Ray Of Light (Stems)


"Ray of Light" is the title track from Madonna's seventh studio album Ray of Light (1998), and was released as the album's second single on May 6, 1998, by Maverick Records. The song was also included on the compilation albums GHV2 (2001) and Celebration (2009). Written by Madonna, William Orbit, Clive Maldoon, Dave Curtiss, Christine Leach, and produced by Madonna and Orbit, "Ray of Light" is based on Curtiss Maldoon's "Sepheryn" and is an electronic dance song with techno, trance, Eurodance, and disco influences, "Ray of Light" contains several sound effects such as whistles, bleeps and bells, the usage of electric guitar, and underlying synths. Lyrically, the song has a theme of freedom.
The song has received critical acclaim by music critics, for its club-friendly, electronic sound, lyrics, and "emotional warmth". The song was also nominated for three Grammy Awards; for Record of the Year, Best Dance Recording, and Best Short Form Music Video, winning the last two. "Ray of Light" debuted and peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Madonna's highest debut on the chart to date. It also reached number one on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart. Internationally, the song reached the top five in Canada, Finland, Italy and the United Kingdom, and peaked at number one in Scotland and Spain.
An accompanying music video for "Ray of Light" was directed by Jonas Åkerlund and shows scenes from different cities around the world, with Madonna singing the song in front of them. The video was critically acclaimed, receiving the Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video, as well as winning five awards at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards. Later, Stefano Salvati accused her of plagiarizing the concept of a music video he directed for Biagio Antonacci in 1994. The song has been performed in three of Madonna's concert tours, most recently on her Sticky & Sweet Tour (2008–09). It has been covered by a number of artists, and has been featured in several elements of popular culture, such as on the FOX show Glee, as well as different advertising campaigns.

The music video for "Ray of Light" was directed by Jonas Åkerlund, who had previously shot the controversial clip for the song "Smack My Bitch Up" (1997) by The Prodigy. Madonna had been planning the video for "Ray of Light" from the time she was filming the clip for previous single "Frozen" in the Mojave Desert. "Smack My Bitch Up" was her current favorite and she enlisted Åkerlund. Madonna stated that when she makes an album, she "puts [her] soul on it", but a music video is a lot more working with a director. With the Ray of Light album, she wanted to have videos with fresh expression, and hence wanted to collaborate with new directors. She liked Åkerlund's "special way of working" and spoke with him over the telephone. Their conversations continued for over six months, and most of the time was spent coming with a final concept for the clip. Åkerlund said in an interview with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet:
    I had two ideas that did not fit the song. She said no even though I had a very clear idea of how she would look in the video. I worked up on another idea and brought together a featured band for her to see. I did it all in front of me. In retrospect, it feels good, the video we have done much better suited to the track than the first ideas. Madonna has an incredible track on everything she is doing. Style, music, business — she has a mental track of every single thing and won't give up until she is completely satisfied. And on music videos there is nothing she does with one hand on her back — she's engaged to one hundred percent.
According to the singer, the clip portrays "a day in the life of the earth to show that we are rushing forward to the end of the 1900s century at full speed. I think Jonas made an excellent interpretation of the song, although he forced me to dance like crazy for two days. He's a tough director". Inspiration came from the 1982 American experimental film, Koyaanisqatsi, which showed time-lapse footage of cities. Madonna's scenes were shot in early April 1998 at MTV's Times Square studios in New York and Los Angeles. Background scenes were shot in various cities such as Los Angeles, New York, London, Las Vegas, and Stockholm. Test shots taken in Stockholm were presented to Madonna, for conveying the idea behind the clip, but they were deemed good to be used in the final product.
During filming Åkerlund was accompanied by three of his Swedish employees, photographer Henrik Halvarsson, production designer Mattias Lindgren, and editor Max Vitali. Madonna's daughter Lourdes was also present on set. Åkerlund remembered that one day after the filming he got a call from Mick Jagger for directing the new music video for The Rolling Stones, however he had to decline since "Ray of Light" consumed all his time. They filmed for over 14 days, during which he fit the crew in one car, found an angle for the 35 mm camera and just waited as the shots were taken one by one. He had to carry a diagram in his pocket for the whole time, which had all the plans for every frame they shot. Every ten seconds they captured one frame and continued for half-an-hour to get around five seconds of footage, resulting in "Ray of Light" being the longest shoot ever for a music video for Åkerlund. They also mounted the camera on a bus and rode around New York capturing the scenes. Madonna insisted that the video should be edited in Los Angeles, since during the "Frozen" video she had a number of back and forth with director Chris Cunningham (who was in London editing), a process she did not want to repeat. This meant that Åkerlund and his team had to live in the United States for the whole duration. They lived in a hotel, ate take-away Chinese food and finished the clip. All the footage ended up in the actual video, since every scene was sped up and the song was long.
Weekly charts (1998)
Peak position:
1: US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)
5: US Billboard Hot 100
4: US Music Videos (Billboard)
13: US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)
32: US Rhythmic (Billboard)
39: US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)
9: European Hot 100 Singles (Music & Media)
2: UK Singles (Official Charts Company)
Year-end charts (1998)
1: US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)
47: UK Singles (Official Charts Company)
75: US Billboard Hot 100
92: US Music Videos (Billboard)
Region (Physical): 
Gold: Australia (ARIA), Units/Sales: 35,000
Silver: United Kingdom (BPI), Units/Sales: 275,000
Gold: United States (RIAA), Units/Sales: 500,000
Region (Digital): 
United States, Units/Sales: 293,000
From the album Ray of Light
B-side: "Has to Be"
Released: May 6, 1998
Format: CD, maxi, video, 7", 12" 
Recorded: 1997
Genre: Electronic, dance
Length: 5:21
Label: Maverick, Warner Bros. 
Writer(s): Madonna, William Orbit, Clive Muldoon, 
Dave Curtiss, Christine Leach 
Producer(s): Madonna, William Orbit 


Buy The Official Madonna Albums and Singles



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