On November 28 1998, Madonna’s The Power Of Good-Bye hit #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart in the USA. The hit single from Ray Of Light was written by Madonna and Rick Nowels; produced by Madonna, William Orbit and Patrick Leonard.
Rick Nowels had this to say about his experience writing the song with Madonna:
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 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
On August 10 1998, Matthew Rolston wrapped up the 3-day shoot for Madonna’s The Power of Good-Bye music video. The video was shot in Los Angeles and Malibu Beach, California.
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 March 13 1999, Madonna’s The Power of Good-Bye, fell to #63 on the Billboard Hot 100 Single Sales chart, spending its final week on the chart (after 22 weeks).
The Power of Good-Bye was written by Madonna and Rick Nowels. The song was produced by Madonna, William Orbit, Patrick Leonard with string arrangements by Craig Armstrong.
Rick said this of the hit song:
“The lyrics to The Power Of Good-Bye are stunning. I love Madonna as an artist and a songwriter… She is a wonderful confessional songwriter, as well as being a superb hit chorus pop writer… She doesn’t get the credit she deserves as a writer.”