Today in Madonna History: August 24, 1998

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On August 24 1998, Drowned World/Substitute For Love was released as the third single from Ray Of Light in most major markets outside North America. The song was written by Madonna, William Orbit and David Collins (Rod McKuen and Anita Kerr were also credited for sampled use of their composition “Why I Follow The Tigers” performed by The San Sebastian Strings) and was produced by Madonna and Orbit.

With the album’s title track being issued as the second single in North America a month after its release in other markets, it was decided to release Drowned World/Substitute For Love to fill the gap until her next international single release, The Power Of Good-bye. The single peaked at number-ten in the UK, at number-five in Italy and at number-one in Spain. Despite not being released in Canada, the song managed to reach number eighteen on the Canadian singles chart based solely on sales of the European import single, and without any promotion from radio or music video stations. Club play of the imported single, which featured remixes of both Drowned World/Substitute For Love and its b-side, Sky Fits Heaven, prompted a brief appearance by the latter on the U.S. Hot Dance/Club Play Chart, peaking at number forty-one.

The music video, filmed in London by director Walter Stern, caused a minor controversy due to scenes of Madonna’s car being chased by paparazzi on motorcycles, an image still fresh in the public’s mind at the time due the circumstances surrounding the death of Princess Diana. Liz Rosenberg denied that the scene had anything to do with the late Princess, adding that the video was about Madonna’s own experience and relationship with fame.

The song is often ranked as a fan favorite and seems to be highly-regarded by Madonna as well, considering her 2001 concert tour was named after the song and it was used as the show’s opening number. It was also performed during 2006’s Confessions Tour and appeared on her second greatest hits collection, GHV2. An early demo version of the song believed to be produced with Patrick Leonard titled No Substitute For Love leaked online in the early 2000’s. The demo contains similar lyrics but a completely different musical backing track and melody. The music that was used on the final version of the song was a previously composed instrumental track by William Orbit.

Famous faces, far off places
Trinkets I can buy
No handsome stranger, heady danger
Drug that I can try
No ferris wheel, no heart to steal
No laughter in the dark
No one-night stand, no far-off land
No fire that I can spark

Today in Madonna History: June 11, 1998

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On June 11 1998, Ray of Light became Madonna’s highest debuting single, peaking at number-five in its first week on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.

The title-track from her seventh studio album was present for a total of twenty weeks on the Hot 100, and placed at number seventy-five on the year-end chart. Much of its chart success was due to strong sales, receiving a boost from the inclusion of non-album track, Has To Be, on the b-side of the two-track single, as well as the commercially-released VHS video-single. On the Airplay chart, however, the song fizzled out at number twenty-six due to radio’s tepid support of the single’s unconventional sound. Meanwhile, there was nothing tepid about the response from club DJ’s, with the remixes earning Madonna another number-one on the Hot Dance/Club Play chart where it spent four weeks at the top and seven weeks in the top-five.

Outside the U.S., the Ray of Light single reached number-three in Canada, number-two in the UK, Italy and Finland, and number-one in Spain.

Today in Madonna History: May 12, 1998

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On May 12 1998, Madonna’s Ray of Light video premiered on MTV.

The video was directed by Jonas Åkerlund, with Madonna’s scenes being shot on March 25–26, 1998 at Raleigh Studios and Florentine Gardens nightclub in downtown Los Angeles. The images of various cities include Los Angeles, New York, London, Las Vegas and Stockholm.

The video was ranked No. 40 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Videos, listed No. 1 on Back In… 98’s Top 5 Best Videos, ranked No. 7 on Listed’s Top 40 Memorable Videos Pt. 1 & 2, on MuchMoreMusic, and ranked No. 26 on MuchMusic’s 100 Best Videos. It was ranked at number four on “The Top 100 Videos That Broke The Rules”, issued by MTV on the channel’s 25th anniversary in August 2006.

The video received a total of eight MTV Video Music Awards nominations, becoming Madonna’s second most-nominated video at the award show, after “Vogue” in 1990. It won five awards for Video of the Year, Best Female Video, Best Direction, Best Editing and Best Choreography, becoming her most-winning song at the show.

Today in Madonna History: May 9, 1998

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On May 9 1998, Ray of Light debuted and peaked at #2 on the UK Singles Chart. It was held back from the top spot by another debut entry, All Saints’s double A-side charity single, Under the Bridge/Lady Marmalade.

Ray Of Light was the 68th best-selling song of 1998 in the UK, with the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) certifying it Silver for shipment of 200,000 copies.

Today in Madonna History: May 6, 1998

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On May 6 1998, Ray of Light was released by Maverick Records. The title track from her seventh studio album was issued internationally as the album’s second single.

Ray Of Light is based on a track called Sepheryn by Curtiss Maldoon, and was included on their 1971 self-titled album. In 1996, Christine Leach, Maldoon’s niece, recorded her version of the track with William Orbit. Leach said she had always loved Dave Curtiss and Clive Maldoon’s work and noted that Sepheryn had a dream-like quality. Leach revised the chorus melody while Orbit provided new music for the song. After Madonna heard Leach’s version of the track, she immediately took to it and began reworking its lyrics.

Maldoon said he “couldn’t believe it” after he heard it, and was pleased with what Madonna had done with his original composition. Madonna said about the song: “It’s totally out of control. The original version is well over 10 minutes long. It was completely indulgent, but I loved it. It was heartbreaking to cut it down to a manageable length.”

Madonna’s original unedited version was set to be included on a remix album titled Veronica Electronica that was initially discussed as a follow-up to Ray Of Light, but plans for the collection apparently never made it past the drawing board.

Today in Madonna History: December 31, 1999

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On December 31 1999, the following Madonna videos were included in the Much Music: Top 100 Videos Of The Century includes Express Yourself #3, Ray Of Light #8 and Like A Prayer #47.

Happy New Year! 

Today in Madonna History: December 4, 2007

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On December 4 2007, Warner Bros. released Live Earth: The Concerts for a Climate in Crisis on CD and DVD. The CD included Madonna’s Hey You, while the DVD included her La Isla Bonita performance with Gogol Bordello.

The CD/DVD was released internationally on November 26 and December 4 in North America. Proceeds from the CD/DVD were directed to the Alliance for Climate Protection.

Madonna performed the following songs during the benefit concert:

  • Hey You
  • Ray Of Light
  • La Isla Bonita
  • Hung Up

live-earth-end

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