Something To Remember is a collection of ballads that was released after the success of Bedtime Stories, also an entire album nearly full of ballads. Cynics snickered that Madonna was simply capitalizing on her new white-and-eggshell ballad image, trying to compensate for the commercial fallout from the edgy Erotica.
Cynics are right.
But that doesn't mean Something To Remember is a bad album. In fact, as a greatest hits package, it feels more cohesive and high-end than The Immaculate Collection and more complete than GHV2, the latter released in 2001. (For one thing, The Immaculate Collection has the worst album cover in the history of recorded music, and Something To Remember is still the best of her career. And SPARE ME THE FUNKY COWGIRLS!)
For one thing, it's terrific to have the two soundtrack songs "I'll Remember" and "This Used To Be My Playground" on a Madonna album; these two tracks alone justify buying the CD if you're a fan, although the two mixes of "I Want You," a collaboration with Massive Attack, and the understated drama of "You'll See" don't seem like too much of a waste, either. The remaining new track, "One More Chance," is Madonna with an acoustic guitar and some barely-there synths - very clear, very winning, some might say very boring but I've always had a soft spot for Madonna's voice, which isn't afraid to be vulnerable. Witness her pleading delivery in "Crazy For You," an old song that still sounds fresh and poignant, and completely at home in this very slick, high-fashion feel packaging; it's not just her that refuses to age.
In fact her older songs take on a very up to date, very modern feel in this new context: I never thought "Oh Father" was particularly interesting on Like A Prayer, but put here, I'm beginning to see that it was a pretty complex and attuned arrangement. "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" is hated even by the fans but, remixed for this collection, it puts some much-needed drama into the mix.
"Live To Tell" still drags, "Forbidden Love" is still forgettable, and to be honest, the only thing I like about "Take a Bow" is the intro. It's still worth getting Bedtime Stories after this because "Survival," "Secret," "Love Tried to Welcome Me," etc. are on that album.
Ten years down the road and the album hasn't changed much; the cover still looks like a page out of today's Vogue, the songs are still radio-ready, and frankly this album is more relevant now than American Life is. But that's just the world catching up to Madonna. I was going to end this review with a suggestion that she release another album of ballads soon, but then I realized she's not one to go back. And I'll probably review American Life in ten years' time and sing a completely different song.