I can't believe it's been 20 years since Madonna's first foray into electronica Ray of Light was released. Time truly does fly by.. faster then a ray of light (notice how much the title and concept of the album makes sense?). When this album came out back in 1998, I was finishing up my final year of high school and was eagerly awaiting the next chapter in the Grand priestess of music. I admit that when it came out in early 1998, I was a little underwhelmed after the hype around the album before its release was that all the songs were created to entice those that were into the Rave scene. As someone that had ventured to a Rave (back in the days before it became all Corporate), I was looking forward to having a piece of that experience playing in my stereo... and was disappointed that it sounded more like a Yoga CD then a soundtrack for a Rave lover.
Twenty years later, I recently decided to listen to the CD figuring it had been twenty years and sometimes an adult perspective differs from a teenagers perspective. Odd that back in 1998, we were all about peace and getting along with one another.. when now in 2018, we are all about division and labels. Maybe a little more of New Age music with techno beats would help with modern day divisions in 2018.
Back in 1998, the only song I loved was Skin... it was the only song on the CD that reminded me of a Rave. It was hypnotic with pulsating backbeat with a lust filled Madonna singing about love, obsession, and flesh touching flesh at a Rave. I still love the song twenty years later.. and I think when I hit my golden years, I'll still love the song.. probably till the day I die.
Speaking of which, my least favorite song back in 1998 was Mer Girl. I understood it was about a time Madonna got lost during a run when visiting her dad during a rain storm.. and the thoughts and images running through her mind.. especially about her mother's death. A minimum song with a haunting backdrop especially the creepy ending to the song. While it was a good song, I was in a rave mode at 18 so it didn't really resonate with me at the time. Flash forward 20 years, my mom has since passed and the song really resonates with me in a way that it didn't back in 1998. Sometimes life experience and time really makes one look at a CD differently.
In the last 20 years, Madonna has stopped setting trends and started chasing them to the determinant of her career and legacy. Looking back, this album has risen in my personal ranking of favorite Madonna albums. It isn't my favorite of her albums (Erotica and Like A Virgin rank as my fave albums of hers), but it certainly ranks higher then her last few albums.
In conclusion, I think this particular album is a concept album about life flashing before your eyes during a tragic event, or accident. The first song Drowned World/Substitute for Love was inspired by Princess Di's death.. and I often think this serves as an introduction to the story of the album... which is someone's life flashing before their eyes. Each song represents a major event such as the birth of her daughter, the fun she's had in her life, making peace with her life, and confronting the one event that has haunted her life since she was five... the death of her mother. The album's end is open ended leaving one to determine for themselves if the main character in this story has survived or not.