Madonna – “Something To Remember”
By 1995, Madonna’s career had slumped somewhat, after the colossal success of her 1990 best of “The Immaculate Collection“, sales of her two studio albums “Erotica” (1992) and “Bedtime Stories” (1994) had come nowhere near the double million figures she had been used to in the 1980’s. Critics too were more scrutinising of her output, the musical and lyrical content, the choices made when it came to subject matter and the increasingly often singles that were just missing the charts altogether.
While it had only been five years since her first compilation, Madonna chose for the next chapter to put together a record of ballad and down-tempo songs which had often given her the biggest hits of all. Most recent of those being the number one “Take A Bow”. Madonna herself acknowledged the past half decade within the inlay card of the album, stating:
“So much controversy has swirled around my career this past decade that very little attention ever gets paid to my music. The songs are all but forgotten. While I have no regrets regarding the choices I’ve made artistically, I’ve learned to appreciate the idea of doing things in a simpler way. So without a lot of fanfare, without any distractions, I present to you this collection of ballads. Some are old, some are new. All of them are from my heart…”
1. I Want You
The album opens with one of the new tracks not previously featured on a Madonna album and sees her join forces with British producers Massive Attack, who had already enjoyed unrivalled success with songs like “Unfinished Sympathy” and “Protection”. “I Want You” is a brooding, down-tempo dance track which would of fitted well on the “Erotica” album, save for the orchestral soundtrack which gives it a cinematic quality. In fact you could almost state that this song is a dress rehearsal for her Bond theme that would come seven years later. “I Want You” is not a new song, but a cover of a Marvin Gaye hit from 1976, which made No.15 in America. This new version is coated with Massive Attack’s trademark production while Madonna’s vocals are so beautiful that you almost forget the deep, sexual notes she had been keeping in recent years.
2. I’ll Remember
“I’ll Remember” was a one-off song written for the film ‘With Honors’ and released in early 1994. It bridged the “Erotica” era with the “Bedtime Stories” era that was to follow later that year and proved that Madonna was still capable of producing a heartfelt song without controversy, in the style of her earlier smashes like “Crazy For You” and “Live To Tell”. The single was a huge success too, topping the Canadian chart, making No.2 in America and No.7 in the UK and Australia. It’s appearance here is a highlight and one so early on as well.
3. Take A Bow
Madonna’s most recent US number one, “Take A Bow” came more than two years since her last, which was also a ballad and is featured on this album. Moreover, the lead single from her most recent album, “Secret” as well as “Bedtime Stories” itself had dropped out of the charts almost as soon as it had arrived, so the success of “Take A Bow”, a Latin infused number about lost love, was a welcome boost for album sales at the end of 1994. Once again, a more sensitive vocal is offered by the lead singer as she laments to her former beau, “I’ve always been in love with you…the show is over, say goodbye”. The song was a mid charting single internationally, although if did giver her another chart topper in Canada.
4. You’ll See
Prior to this album’s release, the project was introduced with a brand new track and just to prove to one and all that she still had ‘it’, Madonna teamed up with hitmaker David Foster to produce this epic sounding power ballad. “You’ll See”, as with “I Want You”, has a cinematic quality and enough drama throughout to warrant it being used for a major movie. More Spanish/Latin themes and tones are present here, mostly notably with the guitar that adjoins her vocal from beginning to end and as the drama intensifies, so does Madonna’s passion for giving us a truly splendid performance and a welcome return to form. “You’ll See” was a roaring success, making the top ten in five continents around the world and charting at No.5 in the UK and No.6 in the US.
5. Crazy For You
Arguably Madonna’s greatest and certainly in terms of sales, her most successful down-tempo song of all time, “Crazy For You” is the first track on this album to have already seen inclusion on a previous release, her thirty-million plus selling “Immaculate Collection“, where we discuss this song in more detail.
6. This Used To Be My Playground
Following on from that best of collection and its singles but just before her controversial “Erotica” album, Madonna ‘slipped’ in another sublime, low-key offering with “This Used To Be My Playground”, written and recorded for the film ‘A League Of Their Own’. Surprisingly, she worked on the track with Shep Pettibone, better known for her more dancy numbers like “Express Yourself” and “Vogue“. Once again, the inclusion of strings and an orchestra elevate this song to a distinguished level and having not featured on the studio album that would follow later in 1992, “Playground” makes its debut here. The song took Madonna to the top of the US singles chart once more and the top ten in twenty other countries around the world.
7. Live To Tell
Just as with “Crazy For You”, Madonna’s big hit of early 1986, “Live To Tell”, had already been featured on her 1990 greatest hits album, and is discussed there in more detail.
8. Love Don’t Live Here Anymore
Madonna’s version of Rose Royce’s “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” had been recorded for and featured on her second album, “Like A Virgin” in 1984, although not previously released as a single on its own, it’s inclusion here as a ballad is justified. Unlike the original’s funky-soul sound or British singer Jimmy Nail’s soft rock interpretation, Madonna chose a more R&B sounding version that gave the song a different twist not heard before as well as more commanding vocals, in this “remixed” and updated version, courtesy of producer David Reitzas. This second version, was released as the fourth and ultimately final single from the album in the Spring of 1996 although not on a global scale as with previous singles. It made No.78 in America and only charted in France, Canada, Poland and Australia thereafter.
9. Something To Remember
Madonna reteamed with the man with whom she had registered so many hits in the 1980’s, Patrick Leonard, for the next offering, which would eventually give its name to the title of the album. It had been written and used for the soundtrack of her 1990 film, ‘Dick Tracy’, along with “Vogue” and “Hanky Panky”. It’s a smoky, jazz/blues number using mostly piano and some background strings to set the illusion of a smoke filled bar where Madonna serenades her audience on top of the piano. “Something To Remember” is much a more cultured and refined piece of the “I’m Breathless” album in sharp contrast to the iconic “Vogue” or the ‘naughty’ show tune, “Hanky Panky”, although it does represent a second inclusion on a Madonna album in just five years.
10. Forbidden Love
“Forbidden Love” 1 (not to be confused with “Forbidden Love” 2 from the “Confessions On A Dance Floor” album) was an album track from her “Bedtime Stories” album the previous year and the most laid back of the tracks on that album, sassy and sensual, thanks to co-production from Nellee Hooper and lyrics from Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds, although it’s surprising to see it used here once again, so soon after that album’s release.
11. One More Chance
Madonna’s second new song with David Foster is a more stripped back, acoustic affair than the stupendous “You’ll See” and showcases Madonna’s voice laid bare for all to enjoy and applaud for the sweetness and innocence she offers with this song. No longer the ‘Dieter’ she portrayed in the song “Erotica”, this is Madonna, begging for ‘one more chance’ at love and a future with that someone special. You can hear the raw, heartfelt emotion in the middle eight as she confesses “Here is the lesson I’ve learned, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”. There was and there is no need for heavy instrumentation with this song. The voice is all it needs and represents a standout for Madonna, not just on this album, but career long and justifies this album’s inclusion in any self-respecting fans collection. “One More Chance” was released as the third single in early 1996 internationally and peaked at No.2 in Italy and No.11 in the UK.
From one standout song to another and certainly one of the highlights of the “Erotica” album was this superb and powerful ballad that just cried out to be released as a single. As so it was in 1993, becoming a top ten hit in the UK, Canada, Australia and Italy. “Rain” was a welcome relief at this most talked about time in Madonna’s career and thus, was met with critical approval across the board. Despite having been featured on a recent album and the fact it was a big hit, “Rain” deserves a place here while its sound is more in keeping with a Madonna/Pettibone recording. As Madonna suggests, “never go away…”!
13. Oh Father
Madonna’s fourth single from the “Like A Prayer” album was initially only released in America, Canada and Australia at the end of 1989, while the rest of the world got the joyous “Dear Jessie” for Christmas. Her autobiographical telling of her then fractured relationship with her father was selected by many reviewers as a highlight of the album and a popular song with fans too. The multi-layered and multi-keyed production, which moves into different rooms and styles throughout, completes Madonna’s collection of more accomplished recordings. Its inclusion here led to a wider global release at the end of 1995, when it made the top ten in Italy and Finland and No.16 in the UK.
14. I Want You (orchestral)
The album ends as it began with “I Want You”, this time with just the orchestrals and no heavy bass giving a different slant on this interpretation of Gaye’s disco-funk original.
The album that would become “Something To Remember” saw release two weeks after the lead single, “You’ll See” was revealed. The album would top the charts in Australia, Austria, Finland and Italy and peak at No.3 in the UK and No.6 Stateside. Although successful, as were the singles, its longevity and content have made it the hit it now is. Twenty five years later, the album continues to attract sales, although today those come from digital and streaming figures which have bumped up the physical volumes sold in the second half of the 1990’s.
Initial Platinum certifications have been far surpassed as “Something To Remember” exceeds combined sales of 2.2 million in her home country, 900,000 in the UK, three million across mainland Europe and a global total of ten million. It did accomplish one thing, not just boosting sales of a Madonna album not seen since “The Immaculate Collection”, but by reminding critics and fans around the world that she was still capable of giving a majority something really great and solid and not just catering for a smaller, select group of aficionados.
Madonna stated this album came “without a lot of fanfare, without any distractions”. What was actually conceived and will forever remain is “Something To Remember”.
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