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And I feel…old: Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’ turns 25

Maverick/Warner Bros.

Twenty five years ago Wednesday — February 22, 1998 — Madonna managed to captivate both fans and music critics with her new Ray of Light album.

The first album Madonna released after welcoming her first child, daughter LourdesRay of Light‘s themes included motherhood and mysticism, inspired both by the Queen of Pop’s yoga practice and her study of Kabbalah, Hinduism and Buddhism.

As her first collaboration with producer William Orbit, the album’s sound was much more experimental than Madonna’s previous work, incorporating electronica, techno-pop, ambient music, Middle Eastern music and more. In retrospect, it’s been credited for bringing electronic music — and especially EDM or Electronic Dance Music — into the mainstream.

Ray of Light spun off five singles, including “Frozen,” the title track and “The Power of Good-Bye.” Upon its release, it debuted at number two with what was at the time the biggest first-week sales by a female artist. Nominated for six Grammys, it won four and also brought Madonna a slew of other awards, including six MTV VMAs.

Critics were unanimous at hailing Ray of Light as Madonna’s best work, and she has at least at one point agreed: In 2012, she named it as the “evolution in [her] career that’s been [her] favorite/most fulfilling.” It’s landed on numerous “Greatest Albums of All Times” lists, and even Adele said that she used Ray of Light as a template for her best-selling third album, 25. 

At the time, Adele told Rolling Stone that she felt creatively adrift after having her first child until she heard Ray of Light. She says she listened to it over and over and was particularly inspired by “Frozen.” As she told Rolling Stone, “I took that song as ‘I’ve gotten my confidence to come and do ‘me’ again.’ ”

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