On October 21 1995, the music video for I Want You by Madonna with Massive Attack hit #11 on VH1’s weekly chart in the U.S.
The video for I Want You is somewhat of an anomaly in Madonna’s career. The song was initially intended to be a joint release to promote both Inner City Blues (a Marvin Gaye tribute album on Motown Records) and Madonna’s own Something To Remember ballads collection on Sire/Maverick. Naturally, a music video was commissioned to accompany the planned single.
Unfortunately, legal wranglings between the two record companies ensued when Motown insisted on releasing the tribute album ahead of Madonna’s album. Concerned that the move could negatively impact sales of Something To Remember, Madonna’s label apparently backed away from plans to fully promote I Want You.
Fortunately for fans, the song’s excellent music video, which had already been completed by director Earle Sebastian, was not shelved. It was serviced to video channels ahead of the release of both albums and received moderate support despite the song’s absence from radio.
The video quickly faded into obscurity, however, once Madonna’s You’ll See single and its accompanying video were given a full promotional push from her label less than a month later.
On November 7 1995, Madonna’s Something To Remember greatest ballad hits collection was released. The collection was released on different dates in different markets.
Described as a “love letter from Madonna to her fans and music lovers alike” in the album’s liner note, Madonna further explained:
So much controversy has swirled around my career this past decade that very little attention ever gets paid to my music. The songs are all but forgotten. While I have no regrets regarding the choices I’ve made artistically, I’ve learned to appreciate the idea of doing things in a simpler way. So without a lot of fanfare, without any distractions, I present to you this collection of ballads. Some are old, some are new. All of them are from my heart.
Something To Remember included the following songs:
I Want You
Take A Bow
Crazy for You
This Used to Be My Playground
Live to Tell
Love Don’t Live Here Anymore (Remix)
Something to Remember
One More Chance
I Want You (Orchestral)
The Japanese release included La Isla Bonita.
The Latin release included Verás the Spanish version of You’ll See.
On October 17 1995, the Marvin Gaye tribute album Inner City Blues: The Music Of Marvin Gaye was released. Compiled and released on Motown Records, the album featured a beautifully poignant remake of the 1976 classic I Want You by Madonna with Massive Attack.
Motown Records had initially brought Massive Attack on board to produce the track before a lead singer had been confirmed. Early plans sought to have Chaka Khan perform vocal duties, but after failing to turn up for the recording session she was swiftly nixed from the project. Aaron Neville was then lined up as a replacement but plans again fell through when contract issues prevented his participation. Producer Nellee Hooper, who had recently produced cuts for Madonna’s Bedtime Stories album, suggested her as a potential choice. Surprisingly, getting Madonna’s vocal contribution involved less red tape and less prima donna behaviour than either previous option.
Massive Attack’s 3D and Hooper flew to New York and spent two days in the studio with Madonna. 3D commented on the recording session in interviews with The Face (Nov/95) and ChannelV TV (Jun/98) respectively:
“She sang it really well, she had it sorted out, you could tell she knew the song, she’d really worked fucking hard on it. Fucking good.”
“It was quite freaky for me because I’m just a Bristol boy. She was singing in my ear as we were playing the music down, giving me her version of it. I wasn’t taking any notice at all really. I was just thinking about how mad it is. She is such an icon it takes you a while to adjust. When she was in the vocal room, it was amazing. We did a few takes just to cover it, but she sang it so well we could have done it in one take. It was that beautiful.”
Madonna was equally impressed with the results of the session, opting to include the song as the opening track on her forthcoming ballads compilation, Something To Remember – and book-ending the set with an orchestral version. Initially planned as a jointly-promoted lead single for both albums, a video was filmed for the song by director Earle Sebastien. While the video was put into rotation on music video channels in early October, plans to release the track as a single were scrapped due to label disagreements between Motown – who insisted on releasing the tribute album several weeks ahead of Something To Remember – and Warner. Perhaps fearing that Warner would withdraw their permission to include Madonna’s vocals on the tribute, Motown wisely ceded to its inclusion on Madonna’s own retrospective. The song was later featured on Massive Attack’s 2006 best-of, Collected.