Today in Madonna History: August 20, 2001

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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 dancefloor-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: March 16, 2004

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On March 16 2004, Love Profusion was commercially released in North America on CD maxi-single. In the U.S., a double 12″ vinyl edition of the maxi-single was also released one week later, on March 23rd. Written & produced by Madonna & Mirwais Ahmadzaï, Love Profusion was the fourth and final North American single release from the American Life album. In the UK, Warner chose to issue the song instead of Nothing Fails as the album’s third and final single in December, 2003.

Though lack of radio support kept Love Profusion from charting on the Hot 100 in the U.S., it nevertheless managed to top the Hot Dance/Club Play chart. North of the border, the track peaked at #3 on the Canadian singles chart.

North American pressings of the CD maxi-single included a fold-out tester square of the Estée Lauder fragrance Beyond Paradise. The television commercial for the fragrance featured the song Love Profusion – and although Madonna was replaced by supermodel Carolyn Murphy, it used the same computer-generated imagery as the music video’s “daylight” scenes. Both the video and the commercial were created simultaneously by director Luc Besson.

Today in Madonna History: October 16, 2002


On October 16 2002, Billboard released their review of Madonna’s Die Another Day:

The theme to the latest James Bond instalment, Die Another Day, is certainly a far cry from the melodic musings of Shirley Bassey, Nancy Sinatra, Paul McCartney, and even Duran Duran. Die Another Day in many ways picks up on the heels of Madonna’s inventive, experimental Music — thanks to her reunion with writer/producer Mirwais Ahmadzai — with a predominance of squiggly blips and zaps and enough effects on Madonna’s vocal to render it practically non-human. It’s an odd number, somewhat disjointed, a bit nonsensical, and not so much melodic as a highly stylized jam — but one must never underestimate the motivations of the long-and-lasting Madonna; and sure enough, with repeated listening, there are enough clever goings on and a hook that sinks into the consciousness to make this a captivating journey. James Bond purists may find themselves fitful that the traditional melodrama that marks such theme songs is remiss here, but radio jumped on the track weeks ahead of its official release, which will certainly fan the flames of publicity for the upcoming flick, out Nov. 22 in the U.S. On the horizon: an onslaught of remixes. Score another bull’s-eye for Madonna.

Today in Madonna History: September 27, 2002

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On September 27 2002, the theme and title-track for the twentieth film in the James Bond franchise, Die Another Day, received its world premiere on New York radio station Z100. The song had been due to hit the airwaves on October 10th, but when Z100 got their hands on the track ahead of schedule they immediately added it to their heavy rotation playlist. Other stations quickly followed suit, prompting an early but very strong debut at #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. and becoming the chart’s highest first-week entry of the year.

Die Another Day was written and produced by Madonna and Mirwais with string arrangement by the late, great Michel Colombier. After being introduced to Madonna through Mirwais, Colombier arranged strings for Madonna’s 2000 hit Don’t Tell Me, scored her film Swept Away and arranged the American Life tracks Nothing Fails and Easy Ride. Colombier sadly lost a brief battle with cancer in 2004, leaving behind a legacy of celebrated collaborations with the likes of Serge Gainsbourg, Prince and Joni Mitchell, to name only a few.

Madonna’s Bond theme was first performed during 2004’s Re-Invention Tour, where it became a visual showstopper with its ambitious and impressively executed tango-influenced choreography.

Today in Madonna History: March 12, 2003

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On March 12 2003, Warner Bros. issued a press release for Madonna’s American Life album:

A new Madonna album, American Life, has been set for a worldwide release on April 22nd.

The enduring icon’s first new collection of original material since 2000’s multi-platinum smash Music, American Life is being hailed as Madonna’s most accomplished, original and intensely personal album to date; a resonant and revealing emotional journey that marks a new highpoint in a career that has for all time redefined the expressive potential of contemporary music.

Recorded over a full year in London and Los Angeles, American Life, the artist’s tenth studio album, features eleven new Madonna compositions, including the title track and debut single, which ships to radio March 25th.

“All of these songs reflect my current state of mind. I feel like I have just woken up out of a dream. They range from dismay and anger to joy and certainty. Hopefully, I have taken the personal and made it universal,” stated Madonna regarding her new album which she wrote and produced with Mirwais Ahmadzai with whom she also collaborated on her previous release Music.

The American Life CD includes the title track, as well as the following songs: Hollywood, I’m So Stupid, Love Profusion, Nobody Knows Me, Nothing Fails, Intervention, X-Static Process, Mother & Father, Easy Ride, and Die Another Day, the hit theme song from the James Bond film of the same name.

The American Life single is also the subject of a brilliant new video from the pioneering multi-media visionary, an artist who single handedly invented the short music film medium. In a stunning collaboration with director Jonas Akerlund, American Life expresses a panoramic view of our culture and looming war through the view of a female superhero portrayed by Madonna set against a backdrop of current cultural obsessions. It’s a penetrating examination of our national psyche. The video is scheduled to air the first week in April.

Remixes of the American Life single by, among others, mega-hot hip hop diva Missy Elliott, Peter Rauhofer, Felix da Housecat and Maverick Records artist Paul Oakenfold will be available in various configurations over the next several months.

An extensive schedule of appearances, performances and special events has been set in conjunction with the release of American Life including an appearance on an episode of the hit NBC-TV comedy Will And Grace.

One of the most original and innovative artists of the modern era, Madonna has sold hundreds of millions of albums, topped charts across two decades, created an enormously influential body of work in video and film and stood at the forefront of socially conscious artists worldwide. With American Life, Madonna has once again reached deeply into her own life as the source and substance of her extraordinary artistry.

Today in Madonna History: November 12, 2002

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On November 12 2002, the Die Another Day soundtrack for the 20th James Bond film of the same name, was released by Warner Bros. Records. The title song for Die Another Day was sung by Madonna, who also had a small cameo in the movie as Verity, a fencing instructor.  The Die Another Day song was written and produced by Madonna and Mirwais Ahmadzaï.

What is your favourite James Bond theme song?