Today in Madonna History: April 8, 1999

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On April 8 1999, American TV newsmagazine Entertainment Tonight (aka ET) revealed the title of the new song Madonna had recorded for the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack: Beautiful Stranger.

Beautiful Stranger launched to radio in mid-May and quickly became a sizeable summertime hit along with the Maverick Records issued soundtrack album which landed in North American record stores on June 1st, 1999.

Today in Madonna History: April 6, 1998

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On April 6 1998, an exclusive studio performance of Frozen was broadcast during the Hey! Music Awards II on Fuji-TV in Japan. Madonna was also honoured with an award during the ceremony, and offered the taped performance and acceptance speech in lieu of attendance.

Today in Madonna History: March 13, 1999

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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.”

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

Today in Madonna History: February 23, 1998

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On February 23 1998, Frozen was released by Maverick records as the lead single from Madonna’s seventh studio album, Ray of Light. The song was written by Madonna & Patrick Leonard and was produced by Madonna, Leonard & William Orbit.

Madonna has mentioned that she considers Frozen as part of a thematic trilogy with The Power Of Good-Bye and To Have And Not To Hold. In an interview with Barry Walters for Spin magazine, Madonna commented on the inspiration behind the song:

“I was so obsessed with the movie The Sheltering Sky and that whole Moroccan/orchestral/super-romantic/man-carrying-the-woman-he-loves-across-the-desert vibe. So I told [Patrick Leonard] that I wanted something with a tribal feel, something really lush and romantic. When he started playing some music, I just turned the DAT on and started free-associating and came up with the melody.”

Initially unsure of which song should be released as the album’s first single, Madonna was eventually convinced by Warner Bros. executives that Frozen would be a perfect way to bridge the Adult Contemporary leanings of her most recent hits (Take A Bow, You’ll See and the singles from Evita) with the more cutting-edge, electronic sounds of Ray Of Light.

Today in Madonna History: September 22, 1998

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On September 22 1998, The Power of Good-Bye was released as the third North American single from the Ray Of Light album. It was the fourth single in international markets that opted to release Drowned World/Substitute For Love as the album’s third single.

In the UK, the release was promoted as a double A-side single with Little Star.

The Power Of Good-Bye was written by Madonna & Rick Nowels and was produced by Madonna, William Orbit & Patrick Leonard. An earlier demo version of the track, believed to have been produced by Madonna & Leonard prior to Orbit’s involvement in the project, leaked in 2002.

Today in Madonna History: June 23, 1998

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On June 23 1998, the music video for Ray of Light was released by Warner Reprise Video as a limited edition video single of 40,000 VHS copies. It sold 7,381 copies within its first month of release, becoming one of the best-selling video singles of the Nielsen SoundScan era. Madonna’s previous video single release, Justify My Love, which predated SoundScan, was certified quadruple-Platinum by the RIAA (for shipment of over 200,000 copies).

The reason behind Ray of Light being issued as a video single were twofold. Madonna was very pleased with the outcome of her first collaboration with director Jonas Åkerlund and her record company felt that there would be enough interest to warrant its commercial release. Secondly, Warner’s marketing team correctly sensed that the song’s then-experimental sound would be a tough sell at radio, so the decision was made to pull out all the stops to ensure the release outperformed on the sales chart. Another prong in this strategy was the inclusion of album outtake Has To Be as the b-side to the two-track single, while excluding it from the maxi-single in an attempt to persuade fans to purchase the single in multiple formats. The strategy proved successful, with the song’s number-five debut and peak on the Billboard Hot 100 mainly due to its sales strength. According to Billboard, the music video single boosted its first-week sales by roughly 7%, helping it to secure its place in the top-five.

Shortly after Ray of Light‘s release as a video single, Billboard magazine published an article musing on whether renewed interest in the relatively obscure format could ever prove lucrative for the music industry. A video buyer for a major retail chained remarked:

“Madonna’s Ray of Light video single is a success because she has a fervent fan base. There are very few artists with videos that consistently get people’s attention, but Madonna is one of those artists. It’s too early to tell if there’s a true market for video singles. Right now, it seems like record companies are trying video singles to see what happens. I think we’re going to see the lines becoming more blurred in how audio and video singles are marketed.”

Indeed. Within the next five years (and two Madonna video singles later), the emergence of online file sharing would obliterate the physical singles market in North America, and video streaming sites would soon spell an end to the prospect of marketing music video singles as a physical format. In digital form, however, music video singles may be selling in larger numbers than ever due to increased availability through iTunes. Strangely, however, sales of music videos through iTunes are not reported to Billboard and no longer count towards a single’s chart position (reportedly due to iTunes’ monopoly on digital sales of the format), while streams of music videos through sites like YouTube and Vevo are used in Billboard’s chart methodology.