Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
Madonna's Electronic Music Pioneering 'Ray Of Light': For The Record
What songs come to mind when you think about Madonna? "Like A Virgin"? "Like A Prayer"? "Vogue"? "Open Your Heart"? How about "Ray Of Light"? The evocative singer/songwriter's rule-breaking seventh studio album, Ray Of Light, proved to be a pivotal one, both for Madonna and for the music world.
Released worldwide March 3, 1998, Ray Of Light offered a different side of Madonna. After trying — and ultimately failing — to get something going with producers Babyface and Patrick Leonard, Madonna turned to English producer William Orbit, who helped her turn over a new musical leaf.
Madonna recorded the album shortly following the birth of her first child, Lourdes, which led her to tap into her spiritual side, including Buddhist and Hinduist influences on songs such as "Nothing Really Matters." She refocused her vocal tone and brought in elements from a wide range of genres, such as techno, ambient, trip-hop, and Middle Eastern music — all fused with an electronic sound.
"This record takes me back to where I started — in a club right in the middle of a dance floor," she told Billboard in 1998. "It's full circle, except I'm so different now."
Whenever an artist makes a major musical departure, they're taking a risk. In Madonna's case, that risk paid off. Ray Of Light landed at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and critics hailed her new sound, revitalizing her career for a new generation of fans deep in the '90s. The album is also credited with bringing electronic music into global pop culture.
"I like risk, and — like with Ray Of Light — when someone wants to make an artistic statement and be bold and experimental, that's when [music is] exciting," Orbit said in a recent interview.
Ray Of Light also hit it big at the 41st GRAMMY Awards, where it earned Madonna a total of five nominations, including for Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year for the title track. At the end of the night, Madonna won Best Pop Album and the title track took home Best Dance Recording and Best Short Form Music Video.