Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Madonna, "The Power Of Good-Bye"

Song: "The Power Of Good-Bye"
Artist: Madonna
Album: Ray Of Light
Written by: Madonna/Rick Nowles
Year: 1998
Key: Fm
Classification: SF1
Lyrical content: open your heart, already; dumping as nuclear option
Where used: Verse, chorus

In retrospect, it doesn't look as though Madonna needed a hit quite so badly. Erotica had stiffed a bit (pun unintended but recognized and unedited), but Bedtime Stories kept the train rolling with "Take A Bow" and "Secret," and Evita gave her the cachet of being Oscar-adjacent, even if nobody saw the movie. At the time, though, the general feeling was that Madonna's momentum was dissipating, and fast. Ray Of Light put a decisive end to such talk, once again repositioning Ms. Ciccone at the dead center of mainstream pop and setting her up to stay relevant for the next decade.

While hardly the highlight of Ray Of Light -- that comes down to a battle between "Drowned World (Substitute For Love)" and the title track, gilded cage versus delirious freedom -- "The Power Of Good-Bye" was a fine single from a fine comeback album. A lot of the credit goes to William Orbit, whose command of electronica prevented the song from being little more than an Ace Of Base knockoff. (There are, it should be pointed out, worse things to be.) More than a lot of SFCP songs, "The Power Of Good-Bye" simply sounds interesting, with a constantly shifting landscape that's constantly in motion and squiggly bits that flit past Madonna, who's standing resolutely still. Considering that the song is a last-ditch for attention from someone incapable of slowing down to give her what she needs, her placidity becomes the song's crucial virtue.

Interestingly, there's a demo version of the song out there that's not nearly as SFCP-tastic as the one that eventually made the album. For one thing, it only shows up in the chorus. The verses are completely different, with a chord progression that rises and falls in a minor key but doesn't have the same sort of circular resolution found with the SFCP. Since Ray Of Light was released in March of 1998, a full eight months after Sarah McLachlan's Surfacing (which featured "Building A Mystery" as its leadoff single), I suddenly find myself with the question of why "The Power Of Good-Bye" morphed into the now-familiar version. I'm not sure I'm ready to say that it was a conscious effort on Madonna's part to duplicate McLachlan's (and Joan Osborne's) success. But it does make a guy wonder.

Full song and SFCP clip disabled

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