Frozen (Madonna song)
|Single by Madonna|
|from the album Ray of Light|
|Released||February 23, 1998|
|Madonna singles chronology|
"Frozen" is a song by American singer Madonna from her seventh studio album Ray of Light (1998). It was released as the lead single from the album on February 23, 1998, by Maverick and Warner Bros. Records. The song was also included on the compilation albums GHV2 (2001) and Celebration (2009). "Frozen" was written by Madonna and Patrick Leonard, and it was produced in collaboration with William Orbit. A mid-tempo electronica ballad, "Frozen" talks about a cold and emotionless human being. In 2005, a judge in Belgium ruled that "Frozen" was plagiarized from a song by Salvatore Acquaviva, and it was banned from the region. This ruling was overturned in 2014, lifting the Belgium ban on the song.
"Frozen" received acclaim from music critics, some of whom deemed it an album standout. It was described as being a masterpiece, and its melodic beat and sound were defined as "cinematic". The single was also a worldwide commercial success. It became Madonna's sixth single to peak at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100, making her the artist with the most number-two hits in the history of that chart. "Frozen" also became her first single to debut at the top of the UK Singles Chart, while reaching number one in Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Scotland, and Spain, and the top five elsewhere.
The accompanying music video for "Frozen" was directed by Chris Cunningham in a desert in California, portraying Madonna as an ethereal, witch-like, melancholy persona, who shapeshifts into a flock of birds and a black dog. The music video received a MTV Video Music Award for "Best Special Effects" in 1998. To promote Ray of Light, the singer performed the song in several occasions including on Wetten dass..?. Additionally, it was included in three of Madonna's concert tours. "Frozen" has been covered by a number of artists, such as Talisman and Thy Disease.
- 1 Background and release
- 2 Composition
- 3 Critical reception
- 4 Accolades
- 5 Commercial performance
- 6 Music video
- 7 Live performances
- 8 Covers and usage in media
- 9 Plagiarism case
- 10 Track listings and formats
- 11 Credits and personnel
- 12 Charts
- 13 Certification and sales
- 14 See also
- 15 Notes
- 16 References
- 17 External links
Background and release
Since 1996, Madonna went through a number of "life-changing experiences" which included giving birth to her daughter Lourdes, gaining interest in Eastern mysticism and Kabbalah, as well as earning the title role on the film adaptation of the musical Evita (1996). A year later she started working on Ray of Light, her eighth studio album. Madonna wrote songs with William Orbit, Patrick Leonard, Rick Nowels and Babyface. The album would reflect the singer's changed perspectives about life. Author Carol Benson noted that it was a "deeply spiritual dance record", with the crux of it based on Madonna's career, her journey and the many identities she had assumed over the years. Motherhood had softened the singer emotionally, which was reflected in the songs. She started talking about ideas and used words which implied deep and personal thoughts, rather than the regular dance-floor anthemic tunes she had composed. The singer began introspecting herself with motherhood being a "big catalyst for me. It took me on a search for answers to questions I'd never asked myself before", she said to Q magazine.
Madonna worked primarily with Orbit after Guy Oseary, Maverick Records's partner, phoned Orbit and suggested that he send some songs to the singer. He sent a 13-track digital audio tape (DAT) to Madonna, and "Frozen" was among these tracks. "I was a huge fan of William's earlier records. [...] I also loved all the remixes he did for me and I was interested in fusing a kind of futuristic sound but also using lots of Indian and Moroccan influences and things like that, and I wanted it to sound old and new at the same time", Madonna said. The singer drew inspiration from Bernardo Bertolucci's 1990 British-Italian drama film, The Sheltering Sky, which dealt with a couple trying to save their marriage during a trip to Africa. She wanted to have the "whole Moroccan/orchestral/super-romantic/man-carrying-the-woman-he-loves-across-the-desert vibe" for the track. Still continuing work with Leonard on some of the tracks, Madonna asked him to give her a composition with "tribal feel, something really lush and romantic". They composed the melody on the DAT and recorded the demo, which stretched to over 10 minutes due to Madonna continuing writing the track.
A low quality snippet of "Frozen" was leaked by fans on January 23, 1998, after it debuted on radio in Singapore, and posted it on the Internet. They said they knew what they were doing was wrong, but that they hoped it would simply generate interest from Madonna. The song was played on the US radios, including the WKTU New York radio. Warner Bros. Records enlisted the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)'s Anti-Piracy Unit to delete the Internet downloads of the song. Erik Bradley, musical director of Chicago B96, classified "Frozen" as a "the mark of a smash. Clearly, American pop radio needs Madonna", after he played the track on his station. According to Jon Uren, marketing director of Warner Music Europe, the song also had "fantastic" early support across Europe. Shortly after the song leaked, a remix version of "Frozen" was broadcast by the BBC website, and also was previewed on the soundtrack at the 1998 Versace fashion spring parade. The single was released commercially on February 23, 1998 in the United States.
"Frozen" was recorded along with the rest of the album at Larrabee North Studio in North Hollywood, California. It was mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling Studios in New York. The DAT contained the main portion of the song recordings, as well as preliminary demo sessions in Madonna's house in New York, as well as Hit Factory Studios where Madonna first sang the song. Like most of the album, "Frozen" was recorded on a Roland Juno-106. Madonna and Orbit had conducted a drummer session in Los Angeles, but it did not work out. So he contacted Fergus Gerrand who played drum samples for him in London. Orbit fed them in his workstation and cut them manually, instead of using auto-editing software like ReCycle.
A 30-second sample of "Frozen", featuring Madonna singing the first verse with her voice lacking vibrato, which is complemented by percurssion instruments and synthesizers. It then leads to the chorus, with dance rhythm and ambient sounds being added.
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"Frozen" is a mid-tempo electronica ballad which has a layered sound enhanced by synthesizers and strings, arranged by Craig Armstrong. It was composed using common time in the key of F minor, with a moderate tempo of 102 beats per minute. "Frozen" has a basic sequence of Fm–E♭–D♭–E♭ as its chord progression. The chorus, however, has the chord progression of Fm–B♭m–D♭–A♭. Madonna's vocals range from the lower octave of F3 to the higher note of A♭4.
The song begins with austere, classical strings while the chord progression emphasizes tonic, submediant and flattened leading-tone chords. For the second phrase, which includes a dramatic crescendo, rhythm and ambient electronic effects are added gradually. Santiago Fouz-Hernández and Freya Jarman-Ivens, authors from Madonna's Drowned Worlds, commented that the song is strongly inspired by different forms of classical music, notably contemporary classical music such as neoromanticism, as well as Italian opera composers and pieces such as Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Verdi's Aïda. Madonna's vocals throughout the song lack vibrato, and have drawn comparisons to medieval music.
Lyrically, the song is about a cold and emotionless man. In the first verse, Madonna enters in a medium range, 'You only see what your eyes want to see'. In the chorus, dance rhythm and ambient sounds are added. In the second verse, more visceral lyrics are added, like 'Love is a bird, she needs to fly'. During the bridge, a broad, string lines provide instrumental commentary on the lyrics. The song ends with a string ostinato that simply fades away, without fully resolving to the tonic chord. In an interview with The New York Times, Madonna commented that the lyrics to "Frozen" is built around "Retaliation, revenge, hate, regret, that's what I deal with in "Frozen". Everyone's going to say, 'That's a song about Carlos' [her ex-boyfriend], but it's not really; it's just about people in general".
"Frozen" received acclaim from music critics. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine complimented the track's production and deemed it "one of the great pop masterpieces of the late 1990s", adding "Its lyrics are uncomplicated but its statement is grand." Billboard's Paul Verna described the song as "smashing". In a separate review, Larry Flick called it a "stunning foray into the realm of electronica [which] [...] underground purists and unwavering popstars will equally applaud". Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone commented positively about the "arctic melancholy" of the song. The Baltimore Sun's J.D. Considine called it a word-focused, emotionally nuanced ballad.
Jon Pareles from The New York Times was impressed how Madonna, dulcet and careful, performed the song. Joan Anderman from The Boston Globe said that on Ray of Light, only "Frozen" achieves a "state of divine balladry", recalls the "emotional pitch" and simmers the "beauty of 1986's 'Live to Tell' with a dark, lush string section, the smash and patter of a lone drum, and an ominous, pulsing buzz". In his review of Ray of Light, Neil Spencer of The Observer commented, "it's sensuous songs such as [...] 'Frozen' that stand out; music for the chill-out room." Elysa Gardner, writing in the Los Angeles Times, said "Madonna's enduring knack for incorporating hip and exotic textures into accessible pop tunes is evident on the plaintive single 'Frozen'". Sputnikmusic viewed the track as the singer "at her soothing best", highlighting its "interesting percussion backing, beautiful use of strings with techno effects".
David Browne of Entertainment Weekly described the song as a "wuthering-beats melodrama that's often breathtaking." Also from Entertainment Weekly, Chuck Arnold wrote: "sounding unlike anything Madonna had ever done before, and creating a mystical forest of sonic wonder — sweeping strings and all — 'Frozen' possesses an almost operatic grandeur that never fails to give you chills". Stephen Thompson from The A.V. Club wrote, "the atmospheric 'Frozen' is a great first single despite lyrics like, 'Love is a bird / She needs to fly.'"  Conversely, NME called the song "another pile of her usual weepy old bollocks". Jim Farber of the Daily News wrote that "Frozen" compromises its electronic style with "too much tepid pop". The Guardian's Caroline Sullivan regarded it as a tremulous song Ray of Light could have done without. Jose F. Thomas from AllMusic rated the song two stars out of five, describing it as "chilly".
In 2003, Madonna fans were asked to vote for their "Top 20 Madonna singles of all-time", by Q magazine. "Frozen" was allocated the number ten spot on the list. Billboard also ranked "Frozen" at number 25 on a list containing Madonna's 40 hits, stating that the song marked a sonic change in Madonna's career. Rolling Stone also ranked the song as Madonna's sixth best song of all time according to a readers' poll, saying that the song is "striking the perfect balance of pop accessibility, sophisticated balladry and cutting-edge electronic textures". VH1's Mark Graham included "Frozen" on his list of his favorite songs from Madonna at number 36 during a list compiled in honor of the singer's 53rd birthday. In May 2018, Billboard ranked the top songs of 1998, ranking "Frozen" at number 31. Frank Digiacomo from the publication asserted that the composition showed "a wiser, more mature Madonna, one still at the top of her game". While ranking Madonna's singles, in honor of her 60th birthday, The Guardian's Jude Rogers placed "Frozen" at number 7. He wrote: "Dark, orchestral ambient is a mood at which Madonna excels. 'Frozen' marries the different temperatures of 90s pop stunningly - the faltering chill of William Orbit’s electronica with the dusty, cinematic heat of North African melodies and strings". Finally, in August 2018, Entertainment Weekly listed it as the singer's 18th best single.
In the United States, "Frozen" debuted at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100, and reached the second position of the chart on the issue dated April 4, 1998, behind the K-Ci & JoJo song "All My Life". The song became the sixth single by Madonna to peak at the two position, surpassing Elvis Presley for the most number-two songs. "Frozen" topped the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, while reaching number eight on the Hot Adult Contemporary chart. "Frozen" was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in April 1998, and was ranked at number 32 on the Hot 100 year-end chart of the same year. According to Billboard, the song was played 99,000 times in the United States as of May 2012. In Canada, the song reached a peak of number two on the RPM Singles Chart in its seventh week, being held off from the top position by Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn".
In the United Kingdom, "Frozen" entered the UK Singles Chart at number one on March 7, 1998. It was later certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). According to Official Charts Company, the song has sold 560,000 copies. In Belgium's region of Flanders, the song debuted at number 23 on February 22, 1998, and reached a peak of number three. Similarly in Wallonia, "Frozen" debuted at number 29 and later reached number two. In the Netherlands, the track debuted at number 27 on the Dutch Top 40, and reached a peak of two on March 7, 1998. The song reached a peak of number two in Germany, where it remained for six weeks, before spending a total of nineteen weeks on the chart. On the Swiss Singles Chart, "Frozen" debuted at number four on the issue dated March 1, 1998. After one week, the song reached number two, remaining there for eight weeks. The song peaked at number one in Spain.
In Australia, "Frozen" debuted on the ARIA Singles Chart at its peak of number five on March 1, 1998. The next week it descended at number nine, returning at its peak on March 15, 1998, and stayed there for another three weeks. It was present for a total of 16 weeks on the chart, and was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). In New Zealand, the song had a similar run as in Australia, by debuting at its peak of number five on the RIANZ Singles Chart. It was present for a total of 12 weeks on the chart.
Directed by British artist Chris Cunningham, the music video for "Frozen" was filmed at Cuddeback Lake within the Mojave Desert in California during January 7–11, 1998. Madonna thought that there are a lot of magical, mystical powers in the desert and that it is a magical place to be. It was inspired by the film The English Patient and Martha Graham's work. The music video premiered on February 16, 1998 on MTV at 4 p.m. The black goth gown outfit Madonna wears on the video was designed by Olivier Theyskens, and provided by then-new collaborator, designer Arianne Phillips. In an interview with MTV News, Cunningham stated about his work with Madonna, saying that he thought Madonna became interested to work with him after seeing his Aphex Twin-directed music video, "Come to Daddy" (1997). Madonna stated that she and her team thought of filming the video in Iceland, as the idea to the video was to go someplace cold and where there is snow, but declined the idea. She thought:
'You know what, I'm going to be freezing. I'm going to be miserable, I'll be complaining all day, I'll be sorry that I ever chose a cold place. So I said, 'Let's do it in the desert, it'll be warm,' and it would be sort of the opposite, because even though you think of deserts as being hot, they're still sort of frozen in terms of there's no vegetation and they're very desolate. I thought that that would still work as a visual, but then we got there and it was like 20 degrees below zero, it was bitterly cold, and I was barefoot. I was barefoot for the entire video, and then it started pouring rain and everyone got really sick, and it just actually turned out to be a really miserable experience.
—Chris Cunningham talking about the original idea for the shoot.
The video introduces a sober, contemplative side of Madonna, revealing a mature mysticism. It begins with the camera skimming along a cracked, desiccated desert floor, and within seconds Madonna appears, hovering just above the ground in the distance. Her hands are covered with mehndi and an enigmatic symbol on one palm. In the video, she slowly gestures and sways her arms toward the sky, desperately pleading to her cold lover cited in the song. At one point, Madonna falls backward, hits the ground, and transforms into a flock of large, dark birds. Later, she transforms into a black dog. Three Madonnas also appear walking and crawling amid the desert throughout the video. As the song progresses, the sky darkens, and Madonna levitates from the ground. Her form then changes to a shiny black liquid, which runs along the desert floor and appears to be absorbed by the tattooed hands of another Madonna, who is curled up on the crenellated ground. The video ends with a desperate and melancholy Madonna.
Jim Glauner from MTV News commented that from the first scene from the video, the viewer discovers that this is not "Holiday" (1983). Matthias Groß of Madonna On the Couch: A psychoanalytic view on Madonna's music videos, argumented that it is interesting to look at the video as a dream, and noted that in the video, Madonna was presented as a witch or an uncanny creature, by the technique of the central perspective. He concluded that the viewers find themselves in control of their view, of the situation in general, and are conveyed the impression to follow a realistic depiction of a mere melancholic woman in the desert, according to him. Henry Keazor and Thorsten Wübbena of Rewind, Play, Fast Forward: The Past, Present and Future of the Music Video said that the large panels of cloth that gather and wind around Madonna gain an even more obvious independent movement quality. Billboard considered it Madonna's third best video noting that it "conveys the song's bleak heartbreak perfectly" with Madonna's persona in the video. The video can be found on the Madonna compilations, The Video Collection 93:99 (1999) and Celebration: The Video Collection (2009).
Before the release of Ray of Light, Madonna appeared on several television shows and events to promote the album, and would sometimes perform the song. Madonna first performed "Frozen" on the Sanremo Music Festival on January 24, 1998. The following month, on February 21, she performed the song on the BBC 1's The National Lottery Show. Additionally, that same month, she appeared and performed the song on the German TV show Wetten dass..?. On April 29, 1998, Madonna made an unannounced appearance at the 9th annual Rainforest Foundation Benefit Concert at New York City's Carnegie Hall, where she performed "Frozen" with the East Harlem Violin Project, while wearing a Versace dress. Jon Pareles from The New York Times felt that during this performance Madonna had "turned herself into America's answer to Björk". Later that occasion, she wore a cowboy hat and joined various artists in a rendition of The Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends" and "Twist & Shout".
"Frozen" has also been included on three of Madonna's concert tours. For the 2001 Drowned World Tour, "Frozen" was included on the show's second segment known as Geisha–Anime. As the "Paradise (Not for Me)" video interlude ended, Madonna appeared on stage as a kabuki-like figure, wearing a short black wig and dressed in a red and black, hand-painted kimono created by designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, with enormous sleeves creating a span of about fifty feet. As the song progresses, she gradually breaks loose from the sleeves and dances, with synchronized karate moves distributed along all sides of the stage, by herself and with her dancers. A samurai dancer also appeared on a raised platform above her during the performance while the backdrops displayed silhouettes of burning trees against racing, blood-red clouds. MusicOMH praised the performance, for "having a recognisable beat unlike the studio recording". The performance of the song on August 26, 2001, at The Palace of Auburn Hills was recorded and released in the live video album, Drowned World Tour 2001.
On the Re-Invention World Tour in 2004, "Frozen" was performed as the last song of the tour's French Baroque–Marie Antionette Revival opening segment. After an energetic performance of "Nobody Knows Me", Madonna performed the song standing alone on the middle of the stage, wearing a gold jewel-encrusted corset created by designer Christian Lacroix, as the backdrop screens displayed the video of a naked male and a naked female wrestling, caressing and intertwining in water, with their faces and genitals darkened by shadows so as to preserve their androgyny. Sal Sinquemani from Slant Magazine gave the performance a negative review, commenting that Madonna should never do a performance like this.
For the second European leg of Madonna's Sticky & Sweet Tour in 2009, the performance of "Hung Up" was removed from the setlist and was replaced by an up-beat version of "Frozen". This performance was included on the show's fourth and final Rave segment, where it was set between the performances of "Like a Prayer" and "Ray of Light". The video backdrops used for this performance featured outtakes from the song's original music video directed by Chris Cunningham. Madonna sampled DJ Calvin Harris' 2009 single "I'm Not Alone" into the performance. Harris praised the version saying, "I never imagined when I made it in my little purple room in Glasgow in my flat that it would reach far and wide as it has – it's always a privilege." Six years later, on October 1, 2015, Madonna performed an acoustic version of "Frozen" on the Detroit stop of her Rebel Heart Tour. Four days later, she repeated the performance on the San Jose stop.
Covers and usage in media
A rock cover was recorded by Jeff Scott Soto with the Talisman band for their 1998 album Truth. A reviewer from Melodic Rock was positive with the version and called it a "moody version with the backing vocals and accompanying keyboards intact." Polish industrial metal band Thy Disease used parts of the original strings and vocals in a cover on their 2001 album, Devilsh Act of Creation. German gothic rock/industrial rock band Girls Under Glass released their cover on the Frozen EP in 2001. The following year, Mad'House also re-recorded it for the tribute album Absolutely Mad. Gene Loves Jezebel recorded their cover version which appeared on two albums, A Tribute to Madonna: Virgin Voices and Tribute to Madonna: Like a Virgin. Doom Kounty Electric Chair gave the song a "dark rock" feel with their cover, released in 2004.
Italian rock band Absinth Effect recorded a cover version of "Frozen" for their debut album in 2009. In May 2013, contestant Olympe sang the song on the second season of French version of The Voice: la plus belle voix, allowing him to reach the show's semi-finale. His coach, Jenifer, welcomed the performance warmly. Jérôme Vermelin from Metronews.fr said "Without piano, but in a spectacular setting, the young singer from Amiens shows his pitched voice with disconcerting facility. And his look? The mixture of great and pure sincerity? Although the formula may seem repetitive, it is not difficult to be captivated". Hanane Abdelouahed from TF1 commented that with the rendition, he "has taken the track from the queen of pop". Although it was not performed by the show's cast, the song was included on the episode "The Power of Madonna", on the TV series Glee, in 2010.
In November 2005, a Belgian judge seated in Mons ruled that the opening four-bar theme to "Frozen" was plagiarized from the song "Ma vie fout le camp" ("My Life's Getting Nowhere"), composed by Salvatore Acquaviva. The judge subsequently ordered the withdrawal from sales of all remaining discs, and forbade any further playing of the song on Belgian TV and radio. The judge also ordered Warner Bros., EMI and Sony to spread the decision within fifteen days to media outlets on pain of a penalty of €125,000 for non-compliance with the court order. Acquaviva's lawyer, Victor Vicent Dehin, said: "We tried to reach a friendly agreement... but they didn't want to negotiate so I sued for plagiarism. They have stolen a song, so they have to pay the value of the song." No award damages for the song were granted. Salvatore Acquaviva had explained to the court that Madonna heard "Ma vie fout l'camp" during a trip to Mouscron in the late 1970s. She had been recruited to be a dancer during a tour with French singer Patrick Hernandez, whose discs were produced in Mouscron. Dehin also stated that the lawsuit was just the first step, and the next discussion would be about the copyright gains Madonna obtained with "Frozen". Subsequently, the song was omitted from the track listing on the Belgian pressings of Celebration in 2009. However, Madonna performed the song during the Sticky & Sweet Tour in Werchter, with Bert Bieseman, marketing manager of Belgian branch of Warner Bros. stating that "Madonna is not afraid of a more or less riot". Acquaviva commented about the case:
Madonna planning to perform "Frozen" in Werchter? I didn't expect anything else, you know. I don't even mind. It just would be nice because I would finally get some money after all these years, because the case is still going on. I'm certainly not going to the concert. My lawyer is following the case. I'm really going to follow Madonna's concert with interest, because she really can't perform the song. Yet, I think we won't immediately take steps. The court's decision is subject to various interpretations. The song can't be played on the radio or be sold, but have we arguments enough for the concert to be over? We won't bring additional spectacle to the show. Unnecessary scandals, with Madonna it's guaranteed.
In February 2014, a Belgian court repealed the verdict on the case and proclaimed that Madonna did not plagiarize Acquaviva's work for "Frozen". The court spoke of a "new capital offense" in the file: composer Edouard Scotto Di Suoccio and societies Tabata Atoll Music and Music in Paris had also filed a complaint for plagiarism. According to them, both "Ma vie fout le camp" and "Frozen" originated in the song "Blood Night" which they composed in 1983. After all three tracks in the case were compared, the final ruling was that the songs were "not sufficiently 'original' to claim" that any plagiarism had taken place. This ruling ended the eight-year ban of the song that was in place in Belgium since 2005.
Track listings and formats
Credits and personnel
- Madonna – songwriter, producer
- Patrick Leonard – songwriter, producer, remixer, arranger
- William Orbit – producer
- Marius de Vries – keyboards, programming
- Craig Armstrong – string arrangement
Credits and personnel adapted from Ray of Light album liner notes.
Certification and sales
|Austria (IFPI Austria)||Platinum||50,000*|
|Norway (IFPI Norway)||Platinum||10,000*|
|Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)||Gold||25,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||560,000|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||600,000|
*sales figures based on certification alone
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