Today in Madonna History: March 13, 1999

On March 13 1999, Nothing Really Matters spent the first of two weeks at #1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Club Play chart in the U.S.

Despite being a successful club hit, many have cited Warner’s unusual marketing choices for the single as the primary reason for its poor placement on the Hot 100, where its peak of #93 remains the lowest of her charting singles.

The delayed release of the commercial single – which came long after the song had peaked at radio – was clearly a blunder, while other aspects of the song’s promotion seemingly started too early. After declining to release the experimental remixes for The Power Of Good-Bye in the U.S. (the remixes were issued commercially in Canada & abroad), Warner jumped the gun by beginning to service remixes of Nothing Really Matters promotionally to clubs as early as September of 1998 – over six months ahead of the maxi-single release.

An alternative might have been to service the Sky Fits Heaven remixes promotionally in the U.S. during the interim, considering that it managed to enter the Dance/Club Play chart based solely on spins from the imported Drowned World/Substitute For Love single, with no push from the label domestically.

Chart positions and marketing decisions aside, the maxi-single for Nothing Really Matters, with its wonderfully varied set of remixes by Peter Rauhofer, Kruder & Dorfmeister and Talvin Singh, remains one of Madonna’s best, in our opinion. Together with its visually stunning music video, the single marked an artistically pleasing closing chapter to the epic Ray Of Light era.

Today in Madonna History: February 20, 1999

On February 20 1999, Madonna began rehearsals for her performance of Nothing Really Matters at the Grammys with Donna De Lory and Niki Haris. It marked their first live performance together since The Girlie Show Tour in 1993.

Today in Madonna History: February 1, 1999

On February 1 1999, a geisha-inspired Madonna was featured on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine in the USA, with photos by Patrick Demarchelier.

Today In Madonna History: March 29, 1999

On March 29 1999, Nothing Really Matters peaked at #7 on the Canadian Top 100 Singles chart (RPM).

Warner Music Canada issued Nothing Really Matters as a CD maxi-single and as a two-track CD single featuring the b-side, To Have And Not Hold. While their U.S. counterparts were housed in “FLP” and “draw pack” sleeves, in Canada standard jewel cases with inserts were used for both configurations.

Today in Madonna History: January 9, 1999

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On January 9 1999, Madonna began filming the music video for Nothing Really Matters at Silvercup Studios in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens in NYC.

The imagery in the video was inspired by Arthur Golden’s 1997 bestselling novel, Memoirs Of A Geisha. It marked Madonna’s first collaboration with Swedish director Johan Renck, who had been introduced to Madonna by Ray Of Light video director, Jonas Åkerlund.

Today in Madonna History: March 18, 2005

On March 18 2005, a resolution was reached in a UK copyright lawsuit (Coffey v Warner/Chappell Music Ltd. & Others) which alleged that elements of the Madonna & Patrick Leonard composition, Nothing Really Matters, had infringed on the copyright of claimant Elizabeth Coffey and her song, Forever After, performed by Peter Twomey.

The case took almost four years to reach the court and went under a considerable number of amendments by the plaintiff during that time. Coffey eventually alleged that the recording of Forever After included an original musical work, which consisted of the combination of vocal expression, pitch contour, and syncopation of or around the words “does it really matter,” but did not extend to the melody or lyrics surrounding those words.  She pleaded that the words “does it really matter” comprised the song’s lyrical hook and alleged that the copyright in Forever After was infringed by the defendants’ activities in relation to Nothing Really Matters.

In turn, the defendants moved to have the claim struck out as the method the plaintiff had identified the alleged copied elements was contrary to copyright law in general. Another defense offered was that, in any event, no copying had occurred.

The case was dismissed on the legal grounds that, in copyright, one cannot cherry pick the elements of the song that are the most similar in an attempt to build a stronger case. In his findings, the presiding Judge Blackburn, noted:
“The three somewhat elusive features identified by the claimant as her musical work cannot by any stretch of the imagination be said to be sufficiently separable from the remainder of the song as themselves to constitute a musical work. […] What the copyright work is in any given case is not governed by what the claimant alleging copyright infringement chooses to say that it is. Rather, it is a matter for objective determination by the court.”
A summary analysis and MIDI clip of the claimant’s song (which, incidentally, bears no perceivable resemblance to Nothing Really Matters) can be found here. The complete judgement in the lawsuit can be viewed here.

 

Today in Madonna History: February 24, 1999

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On February 24 1999, Madonna performed Nothing Really Matters at the 41st Annual Grammy Awards. Madonna also took home 4 Grammies:

  • Best Pop Album – David Reitzas, Jon Ingoldsby, Pat McCarthy (engineers/mixers), William Orbit (producer) and Madonna (producer & artist) for Ray Of Light
  • Best Dance Recording – Pat McCarthy (mixer), William Orbit (producer) and Madonna (producer & artist) for Ray of Light
  • Best Short Form Music Video – Jonas Åkerlund (video director) and Madonna for Ray of Light
  • Best Recording Package – Kevin Reagan (art director) for Ray of Light performed by Madonna
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