I, like a lot people, first heard Madonna when “Like A Vigin” became a thing. I vaguely remember seeing a music video from Madonna pre-Virgin, but I don’t remember which one and I don’t feel like going to look for it. I do remember watching it and thinking “what is this” and someone that was dancing around the room thinking it was just the greatest and don’t I love it. I didn’t but I did. It was the ‘80s and Madonna took over. Yes, I liked the stuff that got radio airplay and I bought some of those early cassettes. I didn’t invest in any fishnet clothing. Well, I may have owned a lace fingerless glove. Maybe.
I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Madonna in the ‘90s. I was aware that she was putting out music and staring in movies (I’ve never seen Evita), but I wasn’t buying it. In 1986 I had stumbled across Master of Puppets and my fate had been sealed. By the mid-‘90s I was living near grunge era Seattle and the music scene was amazing and very much not like Madonna. Then, in 1997, I left the country. I was stationed in Italy and heard European electronica for the first time. I didn’t hate it. In 1998, Madonna dropped Ray of Light on the world and it was amazing. I became aware of the album at the gym, while running in place on a dreadmill and watching a wall of TVs set to various different channels. The video for “Ray of Light” played on half of them. I was hooked. Not long after I bought the CD and had it on repeat for a long time.
Ray of Light is a departure from Madonna’s earlier work and moved her into the electronica direction. The internet tells me that this is the time in Madonna’s life when she was embracing Kabbalah, Hinduism, Buddhism, and something called Hatha Yoga. She had also worked on her vocals and you can hear a bigger range on the album. I’ve always just found it to be a really chill soothing album (hello trance!).
The album has been called Madonna’s most adventurous. It got critical acclaim upon release and it hit number one in many countries. She also picked up 4 Grammy’s, 6 VMA’s, and a slew of international awards: Denmark, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Canada, MTV Europe, International Dance Music Awards, and probably more that I didn’t find.
If you’ve avoided Madonna, I’d mostly like to know how you managed that. But if it was purposely because you didn’t like her earlier work, check this one out anyway. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.