Ray of Light

Ray of Light
Ray of Light Madonna.png
Studio album by Madonna
ReleasedFebruary 22, 1998 (1998-02-22)
RecordedJune–November 1997
StudioLarrabee North Studio
(North Hollywood, California, U.S.)
Madonna chronology
Ray of Light
Singles from Ray of Light
  1. "Frozen"
    Released: February 23, 1998
  2. "Ray of Light"
    Released: May 6, 1998
  3. "Drowned World/Substitute for Love"
    Released: August 24, 1998
  4. "The Power of Good-Bye"
    Released: September 22, 1998
  5. "Nothing Really Matters"
    Released: March 2, 1999

Ray of Light is the seventh studio album by American singer Madonna. It was released in Japan on February 22, 1998 by Maverick and Warner Bros. Records and worldwide on March 3, 1998. After giving birth to her first child, Madonna started working on the album with producers Babyface and Patrick Leonard. Following failed sessions with them, Madonna pursued a new musical direction with English producer William Orbit. The recording process was the longest of Madonna's career and experienced problems with Orbit's hardware arrangement, which would break down, and recording would have to be delayed until they could be repaired.

A departure from her previous work, Ray of Light is an electronica and dance album which incorporates multiple genres, including ambient, trip hop and Middle Eastern music. Vocally, the album saw Madonna sing with greater breadth and a fuller tone. Mystical themes are also strongly present in both the music and lyrics, as a result of Madonna embracing Kabbalah, her study of Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as her daily practice of Ashtanga Yoga.

The album received universal acclaim with reviews commending the singer's new musical direction. Called her "most adventurous" record, Ray of Light has been noted for its introspective, spiritual nature; reviewers also praised Madonna's vocals. Ray of Light won four Grammy Awards from a total of six nominations. Commercially, the album peaked at number one in many countries, such as Australia, Canada, Germany, Poland and the United Kingdom. On the US Billboard 200, the album debuted and peaked at number two, with the biggest first week sales by a female artist at the time. Ray of Light has sold more than 16 million copies worldwide.

Five singles were released from the album, including the international hits "Frozen" and "Ray of Light". The album's promotion was later supported by the Drowned World Tour in 2001. Academics have noted the album's influence on popular music, and how it introduced electronica and mysticism into mainstream pop culture. They also noted Madonna's musical re-invention which helped her remain contemporary among the teen-marketed artists of the period. Ray of Light is frequently cited by music critics as one of the greatest albums of all time.[1]


Madonna performing the album's opening track, "Drowned World/Substitute for Love", on the 2006 Confessions Tour

Following the release of her compilation album Something to Remember (1995), Madonna started taking vocal lessons in preparation for her role in Evita (1996). She also gave birth to her daughter, Lourdes, the same year. These events inspired a period of introspection. "That was a big catalyst for me. It took me on a search for answers to questions I'd never asked myself before," she said to Q magazine, in 2002.[2] During the same period, she embraced Kabbalah and started studying Hinduism and yoga, all of which helped her "step outside [myself] and see the world from a different perspective."[2] Madonna felt that there was a "whole piece" of her voice left unused, which she decided to utilize for the album.[2] By May 1997, Madonna had started writing songs for the album. She began collaborating with Babyface, who had first worked with her on her previous album Bedtime Stories (1994). The two wrote a couple of songs together before Madonna decided the collaborations were not going in the musical direction she wanted for the album. According to Babyface, the songs "had a 'Take a Bow-ish' kind of vibe, and Madonna didn't want, or need, to repeat herself."[3]

After abandoning the songs she had written with Babyface, Madonna turned to musician Rick Nowels, who had previously co-written songs with Stevie Nicks and Celine Dion. The collaboration produced seven songs in nine days, but those songs also did not display the album's future electronic musical direction.[3] Three of the songs, "The Power of Good-Bye", "To Have and Not to Hold" and "Little Star", appear on the album.[3] Madonna then began writing songs with Leonard, who had produced many songs for Madonna in the late 1980s. Unlike her previous albums, Leonard's song writing collaborations were accompanied by very little studio input. Madonna believed that Leonard's production "would have lent the songs more of a Peter Gabriel vibe", a sound that she did not want for the album.[3] Guy Oseary, chairman of Maverick Records, then phoned British electronic musician William Orbit, and suggested that he send some songs to Madonna.[2] Orbit sent a 13-track digital audio tape to Madonna. "I was a huge fan of William's earlier records, Strange Cargo 1 and 2 and all that. I also loved all the remixes he did for me and I was interested in fusing a kind of futuristic sound but also using lots of Indian and Moroccan influences and things like that, and I wanted it to sound old and new at the same time," Madonna said.[2]

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