The sonic renaissance of Madonna’s career at the close of the 20th century was nothing less than revolutionary. For the “Queen Of Pop”, the 90s had been a decade in which every new reinvention seemingly attracted controversy (not least the full-on shock generated by the Erotica album), even as the hits kept coming. But by 1998, as she prepared to release the Ray Of Light album, Madonna was ready to make a new artistic statement. Released as the album’s lead single, her game-changing new song Frozen drew on the melodic pop balladry of the past and fused it with the ethereal charisma of William Orbit’s cutting-edge production.
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Launching a new project with a ballad had worked for Madonna before, most notably for 1986’s True Blue album and the Billboard No.1 Live To Tell. But this was different. Frozen restaged her in a cinematic, widescreen frame and, while the track certainly stood up on pop radio, it was the promo clip and a handful of promotional appearances that really put the song on the map.
The promo video: A “mystical creature of the desert and the embodiment of female angst”
Inspired by the film The English Patient, Frozen’s promo video, filmed by acclaimed British artist Chris Cunningham, was shot at Cuddeback Lake, in California’s Mojave Desert, and cast Madonna as a “mystical creature of the desert and the embodiment of female angst”. The Jean-Paul Gaultier costume did little to protect the star from a long, gruelling shoot with temperatures routinely dropping below zero, but the effort proved worthwhile, with the clip earning an MTV Video Music Award for its groundbreaking effects.