Nothing Really Matters

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For other uses of "Nothing Really Matters", see Nothing Really Matters (disambiguation).
"Nothing Really Matters"
Single by Madonna
from the album Ray of Light
B-side "To Have and Not to Hold"
Released March 2, 1999
Recorded 1997
Length 4:27
Madonna singles chronology
"The Power of Good-Bye"
"Nothing Really Matters"
"Beautiful Stranger"

"Nothing Really Matters" is a song by American singer Madonna from her seventh studio album Ray of Light (1998). The song was written by Madonna and Patrick Leonard and production was handled by Madonna, William Orbit and Marius De Vries. The song was released as the album's fifth and final single on March 2, 1999, by Maverick. The song was written about Madonna's creative process where people had dissected and judged her. According to Madonna, the song was inspired by her daughter, Lourdes. "Nothing Really Matters" is a dance-oriented song that influences ambient and techno elements.

The song received generally positive reception from many music critics, who praised Madonna's lyrics for being inspirational towards her fans and family. After the release, the song achieved modest chart success in the US, where it peaked at number 93 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Madonna's lowest charting single in the chart to date. However, the song managed to peak at number one on the Hot Dance Club Play. Internationally, "Nothing Really Matters" peaked inside the top ten in Canada, UK and Italy, while reaching number one in Spain.

The music video of the song was directed by Johan Renck and was inspired by the book Memoirs of a Geisha, with Madonna depicted as a geisha. The costumes, which were designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier were also used in her Drowned World Tour. The song was performed live only at the 1999 Grammy Awards, during which Madonna was also inspired by the geisha look. This song was never performed in any of Madonna's tours.

Background and writing[edit]

In J. Randy Taraborrelli's book Madonna: An Intimate Biography, she said that the main inspiration behind "Nothing Really Matters", and "The Power of Good-Bye" from the same album, was other people judging and dissecting her creative process. Elaborating on the statement, she added:

"I don't really want to [allow others] to dissect my creative process too much. What's the point, really? In 'Nothing Really Matters' and 'The Power of Good-Bye', I want people to have a visceral and emotional reaction to things, rather than to have in their mind where all my stuff comes from. With the songs, I wanted to say that it does not matter really what you think or do, just think by yourself, and not judge and dissect others. You know if I see a bug crawling across the floor and it inspired me to write the most incredible love poem, I don't want people to be thinking about their relationship, and then think of my bug crawling across the floor. It's then that the power of good-bye becomes better than the power of acceptance."[1]

The other important inspiration behind the song was her daughter Lourdes, whom she gave birth in 1996. Madonna stated,

"There's a song on the album called 'Nothing Really Matters', and it is very much inspired by my daughter. it's just realizing that at the end of the day, the most important thing is loving people and sharing love. The birth of my daughter has been a huge influence. It's different to look at life through the eyes of a child, and suddenly you have a whole new respect for life and you kind of get your innocence back. It's this realisation which I incorporated in 'Nothing Really Matters', 'Little Star' and 'Mer Girl'."[2]


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"Nothing Really Matters" is an up-tempo dance track which contains influences of techno.[3] According to the sheet music at, which was published by Alfred Publishing Co., Inc., the song is written in the key note of F Major.[4] Madonna's vocal range from the key note of F3 to the key note of A4.[4] The song is moderately-paced and has a tempo of 104 beats per minute.[4] The song starts with a strange, electronic, slightly broken noise.[5] When the intro was added to the song, Orbit was disappointed in the result as he "hated the noise." He said it sounded like the "DAT's broken."[5] However, De Vries defended his contribution saying that it was supposed to be "like that [...] It's quite slow for a dance tune of that nature, not a pacey tune."[5] But overall, Madonna liked it.[5]

As noted earlier, the song was lyrically written about Madonna's creative process, which people had dissected and judged. According to Madonna, the song was inspired by her daughter Lourdes Leon. According to sources, "Nothing Really Matters"; "has a mysterious, electronic introduction. Little spacey bleeps appear and then so does Madonna, singing the introduction like she was writing a letter to a loved one. The backing slowly intensifies behind her until that noise from ‘Frozen’ goes past the speakers and the song explodes into a sophisticated, expensive, very nineties dance beat.[6] The song also talks about living selfishly.

In Lucy O'Brien's Like an Icon, Marius De Vries said the song was that had been prepared for before the production of Ray of Light was even created. He said "I had my vision of how the song should be finished, and [William Orbit] found that off-putting. On all the collaborations I'd left a lot of space for him, but for this I wanted to put something on the table and say, "This is what I think."[5] O'Brien described it as "vigorous 'mea culpa'."

Critical reception[edit]

"Nothing Really Matters" received generally positive reviews from many music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic highlighted the song as an album standout.[7] However, on a solo rating, the song received two-and-a-half stars out of five.[8] In the review, Jose F. Promis said the song is somewhat "tepid" and called it an "interesting single." She however praised the remixes calling them "amazing."[8] Bryan Lark from The Michigan Daily did neither give it a positive or negative review, and stated because "Ray of Light" was about confronting the past, he stated that "Nothing Really Matters" is "moving in onward."[9]

David Browne from Entertainment Weekly said that along with album track "Skin", it was a "Hard-step beats and synth washes make the romantic-physical yearnings".[10] the A.V. Club describe the song as "chugging" and said that it would " ring across dance floors for years to come".[11] However, Enio Chiola from PopMatters was critical towards the song release, and stated that "Skin" (which is a song of Ray of Light) would have been a better release stating it "looked over for the much worse “The Power of Goodbye” and “Nothing Really Matters” (the latter of which became Madonna’s worst single ever in the US)".[12]

Chart performance[edit]

The song first debuted at number twenty-five on the US Pop Songs, and after six weeks, it debuted at number ninety-three on the Billboard Hot 100 on the issue date May 8, 1999. The song however descended the way, only present for two weeks on the chart. The song was Madonna's lowest charting single in the US to date.[13] The song did, however top the US Hot Dance Club Songs, two months before it charted on the Pop Songs and Hot 100 and number three on the Hot Dance Singles Sales Chart.[13] Many fans in the U.S. blamed Warner Bros. Records' marketing strategy for the song's poor charting. It was first believed it did not perform well because the single did not gain any airplay in the US and was a poor timing for the single to be released.[8]

The song managed to have modest success worldwide. In the United Kingdom, the song entered at seven on the UK Singles Chart on the issue dated March 13, 1999, staying in for nine weeks.[14] It then re-entered at seventy-five on its ninth week.[14] According to The Official Charts Company, "Nothing Really Matters" has sold 128,137 copies in the United Kingdom, as of August 2008.[15] "Nothing Really Matters" was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for shipments of 200,000 copies there.[16] In Australia, the song achieved moderate success, entering at fifteen on the issue dated March 14, 1999 and descended the way out.[17] In New Zealand, it was more successful, entering at number seven for two consecutive weeks, until descending the way out. It managed to stay in the charts for nine weeks.[18] Across Europe, the song managed to be a top forty hit in most countries including Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Japan, The Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.[19]

Music video[edit]

Background and inspiration[edit]

Madonna, dressed in a red kimono as a geisha inspired look in the music video for "Nothing Really Matters".

The music video was directed by Johan Renck and filmed in January 1999 at Silvercup Studios in Long Island City, New York,[20] and premiered on MTV on January 13, 1999.[21] The kimono Madonna wore in the video had been created by Jean-Paul Gaultier, who would later design Madonna's geisha-inspired costumes on her Drowned World Tour in 2001.[22] Madonna later re-used the look of the video for her performance at the 41st Grammy Awards in February 1999.[23]

According to a behind-the-scenes interview with Entertainment Tonight, Madonna stated that the inspiration behind the video was from the 1996 novel Memoirs of a Geisha. Madonna later stated; "The whole idea of a geisha is a straight metaphor for being an [entertainer] because, on one hand you're privileged to be a geisha, but on the other hand you're a prisoner [...]" Madonna also choreographed her own moves on the video, as she stated "I don't like how other people say how I should move, I'm my own best choreographer."[24]


The video opens with an empty room with a fish painting, then shows Madonna holding to what looks like a baby but is actually a bag of water meant to symbolize all that is materialistic, and alternately in a red and black kimono dancing to the song.[23] Then, a scene features a group of white-clad Swedes of Asian heritage, who walk down a dark hallway. As Madonna sings the song in a black kimono, she grips onto the bag of water.

When the chorus starts, it features Madonna in a red kimono while dancing to the song. Scenes like this carry on through the rest of the song. There are multiple scenes of Japanese people dancing to the song, performing butoh dance moves while it was shot in the decommissioned R1 Reactor below the Royal Institute of Technology in central Stockholm. The ending scene has Madonna sitting while someone is painting her back and slowly rests her body on the group. It finishes with Madonna in her red kimono walking towards the camera as it slowly descends away from her.

Live performance[edit]

On February 24, 1999, Madonna opened the 41st Annual Grammy Awards ceremony at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, with a performance of "Nothing Really Matters". During the performance, she was backed by dancers in Asian-themed garb and a shirtless man who twirled a flaming stick, in front of a faux Japanese rock garden.[25][26] Jason Kaufman from NY Rock commented about the performance: "Her constant nationality morphing has got to go. With her geisha-girl-gone-club-hopping outfit last night, [...] the woman proved she's a walking Epcot Center, long on fashion and short on culture. And what were those women dancing behind her in her musical number holding? The objects looked like fetuses from last week's The X-Files".[27]

Track listings and formats[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Release history[edit]

Country Date
Europe March 2, 1999
United States April 13, 1999
Japan April 21, 1999

See also[edit]


  1. ^ *Taraborrelli, Randy J. (2002). Madonna: An Intimate Biography. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4165-8346-2. 
  2. ^ Lysloff, René; Gay, Leslie (2003). Music and technoculture. Wesleyan University Press. p. 192. ISBN 0-8195-6514-8. 
  3. ^ Metz & Benson 1999, p. 63
  4. ^ a b c Nothing Really Matters - Madonna Ciccone. Retrieved on 15 October 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e Like an Icon. Pg. 243.
  6. ^ 586. Madonna - 'Nothing Really Matters' (1998) << The Gospel According to Richard Croft 1001 Songs That Are Good.
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c
  9. ^ Lark, Bryan (1998-03-10). "Madonna Opens Heart and Soul on 'Light'". The Michigan Daily (University of Michigan). Retrieved 2011-11-02.
  10. ^ "Music Review: Ray of Light, by Madonna". Entertainment Weekly. March 6, 1998. 
  11. ^,21034/
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c d e Allmusic (1999). "Billboard Charts". Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  14. ^ a b Chart Archive. Madonna - Nothing Really Matters(Link redirected to OCC website). The Official Chart Company.
  15. ^ Jones, Alan (2008-08-19). "The Immaculate Guide To 50 Years Of Madonna". Music Week (UBM plc). Retrieved 2011-06-11. 
  16. ^ a b "British single certifications – Madonna – Nothing Really Matters". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 2014-10-19.  Enter Nothing Really Matters in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  17. ^ Australian Singles - Nothing Really Matters - Madonna. Hung Medien.
  18. ^ New Zealand Singles - Nothing Really Matters - Madonna. Hung Medien.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "European charts". Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  20. ^
  21. ^'s+%22Nothing+Really+Matters%22+World+Premieres+On+MTV+Saturday,...-a053853157
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Madonna – Nothing Really Matters
  29. ^ Madonna – Nothing Really Matters
  30. ^ Madonna – Nothing Really Matters
  31. ^ Madonna – Nothing Really Matters
  32. ^ Madonna – Nothing Really Matters
  33. ^ Madonna – Nothing Really Matters
  34. ^ Madonna – Nothing Really Matters
  35. ^ Madonna – Nothing Really Matters
  36. ^ Madonna – Nothing Really Matters
  37. ^ Madonna – Nothing Really Matters
  38. ^ Madonna – Nothing Really Matters
  39. ^ Madonna – Nothing Really Matters
  40. ^ Allmusic
  41. ^ Madonna: chart data (1999). "Eurochart". Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  42. ^ Charts-Surfer (1999). "German Singles Chart (Search)". Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  43. ^ Irish Charts (March 4, 1999). "Irish Singles Chart (Search)". Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  44. ^ "Madonna: Discografia Italiana" (in Italian). Federation of the Italian Music Industry. 1984–1999. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  45. ^ "Archive Chart: March 7, 1999". Scottish Singles Top 40. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
  46. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  47. ^ Every Hit (March 1999). "UK Singles Chart (Search)". Retrieved 2008-08-06. 

External links[edit]