On this day: Feb.21: Madonna performs 'Frozen' at the BBC National Lottery Show

BBC National Lottery Show

February 21, 1998

Madonna performs at the BBC National Lottery Show - Madonna performs "Frozen" during the BBC National Lottery Show (UK)


Single by Madonna
From the album Ray of Light

B-side: "Shanti/Ashtangi"
Released: February 23, 1998
Format: CD · cassette · 7" · 12"
Recorded: 1997
Genre: Electronic
Length: 6:12
Label: Maverick · Warner Bros.
Writer(s): Madonna · Patrick Leonard
Producer(s): Madonna · William Orbit · Patrick Leonard

"Frozen" is a song by American singer-songwriter Madonna, from her seventh studio album Ray of Light (1998). It was released as the lead single from the album on February 23, 1998, by Maverick Records. The song was also included on the compilation albums GHV2 (2001) and Celebration (2009). "Frozen" was written by Madonna and Patrick Leonard, and it was produced in collaboration with William Orbit. Musically constructed as an mid-tempo electronic ballad, "Frozen" talks about a cold and emotionless human being. In 2005, a judge in Belgium ruled that "Frozen" was plagiarized from a song by Salvatore Acquaviva, and was ultimately banned from the region. However, this ruling was overturned in 2014, lifting the Belgium ban on the song. In 2009, Madonna sang the song at a show in Werchter, Belgium.
"Frozen" received critical acclaim from music critics, some of whom deemed it an album standout. It was described as being a masterpiece, and its melodic beat and sound were defined as "cinematic". The song was a worldwide chart success, peaking at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming Madonna's sixth number-two single and the artist with most number-two hits in the history of that chart, while it reached number one on the Hot Dance Club Play chart. It ultimately peaked at number one in the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Finland, and also within the top-five in other countries, such as Australia, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland.
The accompaining music video for "Frozen" was directed by Chris Cunningham in a desert in California, portraying Madonna as an ethereal Gothic witchy, melancholy persona, shapeshifting into a flock of birds and a black dog. The music video received a MTV Video Music Award for "Best Special Effects" in 1998. To promote Ray of Light, she singer performed the song in several occasions including on Wetten dass..?. Additionally, it was included in three of Madonna's concert tours. "Frozen" has been covered by a number of artists, such as Talisman and Thy Disease. The song was included as a background music on the TV series Glee.

After Madonna gave birth to her daughter Lourdes, in 1996, she enrolled in Kabbalah and started studying Hinduism and yoga, all of which helped her "step outside [myself] and see the world from a different perspective." The singer was inspired by these activities, as she began introspecting herself.. "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. During the same year, Madonna began writing and producing Ray of Light with British electronic musician William Orbit. "I was a huge fan of William's earlier records. [...] 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. When asked about its producing process, she said,
I was so obsessed with the movie The Sheltering Sky and that whole Morrocan/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 [digital audio tape] on and started free-associating and came up with the melody.
A low quality snippet of "Frozen" was leaked by fans on January 23, 1998, after it debuted on radio in Singapore, and posted it on the Internet. They said they knew what they were doing was wrong, but that they hoped it would simply generate interest from Madonna. The song was played on the US radios, including the WKTU New York radio. Warner Bros. Records enlisted the Recording Industry Association of America's Anti-Piracy Unit to delete the Internet downloads to the song. Erik Bradley, musical director of Chicago B96, classified "Frozen" as a "the mark of a smash. Clearly, American pop radio needs Madonna", after his station leaked it in the United States. According to Jon Uren, marketing director of Warner Music Europe, the song also had "fantastic" early support across Europe. Shortly after the song leaked, a remix version of "Frozen" was broadcast by the BBC website, and also was previewed on the soundtrack at the 1998 Versace fashion spring parade.


"Frozen" is a mid-tempo electronic ballad which has a layered sound enhanced by synthesizers and strings, arranged by Craig Armstrong. It was composed using common time in the key of F minor, with a moderate tempo of 102 beats per minute. "Frozen" has a basic sequence of Fm–D♯–C♯–D♯ as its chord progression. The chorus, however, has the chord progression of Fm–B♭m–C♯–G♯. Madonna's vocals range from the lower octave of F3 to the higher note of A♭4.
The song begins with austere, classical strings while the chord progression emphasizes tonic, submediant and flattened leading-tone chords. For the second phrase, which includes a dramatic crescendo, rhythm and ambient electronic effects are added gradually. Santiago Fouz-Hernández and Freya Jarman-Ivens, authors from Madonna's Drowned Worlds, commented that the song is strongly inspired by different forms of classical music, notably contemporary classical music such as neoromanticism, as well as Italian opera composers and pieces such as Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Verdi's Aïda. Madonna's vocals throughout the song lack vibrato, and have drawn comparisons to medieval music.
Lyrically, the song is about a cold and emotionless man. In the first verse, Madonna enters in a medium range, 'You only see what your eyes want to see'. In the chorus, dance rhythm and ambient sounds are added. In the second verse, more visceral lyrics are added, like 'Love is a bird, she needs to fly'. During the bridge, a broad, string lines provide instrumental commentary on the lyrics. The song ends with a string ostinato that simply fades away, without fully resolving to the tonic chord. In an interview with The New York Times, Madonna commented that the lyrics to "Frozen" is built around "Retaliation, revenge, hate, regret, that's what I deal with in "Frozen". Everyone's going to say, 'That's a song about Carlos' [her ex-boyfriend], but it's not really; it's just about people in general".

Plagiarism case

In November 2005, a Belgian judge seated in Mons ruled that the opening four-bar theme to "Frozen" was plagiarized from the song "Ma vie fout le camp" ("My Life's Getting Nowhere"), composed by Salvatore Acquaviva. The judge subsequently ordered the withdrawal from sales of all remaining discs, and forbade any further playing of the song on Belgian TV and radio. The judge also ordered Warner Bros., EMI and Sony to spread the decision within fifteen days to media outlets on pain of a penalty of €125,000 for non-compliance with the court order. Acquaviva's lawyer, Victor Vicent Dehin, said: "We tried to reach a friendly agreement... but they didn't want to negotiate so I sued for plagiarism. They have stolen a song, so they have to pay the value of the song." No award damages for the song were granted. Salvatore Acquaviva had explained to the court that Madonna heard "Ma vie fout l'camp" during a trip to Mouscron in late 1970s. She had been recruited to be a dancer during a tour with French singer Patrick Hernandez, whose discs were produced in Mouscron. Dehin also stated that the lawsuit was just the first step, and the next discussion would be about the copyright gains Madonna obtained with "Frozen". Subsequently, the song was omitted from the tracklisting on the Belgian pressings of Celebration in 2009. However, Madonna performed the song during the Sticky & Sweet Tour in Werchter, with Bert Bieseman, marketing manager of Belgian branch of Warner Bros. stating that "Madonna is not afraid of a more or less riot". Acquaviva commented about the case:
Madonna planning to perform "Frozen" in Werchter? I didn't expect anything else, you know. I don't even mind. It just would be nice because I would finally get some money after all these years, because the case is still going on. I'm certainly not going to the concert. My lawyer is following the case. I'm really going to follow Madonna's concert with interest, because she really can't perform the song. Yet, I think we won't immediately take steps. The court's decision is subject to various interpretations. The song can't be played on the radio or be sold, but have we arguments enough for the concert to be over? We won't bring additional spectacle to the show. Unnecessary scandals, with Madonna it's guaranteed.
In February 2014, a Belgian court revealed the verdict on the case and proclaimed that Madonna did not plagiarize Acquaviva's work for "Frozen". The court spoke of a "new capital offense" in the file: composer Edouard Scotto Di Suoccio and societies Tabata Atoll Music and Music in Paris had also filed a complaint for plagiarism. According to them, both "Ma vie fout le camp" and "Frozen" originated in the song "Blood Night" which they composed in 1983. After all three tracks in the case were compared, the final ruling was that the songs were "not sufficiently 'original' to claim" that any plagiarism had taken place. This ruling ended the eight year ban of the song that was in place in Belgium since 2005.

Music video

Directed by Chris Cunningham, the music video for "Frozen" was filmed at the Mojave Desert in California during January 7–10, 1998. Madonna thought that there are a lot of magical, mystical powers in the desert and that it is a magical place to be. It was inspired by the film The English Patient and Martha Graham's work. The music video premiered on February 16, 1998 on MTV at 4 p.m. The black goth gown outfit Madonna wears on the video was designed by Olivier Theyskens, and provided by then-new collaborator, designer Arianne Phillips. In an interview with MTV News, Cunningham stated about his work with Madonna, saying that he thought Madonna became interested to work with him after seeing his Aphex Twin-directed music video, "Come to Daddy" (1997). Madonna stated that she and her team thought of filming the video in Iceland, as the idea to the video was to go someplace cold and where there is snow, but declined the idea. She thought:
'You know what, I'm going to be freezing. I'm going to be miserable, I'll be complaining all day, I'll be sorry that I ever chose a cold place. So I said, 'Let's do it in the desert, it'll be warm,' and it would be sort of the opposite, because even though you think of deserts as being hot, they're still sort of frozen in terms of there's no vegetation and they're very desolate. I thought that that would still work as a visual, but then we got there and it was like 20 degrees below zero, it was bitterly cold, and I was barefoot. I was barefoot for the entire video, and then it started pouring rain and everyone got really sick, and it just actually turned out to be a really miserable experience.

The video introduces a sober, contemplative side of Madonna, revealing a mature mysticism. It begins with the camera skimming along a cracked, desiccated desert floor, and within seconds Madonna appears, sprawled on the ground wearing a black dress. Her hands are covered with mehndi and an enigmatic symbol on one palm. In the video she slowly gestures and sways her arms toward the sky in the video, desperately pleading to her cold lover cited in the song. At one point Madonna falls, and as she hits the ground, she transforms into a flock of large, dark birds. Later, she transforms into a black dog. Three Madonnas also appear walking and crawling amid the desert throughout the video. As the song progresses, the sky darkens, and Madonna levitates from the ground. Her form then changes to a shiny black liquid, which runs along the desert floor and appears to be absorbed by the tattooed hands of another Madonna, who is curled up on the crenellated ground. The video ends with a desperate and melancholy Madonna.
Jim Glauner from MTV News commented that from the first scene from the video, the viewer discovers that this is not "Holiday" (1983). Matthias Groß of Madonna On the Couch: A psychoanalytic view on Madonna's music videos, argumented that it is interesting to look at the video as a dream, and noted that in the video, Madonna was presented as a witch or an uncanny creature, by the technique of the central perspective. He concluded that the viewers find themselves in control of their view, of the situation in general, and are conveyed the impression to follow a realistic depiction of a mere melancholic woman in the desert, according to him. Henry Keazor and Thorsten Wübbena of Rewind, Play, Fast Forward: The Past, Present and Future of the Music Video said that the large panels of cloth that gather and wind around Madonna gain an even more obvious independent movement quality. Billboard considered it Madonna's third best video noting that it "conveys the song's bleak heartbreak perfectly" with Madonna's persona in the video.

Critical reception

"Frozen" was generally acclaimed by music critics. Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine gave the song a positive review, praising its production and claiming it was "one of the great pop masterpieces of the 1990s. Its lyrics are uncomplicated but its statement is grand." David Browne from Entertainment Weekly had said the song was a "wuthering-beats melodrama that's often breathtaking." Billboard's Paul Verna described the song as "smashing". In a separate review, Larry Flick called it a "stunning foray into the realm of electronica [which] [...] underground purists and unwavering popstars will equally applaud". Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone commented positively about the "arctic melancholy" of the song. Stephen Thompson from the The A.V. Club approved the song's melodic beat and the sound, but he did dismiss the lyrics. The Baltimore Sun's J.D. Considine called it a word-focused, emotionally nuanced ballad. Jon Pareles from The New York Times was impressed how Madonna, dulcet and careful, performed the song. Joan Anderman from The Boston Globe said that on Ray of Light, only "Frozen" achieves a "state of divine balladry", recalls the "emotional pitch" and simmers the "beauty of 1986's 'Live to Tell' with a dark, lush string section, the smash and patter of a lone drum, and an ominous, pulsing buzz".
Bryan Lark, writing for The Michigan Daily, called the song "gorgeous" and one of the album's best tracks, along with "The Power of Good-Bye". He further commented that both songs prove that she still likes to get into the groove, and explain why this is a techno album and not part of the "Moods" series. Sputnikmusic gave the song a positive review, impressed by how "interesting percussion backing, beautiful use of strings with techno effects and Madonna at her soothing best". Stephen Sears from Idolator noted that Madonna has a history of releasing albums with "killer singles" as "Frozen", and commented that "Not since 'Live To Tell' had a Madonna ballad carried such emotional weight — and this time it was done with a new level of sonic grandeur". Jose F. Thomas from Allmusic rated the song two stars out of five, describing the song as "chilly".
In 2003, Madonna fans were asked to vote for their "Top 20 Madonna singles of all-time", by Q magazine. "Frozen" was allocated the number ten spot on the list. Billboard also allocated "Frozen" at number 25 on a list containing Madonna's 40 hits, stating that the song marked a sonic change in Madonna's career. Rolling Stone also ranked the song as Madonna's sixth best song of all time according to a readers' poll, saying that the song is "striking the perfect balance of pop accessibility, sophisticated balladry and cutting-edge electronic textures". VH1's Mark Graham included "Frozen" on his list of his favorite songs from Madonna at number 36. Bill Lamb from About.com also ranked the song as Madonna's 31st best song. (Wiki)

Track listings and formats

US 7" vinyl / CD Single / UK cassette single
1."Frozen" (Album Version) – 6:10
2."Shanti/Ashtangi" – 4:29
US 12" promo vinyl
1."Frozen" (William Orbit Widescreen Mix) – 6:34
2."Frozen" (William Orbit Drumapella) – 5:15
3."Frozen" (Victor Calderone Drumapella) – 5:09

US 12" vinyl
1."Frozen" (Album Version) – 6:10
2."Frozen" (Stereo MC's Remix) – 5:45
3."Frozen" (Extended Club Mix) – 11:17
4."Frozen" (Meltdown Mix) – 8:09
US promo CD single
1."Frozen" (Radio Edit) – 5:08
2."Frozen" (Album Version) – 6:10
3."Frozen" (Call Out Research Hook)
US promo CD single
1."Frozen" (Stereo MC's Remix Edit) – 4:52
2."Frozen" (Extended Club Mix Edit) – 4:55
3."Frozen" (Radio Edit) – 5:08

US CD Maxi-single
1."Frozen" (Album Version) – 6:10
2."Frozen" (Stereo MC's Remix) – 5:45
3."Frozen" (Extended Club Mix) – 11:17
4."Frozen" (Meltdown Mix) – 8:09
European 12" vinyl
1."Frozen" (Extended Club Mix) – 11:17
2."Frozen" (Stereo MC's Remix) – 5:45
3."Frozen" (Meltdown Mix) – 8:09
European promo CD single
1."Frozen" (Radio Edit) – 5:08
2."Frozen" (Album Version) – 6:10
UK CD single / Japanese CD Maxi-single
1."Frozen" (Album Version) – 6:10
2."Frozen" (Stereo MC's Remix) – 5:45
3."Frozen" (Meltdown Mix) – 8:09
4."Frozen" (Extended Club Mix) – 11:17
5."Frozen" (Widescreen Mix) – 6:33




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