instrumental Version
Te Amo 12″ TV Dub
Te Amo 12″ Acapella Version
Te Amo Single Edit
Te Amo Radio Version

Today in Madonna History: August 18, 2012

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On August 18 2012, during an MDNA World Tour concert in Zurich, Madonna made this statement for the release of Pussy Riot:

“I protest the conviction and sentencing of Pussy Riot to a penal colony for two years for a 40 second performance extolling their political opinions. Even if one disagrees with the location or how they chose to express themselves, the sentence is too harsh and in fact is inhumane. I call on all those who love freedom to condemn this unjust punishment. I urge artists around the world to speak up in protest against this travesty. They’ve spent enough time in jail. I call on ALL of Russia to let Pussy Riot go free.”

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