Today in Madonna History: September 15, 2014

On September 15 2014, Vice magazine’s blog THUMP published an article in which Stuart Price recalled his time spent collaborating with Madonna on her 2005 album, Confessions On A Dance Floor:

“Right before we made Confessions on a Dance Floor, I had made a record with a girl named Juliet [2005’s Random Order]; we had made that album over Thanksgiving in New York, when the city was completely dead, and it was just the two of us concentrating on working on it. [I went] straight from that to Madonna, and I assumed that would be a much different experience, but she completely surprised me.

The real eye-opener was about how focused she was on avoiding the kind of over-the-top, excessive, entourage-in-the-studio environment that I had expected. It was the total opposite, really. She helped to create an environment where we were like two kids working together in a studio. It was exactly the same feeling as it was when I was working with Juliet. She was really… I don’t want to say ‘smart,’ but she was really honest about music. She’s really instinctive in understanding that dance music comes from a very minimal way of working. It doesn’t come from throwing lots of money on a lavish production.

We spent five or six weeks in my apartment; the studio used to be upstairs in the loft. I would work on a track overnight, then she would come in and we’d start messing around. She would do vocal melodies and I would come up with a few ideas, and then she’d go, ‘Okay, I’m gonna go home and think about it.’ Then she’d come back the next day and have the hook for Hung Up or the chorus for Sorry. Then I would carry on working on more tracks to keep us going. It was more of a really fluid and almost childlike environment than anything that seemed too serious.

They always say that an album sounds like the time that you had making it. I know that with that album, it was a super-productive time, but it was also really fun and natural. And I think that comes across in the way it sounds.

It’s surprising that Madonna has such a simple work mode. I would have expected her to come in with her full entourage and play the diva, at least to some extent.

Well, don’t get me wrong—I think in a lot of parts of her life, she is the big-entourage person. But when it comes to being creative, she’s unexpectedly low-key. She’s great to work with, and I really mean that.”

Today in Madonna History: September 11, 2000

On September 11 2000, Madonna’s Music single hit #1 on the Top Canadian Singles chart in RPM magazine. The single spent an incredible nine weeks at #1 on the chart, making it Madonna’s biggest hit during the RPM chart era in Canada.

Music also holds the distinction of being the final song ever to reach the top of the RPM Top Canadian Singles chart, as the magazine ceased publication during the song’s ninth week at #1. RPM served as the voice of the Canadian music industry and its official chart authority for over thirty-five years.

Madonna’s Music album also hit #1 on RPM’s Top Albums chart during the first two weeks of October, 2000.

In an unusual move, Warner Canada chose to issue the Music single commercially in three different CD configurations: a two-track with non-album b-side Cyberraga, a standard CD maxi-single with full-length remixes, and finally as a set of remix edits – something that would more commonly be reserved for radio in promo-only form.

Both the song and much of the album of the same title bore the fruit of Madonna’s first collaboration with French electronic artist, Mirwais Ahmadzaï. His second solo album, Production, released a few months earlier, featured Madonna’s Paradise (Not For Me) – which would also resurface on Music.

Mirwais worked with Madonna collaborators Jean-Baptiste Mondino (Naïve Song) and Stéphane Sednaoui (Disco Science & I Can’t Wait) on music videos for the Production album, while the latter director also photographed its cover. Madonna, meanwhile, selected Mondino to shoot the cover of her Music album and to direct the video for its second single (Don’t Tell Me).

Several years before directing her Fever video, Sednaoui first captured Madonna as a photographer on the set of the Justify My Love video – directed by Mondino.

Today in Madonna History: August 29, 1987

On August 29 1987, Madonna’s Who’s That Girl single reached #1 on the Canadian Top 100 Singles chart by RPM magazine.

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. The scenes filmed consisted of Madonna in the character of her Sex book alter-ego, Dita, miming the lyrics to the song. The remainder of the video consisted of 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 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: August 14, 1984

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On August 14 1984, Madonna’s self-titled debut album was certified platinum by the RIAA to commemorate U.S. sales of more than one-million copies.

The album would eventually be certified five times platinum in the U.S.

Today in Madonna History: August 5, 2008

On August 5 2008, Madonna’s Give It 2 Me was released as an eight track CD maxi-single by Warner Bros. Records in the U.S. It included amazing club remixes by Eddie Amador, Paul Oakenfold, Fedde Le Grand, Tong & Spoon, Jody den Broeder, and a ragga mix by Sly & Robbie.

The single was also issued in the U.S. as a double-vinyl 12-inch set, a 12-inch vinyl picture disc and as a double-vinyl 7-inch set coupled with her previous single, 4 Minutes. Though no Canadian pressings of the single were issued, the U.S. CD maxi-single was distributed to Canadian retailers with a Warner Music Canada special import sticker.

Give It 2 Me was the second single from Hard Candy. It was written by Madonna & Pharrell Williams with production by Madonna & The Neptunes.

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