Beautiful Stranger

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"Beautiful Stranger"
Single by Madonna
from the album Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Released May 29, 1999[1]
Format CD single, 12", 7", cassette
Recorded
[2][3]
Genre
Length 4:22
Label
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
  • Madonna
  • William Orbit
Madonna singles chronology
"Nothing Really Matters"
(1999)
"Beautiful Stranger"
(1999)
"American Pie"
(2000)

"Beautiful Stranger" is a song by American singer-songwriter Madonna. It was released on May 29, 1999 by Maverick Records. Madonna co-wrote and co-produced the song with British songwriter and musician William Orbit for the soundtrack and motion picture Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. "Beautiful Stranger" has appeared on two separate Madonna greatest hits collections: GHV2 (2001) and Celebration (2009). Musically, "Beautiful Stranger" is a dance-pop song with electronic and psychedelic rock[4] influences that features heavily reverberated guitars and bouncy drum loops. Its lyrics tell the tale of a romantic infatuation. It became Madonna's 22nd chart-topper on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club chart and received positive feedback from critics.

Commercially, "Beautiful Stranger" also fared well, reaching number two in the United Kingdom and number 8 on US Pop Songs chart. Although the song was not commercially released in the United States, it reached number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 due to strong radio airplay. "Beautiful Stranger" also earned Madonna her fifth Grammy Award, winning the award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. The music video, directed by Brett Ratner, prominently features Mike Myers as Austin Powers. Madonna has performed the song on her Drowned World Tour (2001), and it has been covered by some artists.

Composition[edit]

"Beautiful Stranger" is an up-tempo love song featuring heavily reverberated guitars, bouncy drum loops, and poetic lyrics telling a tale of romantic infatuation. Madonna was inspired to write the song by her then-boyfriend, British writer Andy Bird.[5] Madonna delivers the song with a youthful timber, and utilizes heavy vibrato throughout. The song was specifically written for inclusion on the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack. It employs a lyrical theme and instrumentation similar to that found in the song "Amazing" which is included on Madonna's album Music (2000). A full-length video was also produced to accompany the lyrics to the song. It prominently features Mike Myers in the role of Austin Powers as his fantasies of being with Madonna become fully realized at video's end.[6][7]

Some critics, such as USA Today's Ken Barnes, have suggested that the chorus, riff, instrumentation and structure of "Beautiful Stranger" were based on Love's 1966 single "She Comes in Colors".[8][9][10][11] Rhino Records executive Gary Stewart has stated that "Certainly, the riff and instrumentation [of Beautiful Stranger] are reminiscent of 'She Comes in Colors,'" and that the "da da da da da" chorus on "Beautiful Stranger" seems to be based upon "an instrumental flourish that's an integral part of the [Love] record. It may be a conscious or an unconscious homage."[8] Madonna, however, has denied any such influence, claiming that she never heard of Love.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Chris True of AllMusic reviewed the single: "Madonna and Orbit step from the more atmospheric soundscapes like "Frozen" and "Skin" and make one damn dancy pop record. With flutes, horns, and that infectious "da da da da da" of the chorus, this is one of those songs that just sticks in your head."[12] Gina Boldman of Allmusic highlighted the song and described: "which has a wonderful Beatles-meets-techno-lite feel."[13] Stephen Thomas Erlwine criticized the song's remix on More Music from the Motion Picture Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, calling it "superfluous" to the original and "filler".[14] In 2000, the song won the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.[15][16]

Chart performance[edit]

Madonna performing "Beautiful Stranger" during the Drowned World Tour on 2001.

In the United States, the song debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 78 on June 12, 1999,[17] and peaked at number 19 on July 13, 1999 on the strength of radio airplay only.[18] "Beautiful Stranger" was also a hit on the Billboard dance charts, reaching number one on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play Chart and number three on the Hot Dance Singles Sales Chart.

In the United Kingdom, the song was a huge hit, reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart, being kept from the number one spot by S Club 7's "Bring It All Back". The song spent 16 weeks on the singles chart, with seven of those being within the top 20. "Beautiful Stranger" also became one of the most played songs on UK radio ever. At one point the song received 2,462 broadcasts per week.[19] According to the Official Charts Company, the song has sold 520,000 copies there.[20] Elsewhere the song was also a hit, reaching number one in Canada, South Africa, Finland and Italy. It also went top five in Australia and top twenty in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland and Japan. In Europe it peaked at number two and was the second most-played single of the year, behind Britney Spears' "...Baby One More Time."[21] The single sold around 2.5 million copies worldwide.

Music video[edit]

Madonna and character Austin Powers in the music video.

The accompanying music video for "Beautiful Stranger" was directed by Brett Ratner and shot on May 1, 1999 at Universal Studios in Universal City, California.[22][23] In the video, Austin Powers (played by actor Mike Myers) is seen driving down the road in his "Shaguar" as he gets the assignment from his boss Basil (Michael York) to catch a spy (Madonna), "a master of disguise", who is "seducing top agents".[24] As the video continues Austin Powers finds Madonna at a club singing and dancing on stage in front of a crowd of people (including Verne Troyer in character as Mini-Me). As he watches her perform he finds himself mesmerized by her feminine charms and begins to fantasize about spending time with her.[25] In his fantasies he imagines that Madonna is with him in his car, and as he is driving down the road, Madonna is doing things to him such as licking his face, pressing her breasts up against him, and dancing with her butt up against his face. The video ends within one of Austin's fantasies, Austin proclaiming "It's good to be me!" as Madonna playfully strokes his cheek. The music video was extremely successful, winning an MTV Video Music Award for Best Video from a Film.[26]

Live performances and usage[edit]

Madonna performed the song during her 2001 Drowned World Tour as the fourth song on the setlist. The beginning of the performance featured a short scene of Mike Myers as Austin Powers, while another song from the movie's soundtrack, "Soul Bossa Nova", was being played in the background. Near the end of the song, a "lost" technician appears on the stage playing the role of the 'beautiful stranger'.[27] Madonna also performed a special a cappella version of the song during the Rebel Heart Tour on January 18, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee, USA.[28]

"Beautiful Stranger" plays during the opening credits of the 1999 TV film Sabrina Down Under.

Track listing and formats[edit]

UK 7" single, Cassette single / European 2-track CD single (W495)
  1. "Beautiful Stranger" (LP Version) – 4:22
  2. "Beautiful Stranger" (Calderone Radio Mix) – 4:00
European / UK / Japanese / Australian CD single (W495CD, 9362-44699-2)
  1. "Beautiful Stranger" (LP Version) – 4:22
  2. "Beautiful Stranger" (Calderone Club Mix) – 10:12
  3. "Beautiful Stranger" (Calderone Radio Mix) – 4:00
US 12" promo vinyl (PRO-A-9838-A)
  1. "Beautiful Stranger" (Calderone Club Mix) – 10:12
  2. "Beautiful Stranger" (Calderone Radio Mix) – 4:00
  3. "Beautiful Stranger" (New Club Edit) – 5:12
  4. "Beautiful Stranger" (LP Version) – 4:22
US / UK promo CD (PRO-CD-9760, PR0-1417-CD)
  1. "Beautiful Stranger" (William Orbit Radio Edit) – 3:58
  2. "Beautiful Stranger" (LP Version) – 4:22

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits and personnel adapted from Beautiful Stranger promo single liner notes.[3]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[60] Gold 35,000^
France (SNEP)[61] Silver 125,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[62] Gold 532,500[63]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Cover versions[edit]

  • Jon Auer, co-founder of the American power pop band The Posies, recorded a cover of the song on his 2001 solo EP 6 ½.
  • A 2007 folk music tribute compilation to Madonna, entitled Through the Wilderness, features a cover of the song by Golden Animals.
  • Alternative power pop band Cats & Jammer covered the song. A sample can be heard on their official MySpace page.[64]
  • Indie artist Ed Shepp recorded a cover of the song for his EP The Madonna Within.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]