Today in Madonna History: January 16, 2001

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On January 16 2001, Don’t Tell Me was released commercially in North America as the second single from Music.

Written by Madonna, Mirwais & Joe Henry, the song was Madonna’s first collaboration with her brother-in-law, whom she had known since high school. Henry sent a demo (then titled Stop) to Madonna after his wife, Melanie, insisted that her sister would love the song. Madonna & Mirwais drastically altered the music and melody and renamed the song Don’t Tell Me. Henry released his version on his eighth studio album, Scar, in May 2001.

The maxi-single featured remixes by Thunderpuss, Timo Mass, Victor Calderone, Richard “Humpty” Vission and Tracy Young. Don’t Tell Me was the last Madonna release to be issued on cassette single in the U.S. and was also available on 2-track CD single, CD Maxi-Single (enhanced with the music video) and as a double 12″ vinyl set. In Canada, it was released only on CD maxi-single.

Today in Madonna History: December 6, 2016

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On December 6 2016, Rhino Records reissued Madonna’s Music and American Life albums on 180 gram vinyl in North America. Some markets received the reissues on December 2.

The double vinyl release of American Life corrects the spelling of Nothing Fails (misspelled on previous releases).

The reissued Music includes American Pie (previously excluded on the North American releases of the album).

Previous Madonna vinyl reissues released by Rhino in 2016:

  • Madonna (The First Album)
  • Like A Virgin
  • True Blue
  • Like A Prayer
  • Erotica
  • Bedtime Stories
  • Something To Remember
  • Ray Of Light

Do you collect Madonna vinyl?

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Today in Madonna History: November 28, 2000

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On November 28 2000, Madonna performed a mini-set at London’s Brixton Academy. The show was part of the Don’t Tell Me Promo Tour, which began only two months after the birth of her second child, Rocco, and consisted of a few small club dates as well as television performances and interviews to promote the second single from her Music album. Aside from the promotional aspect, Madonna also used the club shows as an opportunity to test the waters for performing live shows again following a seven-year hiatus from touring. The Brixton gig closely mirrored her set at New York’s Roseland Ballroom several weeks earlier, with one notable exception being the addition of Holiday to the UK set-list.

The full London set-list consisted of:

  1. Impressive Instant
  2. Runaway Lover
  3. Don’t Tell Me
  4. What It Feels Like For A Girl
  5. Holiday
  6. Music

The Brixton Academy performance was streamed live across the internet to an estimated 9 million viewers.

Today in Madonna History: November 24, 2000

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On November 24 2000, Madonna performed Don’t Tell Me and Music live on French television program Nulle Part Ailleurs.

Today in Madonna History: September 18, 2000

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On September 18 2000, Madonna’s eighth studio album, Music, was released in the UK by Maverick and Warner Bros. Records.

The album was recorded at The Hit Factory in New York, the Guerilla Beach Studios in Los Angeles and the Sarm East and West Studios in London. The bulk of the album was produced by Madonna and Mirwais Ahmadzaï, with additional production by William Orbit, Guy Sigsworth and Mark “Spike” Stent.

Madonna had begun the project in the late summer of 1999 by resuming her collaboration with Ray Of Light co-producer, William Orbit. While the pair completed nearly an album’s worth of songs during these sessions, only three made the album’s final cut. Two others appeared on the soundtrack of The Next Best Thing, another became the theme of a short-lived TV series, while the rest stayed in the vault (though most, if not all, eventually found its way to the internet). It is clear listening to many of the leaked demos from the sessions that Madonna was ready to receive the shot of inspiration Mirwais would inject into the project.

Her new collaborator retained, and in some ways, expanded on the experimental spirit of Ray Of Light, but in contrast to Orbit’s layered, reverb-drenched warmth, Mirwais offered a cool, stark, less-is-more approach that took the album in a very different sonic direction, certainly matching if not building upon the creative success she had achieved with Orbit. If the previous album was successfully touted as a rebirth of sorts, she managed to avoid the sophomore album curse yet again with Music, offering a sound that was distinct and fresh. So fresh that it cast some shadow over the songs Mirwais didn’t have a hand in creating, although the haunting Orbit-produced album closer, Gone, remains one of her best exits.

While Madonna regrets little, she would rightfully retroactively pooh-pooh her decision to permit record execs to tack on previous UK #1 hit, American Pie, as a bonus track outside North America. The cash-in rang a hollow note, coming in on the heels of soulful lyrics about a refusal to sell out.

Madonna adopted a cowgirl/country theme for the album, with the album artwork photographed by one of her longtime collaborators, Jean Baptiste Mondino. The photo session took place in the spring of 2000, before the album had been fully completed and mixed, in order to conceal her pregnancy. Madonna has stated in interviews that her goal with album art has remained relatively consistent through the years: it should resonate with the album’s musical/lyrical themes while also capturing an element of timelessness.

North American tracklist for Music:

  • Music (written & produced by Madonna & Mirwais Ahmadzaï)
  • Impressive Instant (written & produced by Madonna & Mirwais Ahmadzaï)
  • Runaway Lover (written & produced by Madonna & William Orbit)
  • I Deserve It (written & produced by Madonna & Mirwais Ahmadzaï)
  • Amazing (written & produced by Madonna & William Orbit)
  • Nobody’s Perfect (written & produced by Madonna & Mirwais Ahmadzaï)
  • Don’t Tell Me (written by Madonna, Mirwais & Joe Henry; produced by Madonna & Mirwais)
  • What It Feels Like For A Girl (written by Madonna & Guy Sigsworth; produced by Madonna, Sigsworth & Mark “Spike” Stent)
  • Paradise (Not For Me) (written & produced by Madonna & Mirwais Ahmadzaï)
  • Gone (written by Madonna, Damian Le Gassick & Nik Young; produced by Madonna, Orbit & Stent)

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: May 22, 2002

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On May 22 2002, Madonna won Most Performed Song and Best Dance Song for Don’t Tell Me at the ASCAP Pop Music Awards.

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