|Single by Madonna|
|from the album With Honors|
|Released||March 8, 1994|
|Madonna singles chronology|
"I'll Remember" is a song by American singer Madonna. It was released on March 8, 1994, by Warner Bros. Records as the soundtrack single of the film With Honors. The song was a radical change in image and style for Madonna, who had received negative feedback, both critically and commercially, for the prior two years due to the release of her book Sex, the studio album Erotica and the film Body of Evidence. Warner Bros. decided to use Madonna as the vocalist for the song after noting that most of her previous soundtrack singles had achieved commercial success. "I'll Remember" has characteristics of late-1970s styled songs. It utilizes a synthesized keyboard arrangement to bring about a continuously reverberating sound of heartbeat. Madonna's voice is supported by backing vocals.
Contemporary critics praised the song, hailing it as one of her best work. It was nominated for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television at the 37th Grammy Awards and Best Original Song at the 52nd Golden Globe Awards. "I'll Remember" was also a commercial success, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming her fourth number-one hit on the Adult Contemporary chart. It also topped the singles charts in Canada and Italy. The accompanying music video portrayed Madonna singing the song in a stylized recording studio. Her look and style was compared to the imagery of the music video of previous single "Rain". The androgynous portrayal of Madonna smoking in the last shot, was appreciated critically for breaking gender barriers.
The year 1992 saw the release of the book Sex by Madonna. However, the book, which contained explicit sexual imagery and pictures of voyeuristic fantasies, was negatively accepted by the critics as well as some her fans. Madonna's fifth studio album Erotica and the film Body of Evidence were released at the same time; both failed to garner critical and commercial acclaim. Hence she decided to re-invent her image, to connect with her fans and repair the damage that her provocative image had caused to her career. "I'll Remember" was one of the songs that was developed for this purpose. It was included in the soundtrack of the film With Honors. Madonna's own label, Maverick, was charged with the task of putting together the soundtrack album. They decided to have Madonna sing the song "I'll Remember", after noticing that all of her soundtrack releases have been commercially successful. The ballad was co-written by Madonna, Patrick Leonard and Richard Page. "I'll Remember" did not appear on any Madonna album, but was included in the ballads collection Something to Remember (1995). Regarding her feelings for the song, Madonna commented,
"I think most of the time when my records come out, people are so much distracted by so much fanfare and controversy that nobody pays attention to the music. [...] I can't tell you how painful the idea of singing 'Like a Virgin' or 'Material Girl' (1984) is to me now. I didn't write either of those songs, and wasn't digging very deep then. I also feel more connected emotionally to the music I'm writing now, so it's more of a pleasure to do it."
A 26 second sample of "I'll Remember". Madonna sings the chorus of the song which is backed by vocals and a steadily reverberating keyboard bringing about the effect of heartbeat.
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According to author Rikky Rooksby, the song is written in the style of Album-oriented rock (AOR) by bands like Boston or Foreigner. It is slowed down from the tempo of rock songs and utilizes a steadily reverberating synth keyboard to bring on the effect of a heartbeat. "I'll Remember" has characteristics of late Seventies song apart from the arrangement and the low bass. Madonna sings in a low-key voice which is almost overshadowed by the synth arrangement. Lyrically the song talks about Madonna looking back on a good love affair. According to Alex Balk from The Awl, the lyrics were inspirational, especially the line "I learned to let go of the illusion that we can possess", which is answered by Madonna herself that "[She] remember, happiness".
The song starts with a C major chord sequence and is used on the flattened seventh key of the sequence. But the actual key of the song is D major. It is set in a time signature of common time with a moderate tempo of 120 beats per minute. Madonna's voice spans from F♯3 to G4. A much stronger arrangement of drums are used in the second verse. The chorus uses the chord sequence of D–G–Bm–A while the first two lines of each verse uses the chord progression of C–D–C–D7–C–D–Bm–A. During the intermediate line "I learned to let go of the illusion that we can possess", the structure changes to D/F♯–Bm–G–D–A–G–A. Backing vocals are used on the later choruses for support with the strings, cascading down to a minor arrangement before the third one. The song ends with fading out and devoid of any musical climax.
A number of remixes were issued alongside the regular version. The maxi-single had four different versions, three being those of "I'll Remember" and the fourth being a live version of the Erotica track, "Why It's So Hard", performed on The Girlie Show World Tour. According to Jose F. Promis from AllMusic, "the mixes of [the song] were conjured by William Orbit, giving each version an ethereal, spacey, and very mellow feel". The "Guerilla Beach" mix was different from the original version, making it more adult contemporary oriented, while the "Orbit Remix" remained similar to the actual version.
Author Christopher Feldman in his book, Billboard Book of Number 2 Singles, described the song as a "tender ballad." Billboard music editor Timothy White called the song as lilting and one of Madonna's classics in his book Music to My Ears: The Billboard Essays : Portraits of Popular Music in the '90s. He also complimented the song for talking about a dead relationship. Author Rikky Rooksby called the song as one of Madonna's biggest ever singles and a stronger cut. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine called the song as a "soundtrack gem". Author J. Randy Taraborrelli in his biography of Madonna called the song a beautiful one. According to him, "it sounds like a flick theme too, equipped with smart chords and big emotion. It is reminiscent of another movie theme of Madonna's, 'Live to Tell' (1986)." Music critique Peter Buckley noted that the song was atmospheric and one of Madonna's best works, showing her ability to stay in touch with and adapt to musical developments.
"I'll Remember" earned nominations for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television at the 37th Grammy Awards and Best Original Song at the 52nd Golden Globe Awards. Robbie Daw from Idolator listed it as one of "Madonna’s 10 Best Songs That Radio Forgot", saying that "Madge has lost many friends and lovers over the years, but here she turns lemons into lemonade by cherishing the good times and learning from 'the way that you changed me'." Journalist Matthew Rettenmund listed the "Guerilla Beach" remix of the song at number nine on his list of "The 25 Best Madonna Remixes", describing it as "spacey" and believing it to be "markedly superior to the lovely but unassuming original". In 2014, Graham Greymore from Queerty listed "I'll Remember" as one of the "12 Most Underrated Madonna Songs Of All Time".
In the United States, the song debuted at number 35 on the Hot 100 chart for the Billboard issue dated April 2, 1994. After seven weeks, the song reached a peak of number two on the chart. It stayed there for four weeks, being blocked from the top spot by All-4-One's "I Swear". The song became the fifth single by Madonna to reach the top two position and tied her with Elvis Presley for the most number-two songs on the Hot 100. However, this record was broken by Madonna in 1998, when her single "Frozen" peaked at two. The song also topped the Adult Contemporary chart for four consecutive weeks, becoming Madonna's fourth number-one for this chart following "Live to Tell", "La Isla Bonita", and "Cherish". The single spent a total of 26 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on June 14, 1994. It was one of the best-selling singles of 1994, having sold 500,000 copies within that year.
In Canada, the song debuted at 52 on the Canadian RPM Singles Chart. After seven weeks it reached the top of the chart for the RPM issue dated May 16, 1994. The song was present on the chart for 24 weeks, and was ranked at number two on the Year-end RPM chart for 1994. In the United Kingdom it debuted at ten on the chart and reached seven the next week. It was present for a total of eight weeks on the chart. According to the Official Charts Company, "I'll Remember" has sold 100,090 copies in the United Kingdom, as of August 2008. Across Europe, the song became a top 40 hit in Belgium, France, Netherlands and Switzerland. The song reached the top-ten in Australia, Ireland and Sweden and peaked the chart in Italy. It peaked just outside the top 40 in Germany.
The music video was directed by Alek Keshishian, who had previously directed the live performance versions of "Like a Virgin" (1984) and "Holiday" (1983) from the Truth or Dare documentary and also the music video of her single "This Used to Be My Playground" (1992). The video featured production credits by Diane Greenwalt, editing by Patrick Sheffield and photography by Stephen Ramsey. According to Jerry Ryan from creative production team Steele,
"I'll Remember" had multiple projection screen fills and classic theatre atmospherics (like smoke haze and the flickering light beams from a projection booth) added. The theatre walls and ceiling had digital enhancements. A sound booth was completely created from scratch to accompany a crane shot down to Madonna. All the movie inserts were treated to appear to be within the theater and all Madonna's close ups and medium shots were individually treated for facial beauty enhancements.
The video features Madonna in a stylized recording studio singing the song with back up singers. The video was compared to the music video of Madonna's single "Rain" (1993). Her look in the video, consists of blue-black icy hair, bright blue eyes and a long dark dress with a beaded necklace around her neck. Madonna's face was mainly shot above her head, with her face looking up just ahead of the camera focus. Sometimes she looks to a video screen behind her which plays the scenes from the film, as if to take inspiration for her singing. Other times she is accompanied by her back-up singers, mainly during the chorus, and sometimes she sings alone. In front of the studio, the producers are shown deciding which part of the song should be put in lower bass.
The music video ends with a shot of Madonna watching herself recording the song. In this last scene she is dressed in a long black coat and holds a cigarette in her hand. Scholars noted that this last shot clearly illustrates the gender paradox of Madonna, because as she watches her female form singing the song, she herself is dressed in an androgynous way, holding a cigarette, which is associated as one of the symbolic forms of male supremacy. Feminist writer Martha Leslie Allen lauded the video, as well as Madonna, "for breaking free of the conventional portrayal of women yet again, and displaying their duality."
Track listing and formats
Credits and personnel
- Madonna – writer, vocals
- Patrick Leonard – co-writer, drums, keyboard, production
- Richard Page – co-writer
- Dean Parks – acoustic guitar
- Suzie Katayama – cello
- List of Madonna tribute albums
- List of number-one singles of 1994 (Canada)
- List of number-one hits of 1994 (Italy)
- List of number-one adult contemporary singles of 1994 (U.S.)
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