On June 30 1997, Madonna began recording sessions for what would become her Ray Of Light album at Larrabee North Recording Studios, Universal City, Los Angeles.
Madonna had already spent several months writing songs and producing demos with Patrick Leonard, Rick Nowels and Babyface (although none of the Babyface material would make the final cut) by the time she entered the studio with co-producers William Orbit and Marius De Vries. Leonard would return to the project to assist with arrangements, earning him a co-producer’s credit on four of the album’s tracks. Madonna would add lyrics and melody to at least a half-dozen previously composed Orbit demos during these sessions as well, with six of their songs making the final track list.
On June 11 2015, a Rick Nowels interview was featured at songwriteruniverse.com in which he spoke about how he came to collaborate with Madonna for the Ray Of Light sessions:
“I always wanted to work with Madonna. I loved her voice, her songwriting, and the great records she made with Pat Leonard, Stephen Bray and Nile Rodgers. In 1997 I was in New York for the Grammys. I was up for Album of the Year (as one of the producers) for Celine Dion’s Falling Into You. I was in Barney’s (store) getting a tie for the Grammys and I saw Madonna there. I introduced myself, and I told her that she didn’t get the credit she deserved as a songwriter. Which is true, but it’s also an awkward thing to tell a huge superstar! She was very cool and gracious. I ended up getting a meeting with her in L.A. a few weeks later. We wrote nine songs together — three made the Ray of Light album: The Power of Good-bye, Little Star and To Have and Not To Hold. The Power of Good-bye was a number one song in U.K. and Europe. It was a career-changing experience for me. Before that I had always done my co-writing with friends. But working with Madonna…it was the first time I had ever written one-on-one with a great artist/writer. After that I changed gears a little, and now I mostly collaborate directly with artists.”
On May 18 2005, Madonna issued a statement in support of fellow pop singer Kylie Minogue, wishing her a quick recovery from her battle with breast cancer:
“I was saddened to learn about Kylie Minogue’s breast cancer diagnosis. I’m so grateful that they found it early. (Yet another reminder for all women to have annual mammograms.) Aside from being tremendously talented, Kylie’s a fighter and I know this is a battle she will win. Let’s all pray for her speedy recovery and send all of our best wishes her way. With love and light to you Kylie…Madonna.”
Following her surgery and recovery, Kylie’s 2006 return to the stage was captured in the behind-the-scenes documentary, White Diamond. The film included Kylie’s version of an unreleased Madonna/Rick Nowels collaboration from the Ray Of Light sessions, titled Alone Again. Kylie had recorded the track as a potential b-side to her 2002 single, Come Into My World, but for unknown reasons it remained shelved until its use in the documentary several years later. Madonna received special thanks from Kylie in the film’s closing credits.
On April 11 1998, Madonna appeared on the cover of TV Guide.
In the issue, Madonna explains the relationship she had with Lourdes’ father, Carlos Leon:
“I was in love with him. A lot of people think I walked out on the street and looked at him and said, `You’re going to be my sperm donor. I had a relationship with him. I still have a relationship with him. We are really good friends. . . . the last thing I want my daughter to do is grow up without a father. I grew up without a parent.”
On March 15 1999, Madonna’s publicist, Liz Rosenberg, confirmed to MTV News that a tour in support of Ray Of Light had been canceled. Instead, Madonna would be working on a number of other projects including:
- A new song with Ricky Martin for his next album
- A new song for the Austin Powers 2 soundtrack
- Assembling a new greatest hits album (Liz called it “The Immaculate Collection 2“) with a few new songs
- Starring in a new film, The Next Best Thing, with Rupert Everett
Liz had this to say:
“The starting date of the movie was postponed, and it created such a small window to turn things around and get into total tour mode and put together the kind of show Madonna does, with no stone unturned, that she thought it would be better to wait until 2000.”
On March 9 1998, Frozen hit #1 on the Italian Singles Chart (FIMI). On the same date, the Ray Of Light album made its debut at #1 in Italy.
The single would top the Italian charts for four weeks while the album spent three weeks at #1.
On March 6 1998, Madonna spent the day in Toronto, Canada conducting a press conference and various print interviews to promote her new album, Ray Of Light, released earlier that week. She ended the day with a live, hour-long interview on Much Music hosted by VJ’s Master T (personally selected by Madonna herself after viewing reels of the station’s on-air personalities) and Geneviève Borne (a self-proclaimed Madonna fan and VJ from Much Music’s French-language sister station, Musique Plus).
The much-hyped event, which marked Madonna’s first and only visit to the Much Music studios, was prefaced by the Canadian music video channel’s second Madonnathon – a day of all-Madonna programming. The first, which featured her 1992 interview with Jonathan Ross and a then-recent press junket interview with The New Music’s Jana Lynne White (and all of her music videos), aired in January of 1993 at the height of the Sex/Erotica/Body Of Evidence backlash.
After the appearance was announced, fans seeking a limited hot spot inside the studio for the interview were asked to call in and were queried a series of Madonna-related trivia questions to prove their worthiness, while others who didn’t make it inside lined the streets of the Queen St W studios on the day of the event to welcome the Queen of Pop to Toronto.