02 November - Something to remember: All by myself
Fifteen years ago, the video of one of Madonna's most ambivalent single releases premiered on MTV: November 2nd, 1995 saw You'll See debuting. By that time, Madonna was busy with the ambitious Evita project, working on the soundtrack in London. Perhaps that's the reason why it became Madonna's first ever sequel-video. Helmed by Michael Haussman once again, You'll See became the direct sequel to the Take A Bow video, which had just won a MTV VMA and propelled the single to become one of her biggest hits earlier that year. The storyline of the video includes Madonna being followed by the matador she had run away from in the previous video. While the clip even goes as unimaginative as it actually reuses footage from Take A Bow, Madonna still managed to update her image and showed off a more restricted and mature, yet gorgeous look, clearly meant as a teaser to her then-upcoming portrayal of Eva Peron, the clear opposite of the scantily clad Madonna of Human Nature.
The song itself remains one of the most peculiar entries in Madonna's canon. The dramatic and sad, but empowering lyrics were relatively rare for Madonna herself, but are templates for divas who regularly exercise vocal acrobatics. The production ends up being middle-on-the-road and arguably Madonna's safest ever, helmed by adult contemporary mastermind David Foster, who by that time had already gone more experimental with the likes of "Earth Song" by Michael Jackson or "To Love You More" by Celine Dion and was responsible for the arrangement of one of the biggest hits of the decade at that point, Celine Dion's cover of "The Power Of Love". On the positive side, Madonna's voice soars in the track and is easily her biggest vocal performance of the first twelve years of her career. Perhaps it was meant to reassure those who doubted she'd not be able to pull off the showstopper Don't Cry For Me Argentina?
Reception of the single continued its ambivalent nature. In the US, while a pretty decent sized hit, it failed to fully capitalize on the success of Take A Bow and just barely stood ground in the top 10 during the massively female-dominated holiday season of 1995. In Europe things fared better, after Madonna's continuous decline in the old continent post-1990 this single showed promise and remains one of the very few 90s Madonna songs to still get some recurrent airplay. The UK got the biggest push where Madonna performed on a British tv show for the first time since she hit megastar status (earlier that year she took her first UK award show spot). After the #11 debut, Madonna lipsynched the song on now-defunct Top Of The Pops (showcasing yet another breathtaking look), which helped You'll See to climb to the Top 10, eventually peaking at #5 and becoming one of Madonna's bigger selling UK singles of the 90s, outselling all her hits between Vogue & Don't Cry For Me Argentina.
Interestingly, the single release itself is also among Madonna's weirdly-handed projects (has the honor of being one of the very few Madonna singles without her likeness on the cover as well). In the UK the single came out even before the video premiered (something that had already happened with Bedtime Story, most likely the promotional appearances were used to counter the lack of video), but in the US it came out weeks after its parent album, the ballad-compilation Something To Remember hit the stores (possibly due to Marvin Gaye cover I Want You cancelled as a single).
The namesake album of our anniversary column ended up as a success too, equaling the 3x Platinum certification of Bedtime Stories, outselling Erotica on the back of one Top 40 hit and proving to be a remarkable catalog seller for several years. It was not a simple greatest ballad hits compilation however, since it featured album tracks like Forbidden Love and underperforming single Oh Father, alongside massive soundtrack hits This Used To Be My Playground & I'll Remember. The You'll See single release aimed to be an appetizer for the Madonna ballad-overload: the UK edition featured 1993's Rain while the US version, paired up with a re-sung You'll See in Spanish, included the 1987 live version of Live To Tell. Something To Remember would later yield a couple of more territory-dependant singles like the rediscovered Love Don't Live Here Anymore that all failed to make any impact.
On top of all that, You'll See has the honor of being the only non-permanent setlist change Madonna has ever employed on a tour. In 2001, You'll See replaced Gone in the cowgirl-themed segment of the Drowned World Tour on 13 US dates on the East Coast (5 cities: Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Miami & Atlanta). The arrangement kept it very basic and Madonna gave a remarkable vocal performance. The reason behind this change is unclear, perhaps Madonna wanted to add one more older hit for her first major US tour in a decade, but eventually preferred the original choice of Gone.
It has not been performed live ever since, but fans have been speculating that a revisit on her next tour has very a strong possibility: YouTube phenomenon Susan Boyle covered You'll See on her debut album I Dreamed A Dream, that became 2009's biggest selling album by a landslide (which suggests Madonna got a healthy check as well due to royalties) and led to a rediscovery of the track. Chances are hindered by the fact that You'll See was snubbed from both of Madonna's greatest compilations: first from 2001's GHV2 (while the provisional tracklist did include the track, at the time they probably left it out to make sure Something To Remember still had a catalog life) and 2009's Celebration (where ballads were kept to a bare minimum). The video seemed to be following this fate after its strange exclusion from Video Collection 93:99 but it did end up being one of the 47 videos selected for the double-disc Celebration Video Collection.
02 November - Something to remember: All by myself