dispatches from the pop scene...minus the corn syrup.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Throwback: I'll Remember

Oh, Madonna. What a tempestuous relationship we've had. I'm sort of the Madge anti-fan. The output I like from her is often the least favored among her followers. But here's a confession: my alltime fave song from Ye Olde Vampyre is spring 1994's "I'll Remember," from box office flop With Honors.

First of all...With Honors. Who could have guessed in '94 that the only one from the cast who'd still be working steadily in 2008 would be future Grey's Anatomy star, Patrick Dempsey -- here playing fourth banana to Brendan Fraser, Joe Pesci and Moira Kelly. (Also included was Josh Hamilton, who later played Edina's long-absent son, Serge, in a 2002 episode of Absolutely Fabulous.)

But, Lord, did that movie suck. It was one of a handful of college-themed films out that spring that also included Reality Bites, PCU and, my favorite back then, Threesome. (Though in retrospect, they all chewed.)

In trying to pinpoint why "I'll Remember" sticks out, I guess it just came out at the right time. My final semester of community college (hot) before transferring to university that fall was winding down, and all seemed right for a tune about "remembering" simple things. Other radio hits at the time were Ace Of Base's "Don't Turn Around," Lisa Loeb's "Stay" and Enigma's "Return To Innocence."

Of course, this was a period where Madge was sort of black and blue -- she'd suffered some poor-charting singles for the first time off her previous album, Erotica, and her Sex book two years prior had drawn sharp criticism. "I'll Remember" was a much-needed hit for the Material Senior, spending about a month stuck at #2 on Billboard's Hot 100.

At the time, Madonna even seemed to be having a Britney-esque public meltdown when she went on Late Night With David Letterman that spring and nervously tried to insult the nighttime host by using the F word about 17 times, smoking a cigar and telling bad jokes that just plain fell flat with the audience. And was she high? I recall Entertainment Weekly running a complete dissection of the fiasco the following week.

Here are the clips for the "I'll Remember" video and the Letterman episode. He really did a great job countering her jabs at every turn:

Overall, I think the zeitgeist of 1994 was literally scandal in general, though for the first time in awhile it wasn't Madonna causing it. There was the lingering icky-ness from the Michael Jackson child molestation trial the year before, the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan drama earlier that winter with the Olympics and then, just around the corner in June 1994 was the O.J. Simpson "crime of the century." Suddenly, Madonna just didn't seem that shocking anymore. In fact, she was almost passé.

Any lesser star, and this likely would have been the dénouement of their commercial success. So "I'll Remember" was probably just what we needed from her -- a sweet and non-threatening nostalgic ballad.

I'm far from an expert on this broad, but wasn't this also one of the first times Madonna worked with William Orbit, albeit in the form of him doing a remix for the song?

Anyway, here's a tradge pic of 20-year-old D'luv from May 1994, on a trip to D.C., with the Washington Monument off in the distance.

The denim shirt is so classy that I want to dig it out, roll it up and shove it down the front of my pants. While listening to Madonna.

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  • At 8:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Madge followers like myself will recall that this song marked Madonna's bringing Pat Leonard back into her creative mix. He'd been gone since I'm Breathless and marked one of the first times where she worked with someone, ditched them, and brought them back. Pat returned years later to cowrite several songs from Ray of Light and recently scored I AM BECAUSE WE ARE, her Malawi documentary. Along with Donna DeLory, Pat's one of the few people Madonna has kept around throughout her career.


  • At 9:28 AM, Blogger Dan said…

    "I'll Remember" is also one of my favorite Madonna tracks. I vastly prefer it to it's bastard cousin "This Used To Be My Playground" which I never got into (and still don't listen to much these days.)

    Similarly, I was in a mood for "remembering" as I was going through some unfun shit with some friends of mine which seemed like high drama at the time. Only now do I recognize it for the high MELOdrama that it was. The "I'll remember/The strength that you gave me/Now that I'm standing on my own" was a source of great inspiration.

    Yeah, that's kinda lame but what the hell.

    That EW article you referenced was actually titled "Like...Aversion!" or something witty like that. I remember it well. I also remember Madonna saying stuff like "If I'm over, why do people keep on writing stuff about me?"

    Great post! I loved it.

  • At 2:29 PM, Blogger Joshua said…

    Aww I love I'll Remember! The harmonies in the chorus are so subtle yet sweet - great job Nikki and Donna! But I'm not sure what was happening with Madonna's hair in the video... Why???!

  • At 2:41 PM, Blogger John said…

    Man, is everyone in reminisce mode? I've been slowly working through my musical memories on my blog as well, although I'm somewhere in the mid-80s at the moment.

    I was just out of college at the time this came out, and was driving all over upstate NY, Vermont and Massachusetts as a secret shopper for a music store chain. I remember hearing this as I was driving through Vermont, thinking about having just finished college, and wondering where life was going. Little did I know that it wasn't going to be as easy a ride as I had imagined, and it took almost a decade to truly get through all of that rough crap. I'm better for it now, but it's as if Satan thought I was too idealistic, and threw some devil dogs at me to balance it out.

  • At 2:51 PM, Blogger Yuяi said…

    Totally love "I'll Remember"--even more so than Madgie's other monster ballads, including "Take a Bow" (I know, sacrilege, right?!)

    No wonder you were broke! You have to turn around and FACE the street to get customers, hooker! :P

  • At 2:58 PM, Blogger Joshua said…

    lawlllll Yuri!

  • At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Her worst song. God how I hated it when it came out.
    Madonna was such a pussy at this time. Running with her tail between her legs after "Erotica" to this crummy ballad. I can almost hear it playing behind "Attention Wal-Mart shoppers".

  • At 8:18 PM, Blogger Mike said…

    I had no idea you were Bob Saget's love child until seeing you in that sexy denim shirt. Hot.

  • At 11:41 PM, Blogger Kenneth Walsh said…

    God, you're SO RIGHT about that Letterman meltdown. It was like the whole "cool veneer of being Madonna" was erased overnight. Instead of seeming like a superstar goddess (dare I say living legend?), she suddenly just seemed like, well, a total dork.

    The song is sweet, although "Rain" was probably better but came out at the wrong time.

    I love that photo of you. I was living in DC then and had that same shirt (I always wore mine with plaid shorts, however). Who knew you used to be Eli Manning's twin???

  • At 12:01 AM, Blogger xolondon said…

    I was living in DC at that time too and I recall you hitting on me at the Lincoln Memorial. Something about sitting on Daddy's lap. Yes, that was you. Right?

    Anyway, I'll Remember is to the 90's as Hey Poo is to the oughties. I for one am a big fan of Playground though. What a psych out before Erotica.

  • At 6:49 AM, Anonymous Johnny D said…

    Although the rest of the world seems to percieve Erotica as a low point, down here is Australia it was quite the opposite. The Girlie Show brought some much needed warmth to the tracks and created genuine Madonna hysteria not seen for many years.

    I think "I'll Remember" was more a sentimental hit here on the back of the tour, but it was a sweet single, in the tradition of hit Madonna singles from flop movies.

    Not sure, but wasn't there a William Orbit "Guerilla Groove" mix that existed as well as his "Guerilla Beach" Mix???

  • At 10:43 PM, Anonymous numbfromdrugs said…

    Northridge earthquake
    Dating a cheerleader

    Not sure which was the bigger disaster?

  • At 3:13 PM, Blogger David said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 9:05 AM, Blogger Adem With An E said…

    I concur on the Erotica/Oz front; though the fact that it was her first (and last, so far) tour in this country probably helped matters.

    "she suddenly just seemed like, well, a total dork."
    It's odd that she came across that way; isn't Letterman filmed in New York? She has no excuses for acting like that then.

  • At 11:56 PM, Blogger Sean said…

    Madge approved Orbit's mix of Justify My Love for the single release. Curiously, Orbit produced "Deep In Vogue", the track Madonna would homage (along with very heavy sampling of Salsoul Orchestra's "Ooh I Love It (Love Break)") to make Vogue. Not to get further into the muck, but Shep was still high from a rather successful update mix of the Salsoul track when he made Vogue, and I don't doubt it was a case of "well I have a lot of samples here already cut and ready...".

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