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The Power of Good-Bye

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Dec 17, 2021

The Power of Good-Bye” is a song by American singer Madonna, taken from her seventh studio albumRay of Light (1998). It was written by Madonna and Rick Nowels, and was produced by the singer with William Orbit and Patrick Leonard. The song was released as the fourth single from the album on September 22, 1998, being additionally distributed as a double A-Side single in the United Kingdom with “Little Star”. Lyrically, the track talks about how free and empowering saying good-bye or ending a relationship can feel. The melancholy electronica ballad features shuffle beats, acoustic guitars and sweeping strings arranged by Craig Armstrong.

1998 single by Madonna

1998 single by Madonna
“The Power of Good-Bye”
Single by Madonna
from the album Ray of Light
A-side “Little Star” (United Kingdom)
B-side “Mer Girl”
Released September 22, 1998
Recorded 1997
Studio Larrabee North (Universal City, California)
Genre Electronica
Length 4:10
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Madonna singles chronology
Drowned World/Substitute for Love
(1998)
The Power of Good-Bye
(1998)
Nothing Really Matters
(1999)
Music video
“The Power of Good-Bye” on YouTube

“The Power of Good-Bye” received acclaim from music critics, who went on to recognize the song as one of the best on Ray of Light, with praise going to its instrumentation and electronic vibe, as well as Madonna’s vocals which were compared to “Frozen” (1998). The song attained commercial success across Europe, reaching the top 10 of the charts in over nine countries, including Austria, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Spain and the United Kingdom, while in the United States it reached number 11, becoming Madonna’s 37th top 20 hit and her seventh-highest debut at the time. Its blue-green tinted music video was directed by Matthew Rolston in Malibu, California and features actor Goran Višnjić as her love interest. Madonna has performed the song live on several award shows and during various appearances on television but has never included it in the standard set list on tour.

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Between 1996 and the release of this song’s associated album in 1998, Madonna went through a number of “life-changing experiences” including giving birth to her daughter Lourdes, interest in Eastern mysticism and Kabbalah, as well as playing the title role in the film adaptation of the musical Evita (1996).[1] A year later, following the promotion of the Evita soundtrack, she started working on Ray of Light; the album would reflect her changed perspectives about life. Madonna wrote songs with William Orbit, Patrick Leonard and Rick Nowels.[1]

It was a career-changing experience for me. Before that I had always done my co-writing with friends. But working with Madonna  […] it was the first time I had ever written one-on-one with a great artist/writer. After that I changed gears a little, and now I mostly collaborate directly with artists.

—Nowels talking about the experience of writing the song with Madonna.[2]

In the meantime, Madonna had written “The Power of Good-Bye” with Nowels; it was one of the nine songs they had written for the album. Nowels had always wanted to work with Madonna, admiring her previous work with Leonard, Stephen Bray as well as Nile Rodgers. The songwriter was in New York for the Grammy Awards, and during a shopping expedition in Barneys, he met Madonna. Nowels commended the singer on her songwriting skills, being later invited to Los Angeles for writing sessions.[2] According to Lucy O’Brien, author of Madonna: Like an Icon, “[Nowels] was struck by [Madonna’s] lyric writing”, admitting that, “It was deep, poetic and intelligent. When she’s on and at her best she’s on a par with Joni Mitchell or Paul Simon“. He also stated that the singer’s songwriting prowess was benefited from her “voracious reading”.[3] Three songs from their sessions were selected for the final track list, “The Power of Good-Bye”, “Little Star” and “To Have and Not to Hold”.[2]

After issuing “Drowned World/Substitute for Love” as the album’s third single worldwide,[4] “The Power of Good-Bye” was chosen to be released as the album’s fourth single, since “radio programmers and diehard fans [had] long been clamoring [for it].”[5] In the United States, the song was the album’s third single, serviced to contemporary hit radio on September 1, 1998, and released to retail on September 22, 1998, in a two-track format.[6][7] In the United Kingdom, “The Power of Good-Bye” was distributed as a double A-side with “Little Star” on November 23, 1998.[8][9] In the rest of Europe, the latter was included on the single releases as a B-side. In the European maxi-singles, several experimental remixes of the track by Luke Slater and an additional remix by Dallas Austin, who previously worked with Madonna on her Bedtime Stories (1994) album, were included. As noted by AllMusics Jose F. Promis, the “Luke Slater’s Super Luper Mix” “turns the ballad into a thumping deep house anthem, making it sound like a completely different song.” Meanwhile, “Fabien’s Good God Mix” is described as “an electronic, tripped-out, drum’n’bass-heavy mix which keeps the integrity of the original song”, Promis noted.[10]

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