The Power of Good-Bye

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"The Power of Good-Bye"
Single by Madonna
from the album Ray of Light
A-side "Little Star"
B-side "Mer Girl"
Released September 22, 1998
Genre Electronic
Length 4:10
Madonna singles chronology
"Drowned World/Substitute for Love"
"The Power of Good-Bye"
"Nothing Really Matters"
Music video
"The Power of Good-Bye" on YouTube

"The Power of Good-Bye" is a song by American singer and songwriter Madonna, taken from her seventh studio album Ray of Light (1998). It was written by Madonna and Rick Nowels, and was additionally produced by Madonna, William Orbit and Patrick Leonard. The song was released as the fourth single from the album on September 22, 1998. "The Power of Good-Bye" was additionally released as a double A-Side single in the United Kingdom with "Little Star". Lyrically, the song talks about how freeing and empowering saying good-bye or ending a relationship can feel. Musically, the melancholy ballad is an electronic inspired song, with its instrumentation consisting in shuffle beats, acoustic guitars and sweeping strings, arranged by Craig Armstrong.

"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 praising going to its instrumentation and electronic vibe, while also praising Madonna's vocals and comparing to "Frozen" for its thematic. The song attained commercial success across Europe, reaching the top-ten in over nine countries, including Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom, while in the United States it reached number 11, becoming her 37th top-twenty hit and her seventh highest debut at the time. Its blue-green music video was directed by Matthew Rolston in Malibu, California and features actor Goran Višnjić as her love interest.

Background and release[edit]

Since 1996, Madonna went through "life-changing experiences," from "the birth of her daughter to an awakening of interest in Eastern mysticism", as well as the lead role on the film adaptation of the musical Evita (1996). A year later, following the promotion of the Evita soundtrack, she started work on the album that would reflect those changes. Then, she started writing with William Orbit, Patrick Leonard, Rick Nowels and Babyface - with the songs from the latter not entering on the album's final track listing since she changed the album's direction. Around June 1997, Madonna entered the Larrabee North Studio, (Universal City, California) to record the album with Orbit, an engineer and a tape operator. According to Orbit, "Most of the tracks pre-existed, so Madonna would work on vocals and lyrics at home, or driving around in her car."[1] "The Power of Good-Bye" was written with Rick Nowels, which according to Lucy O'Brien, author of Like an Icon, "[Nowels] was struck by her 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 her songwriting was a benefit of her "voracious reading."[2]

After issuing "Drowned World/Substitute for Love" as the album's third single around the world, "The Power of Good-Bye" was chosen to be release the album's fourth single, since "radio programmers and diehard fans [had] long been clamoring to be released as a single."[3] In the United States, the song was released as the album's third single on September 22, 1998, as a two-track single.[4] In the United Kingdom, "The Power of Good-Bye" was released as a double A-side with "Little Star", another track from Ray of Light (1998).[5] In the rest of Europe, the song was included on the major single releases as a B-side. In the European maxi-singles, several experimental remixes of the song 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 Allmusic's Jose F. Promis, the "Luke Slater's Super Luper" "turns the ballad into a thumping deep house anthem, making it sound like a completely different song." Meanwhile, the "Fabien's Good God Mix," is "an electronic, tripped-out, drum'n'bass-heavy mix which keeps the integrity of the original song," Promis noted.[4]


A 25 second sample of "The Power of Good-Bye"

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"The Power of Good-Bye" was written by Madonna and Rick Nowels, with production being done by Madonna, William Orbit and Patrick Leonard, while Craig Armstrong was responsible for string arrangement.[6] It was written in the key of F minor with a moderate tempo of 80 beats per minute.[7] It is an electronic melancholy love ballad, with its arrangement being "anchored by a crisp shuffle beat and sweetened by occasional orchestral string flourishes and constrasting acoustic guitar strumming."[3] It also infuses computer blips and techno effects.[8] Lyrically, "The Power of Good-Bye" talks the strength that comes in letting go,[9] and it was considered "a sort of sonic sister to 'Frozen'," since both deal with themes of a heart closed to love,[10] with Madonna "advocating the need to open your heart" in lines like, "Your heart is not open so I must go."[11] Nowels claimed that "The lyrics to ‘The Power Of Good-Bye’ are stunning. I love Madonna as an artist and a songwriter... She is a wonderful confessional songwriter, as well as being a superb hit chorus pop writer... She doesn’t get the credit she deserves as a writer."[10] He also described the song as a "meditation", adding that it's "a beautiful poem. I was knocked out. Touched."[2] Australian music critic and friend of Madonna, Molly Meldrum, claimed the lyrics were about Madonna's former husband Sean Penn. The lyrical content was compared to William Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

"The Power of Good-Bye" received acclaim from the majority of music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic picked the song as one of the album's highlights,[12] while Amy Pettifer of The Quietus called it "one of M's finest moments."[13] Larry Flick of Billboard praised the fact that "the diva brilliantly nestles a dewy love ballad within a cutting-edge electronic pop framework." He also noted that "[y]ou can listen to this track a dozen times and still pluck something new from the richly layered arrangement", while highlighting Madonna's vocals, writing that she "performs with a confidence that allows her to flawlessly merge a widened vocal range with a considerable dose of raw emotion and soul."[3] Bryan Lark of The Michigan Daily picked the song and "Frozen" as "the album's best two tracks", noting that both proved that "she still likes to get into the groove, explaining why this a techno album and not part of the 'Mood' series."[11] Greg Kot of Chicago Tribune noted that the "rapturous sweep of 'Power of Good-Bye' [proves that] Madonna has succeeded where all of her pop peers have failed: She's made not just street-smart disco, but smart pop."[14]

Rachel Brodsky of Spin remarked that both "The Power of Good-Bye" and "Frozen" "helped cement the mainstream crossover of a dance culture once relegated to illegal basement parties."[8] Elysa Gardner of Los Angeles Times perceived that "Madonna's enduring knack for incorporating hip and exotic textures into accessible pop tunes is evident on avant-leaning dance tracks such as 'Nothing Really Matters' and 'The Power of Good-bye'."[15] Charlotte Robinson of PopMatters praised the inclusion of the song and other William Orbit tracks on Madonna's compilation GHV2 for representing "a testament to his ability to use gadgets and electronic wizardry not to alienate listeners, but to draw them in."[16] Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine gave a "A-" grade to the song, writing that the song was "[s]tructured like your average Adult Contemporary ballad with enough electronic sheen to sound edgy, 'The Power of Goodbye' was the ultimate in electronica-lite. If the song's themes of empowerment aren't enough to lift the spirits, rhythmic guitars, sweeping strings and a soaring melody elevate the listener to several clouds above 9."[17]

Chart performance[edit]

"The Power of Good-Bye" entered the US Billboard Hot 100 chart at number 24 on the issue of October 17, 1998, becoming Madonna's 16th single to debut inside the top-forty and also her 38th overall top 40 hit. The debut also became seventh-highest debut of her career and her fifth consecutive single to debut inside the top-thirty.[18] The following week, the song jumped to number 16, becoming Madonna's fifth consecutive top-twenty single.[19] It eventually peaked at number 11 on the week ending November 28, 1998.[20] According to Jose F. Promis of Allmusic, what kept the song from making the top-ten was because "[its maxi CD], unfortunately, never saw the light of day in the U.S."[4] In the United Kingdom, the song fared better, debuting at number six and staying on the singles chart for nine weeks, selling 180,000 copies.[21] It later became her 36th best-selling single in the UK.[22] The song went further in countries like Austria, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Scotland, Spain and Switzerland, where it reached the top-ten. In Spain, "The Power of Good-Bye" was the only single from Ray of Light to not reach number one,[23] meanwhile in Australia the song was her first single since "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" to miss the top-twenty, peaking at number 33.[24]

Music video[edit]

Madonna playing chess in the music video for "The Power of Good-Bye".

The music video for "The Power of Good-Bye" was directed by Matthew Rolston, and was filmed from August 8–10, 1998 at Silvertop House in Los Angeles, California and Malibu Beach. The video premiered on MTV on September 10, 1998, a few minutes before the MTV Video Music Awards show began. The video was occasionally played on The WB Network after the television show Felicity, which played the song as the background music during its TV ads. The video shows Madonna and her lover playing chess and ultimately Madonna destroying the chess board, symbolizing an end to their relationship. Madonna also goes walking by the sea, but it is unclear whether she drowns herself in the last scene. Throughout the video, there are the scenes of Madonna sitting, singing and slowly dancing in front of the curtain. Madonna's lover in the video is played by Croatian actor Goran Višnjić. The video is color graded to that of a blue-green tint.

Live performances[edit]

Madonna first performed "The Power of Good-Bye" on October 23, 1998, during the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards, dressed in black latex and leather, accompanied by the children of Opus 118, from Harlem School of Music.[25][26] On November 12, Madonna performed an off-key version of the song on the 1998 MTV Europe Music Awards in Assago, Italy, dressed in black. John Dingwall from Daily Record noted that Madonna "struggled" on delivering the performance, as she seemed nervous.[27] "The Power of Good-Bye" is one of the few singles that Madonna has performed on the BBC program Top of the Pops, aired seven days later.[28] On November 23, 1998, Madonna appeared on the Spanish RTVE show A La Carta and performed "The Power of Good-Bye", along with her other song "Drowned World/Substitute for Love".[29]

Track listings and formats[edit]



Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Austria (IFPI Austria)[68] Gold 25,000*
Germany (BVMI)[69] Gold 250,000^
Sweden (GLF)[70] Gold 15,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


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