Today in Madonna History: October 21, 1995

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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.
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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.

Today in Madonna History: October 5, 1985

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On October 5 1985, Dress You Up peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.

The song also spent the first of a four-week run at #1 on the 12-inch Singles Sales chart and peaked at #3 on the Club Play chart in the same issue.

Today in Madonna History: October 3, 1985

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On October 3 1985, Geffen Records released Gambler as a single in Europe. It was the second Madonna single released from the Vision Quest soundtrack.

Concerned about potential overexposure, Warner Brothers successfully managed to suppress a North American release of the track, although the music video was serviced to MTV. It was issued as a single in most other major markets – including Japan, Australasia & South America.

Gambler was written by Madonna, produced by Jellybean Benitez and arranged by Stephen Bray. Extended and instrumental remixes by Benitez were also issued commercially outside North America.

Today in Madonna History: September 26, 1988

On September 26 1988, Madonna began recording the Like A Prayer album in Los Angeles, California with collaborators Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray.

Madonna had begun writing for the album during the down time of her Broadway run in David Mamet’s Speed-The-Plow, for which she gave her final performance in late August. With her marriage to Sean Penn on the rocks, Madonna found herself at a personal and creative crossroads – with plenty to express.

 

Today in Madonna History: August 22, 1992


On August 22 1992, Madonna filmed scenes for the Erotica music video at The Kitchen in New York City with fashion photographer/director/designer Fabien Baron. These scenes consisted of Madonna in the character of her Sex book alter-ego, Dita, miming the lyrics to the song, and would be intercut with a selection of 8mm footage previously shot by Baron during the making of the Sex book.

Baron also served as art director for the Sex book, the Erotica album and single, and later for the Bedtime Stories album and its singles Secret and Take A Bow. He also directed the commercial for her fragrance, Truth Or Dare by Madonna, in 2012.

“She put that book out at the best moment. She timed it very well. She knows what she’s doing. And such drive. Some people want to lift stones and see what’s under it. She’ll be on a beach with millions of stones and want to lift every one of them.”            – Fabien Baron

Today in Madonna History: August 21, 1993

On August 21 1993, Billboard magazine interviewed director Mark Romanek for a feature article about Madonna’s music video for Rain:

One rarely finds the use for such adjectives as “Zen-like,” spare, and sentimental in describing an outrageous, outspoken, and extreme performer like Madonna. Yet the artist’s new Maverick -Sire-Warner Bros. video “Rain,” directed by Mark Romanek for Satellite Films, conjures those very images against the understated elegance of a tenderly soothing ballad. The result is a Madonna who is chic yet vulnerable, glamorous yet sweet.

“The contradiction you face in shooting a Madonna video is that people expect something rather grand from her, and yet the feeling of the times is that things need to be simplified and stripped away,” says Romanek. The director admits he was a bit intimidated by the prospect of shooting a video that would mark a departure from Madonna’s ostentatious antics of the past. “The song is a bit sentimental, and you just can’t do something psychosexual and subversive with it,” he notes. “My challenge was to come up with something that seems glamorous and expensive, yet is spare and Zen-like at the same time.” Romanek chose to interpret “Rain” as an exercise in media manipulation and image-making. The clip is reeled as a video-within-a-video, as Madonna, the doe-eyed ingenue, performs for a Japanese film crew.

Music buffs may recognize the “director” in the clip as the photogenic composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. “By making it a Japanese thing, we made Madonna more vulnerable; she’s away from home, more out-of-place,” says Romanek. “It creates a nice subtext and makes her more sympathetic.” And by shooting a “crew” shooting a clip, Romanek created the kind of prefab, artificial scenario that would underscore the true emotion of “Rain.”

“We knew we needed some rain, but we didn’t want the clip to be too clichéd or too literal,” he notes. “So we figured if we have to have rain, let’s have fake rain.” That fake rain was contained in two tall “walls” that stand on either side of a simply clad Madonna. One shot looks deceptively plain, but as Romanek explains, “the amount of equipment, pipes, and lights that are hidden in that image, so that the walls appear to stand as simply as possible and look aesthetically correct, was huge.”

To further capture the crystalline essence of the song, Romanek and cinematographer Harris Savides chose to lens a number of rare, color closeups of Madonna’s face and features. But they were faced with the technical challenge of updating the traditional “Garbo lighting” used since film’s earliest days to flatter a star’s most arresting features. Madonna agreed to undergo a half day of camera tests, after which a new German lighting fixture was chosen to achieve a thoroughly modern, yet classic, effect. Icy blue eyes stare directly into the camera as full, lush lips sing the lyrics into an old-fashioned microphone. Of all the sequences in the “Rain” video, Romanek says he is proudest of these close-ups. It’s one of the hardest things to make something as simple as that possible,” the director says. “You need that kind of icon, like Madonna, to make a shot like that work.”

The Satellite crew spent four days making sure such aesthetically correct shots would work, including a windswept storm sequence on a stage, and an overhead shot of Madonna surrounded by a bed of open, black umbrellas. In nearly every shot, the graphic image is so compelling that the camera need never move.

Romanek, a founding director of Satellite, shares credit for “Rain” with producer Krista Montagna, stylist David Bradshaw, and editors John Murray and Jim Haygood. The clip’s cinematographer Savides and art director Jan Peter Flack have been nominated for an MTV Video Music Award.

Today in Madonna History: August 20, 1995

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On August 20 1995, Human Nature was released in Europe as the final single from the Bedtime Stories album.

In North America, Human Nature had been rush-released two months earlier in an attempt to re-engage radio programmers after a particularly poor reception to the Bedtime Story single – which had been virtually ignored by most stations who instead kept their focus on Madonna’s previous radio smash hit, Take A Bow.

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