Twenty-five years ago, Madonna’s album Ray of Light was released. Madonna, who also co-produced and co-wrote some of the songs on the album, was enjoying a career high, following the release of Bedtime Stories and her Golden Globe win for the film version of Evita.
After a few aborted starts, Madonna ended up collaborating with William Orbit, and created an album that mixes electronica and trip-hop with other ballad and dance sensibilities, as well as a more ethereal approach to songwriting (she had recently become a mother to Lourdes while working on the album).
The album’s debut single, “Frozen,” a string-heavy song that included a level-headed, mature approach to facing life (“You’re frozen/ when you’re heart’s not open” is certainly more sophisticated than “Open your heart/ I’ll make you love me/ It’s not that hard/ If you just turn the key”). But the second single, the album’s title track, proved to be an unstoppable crossover. A club track about being free with an energetic video, “Ray of Light” is in many ways a direct contrast to “Frozen:” one is about being hard, the other about being easy. The video won that year’s big prize at the MTV Awards.
Overall, the album received six Grammy nominations in 1999. It lost the big two – “Ray of Light” for Record of the Year (“My Heart Will Go On” – a song which Madonna herself had announced as the previous year’s Best Song at the Oscars – won) and Album of the Year (which went to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill). But it won four others: the album won Best Pop Album and Best Recording Package, and “Ray of Light” won Best Dance Recording and Best Short Form Music Video.
Other tracks of note on the album include “Nothing Really Matters,” “The Power of Goodbye,” “Sky Fits Heaven,” and “Little Star,” a tribute to Lourdes. The album is a masterpiece, and well worth a revisit.