Hope you have enjoyed the music so far.
In 1992, Madonna had a role in A League of Their Own as Mae Mordabito, a baseball player on an all-women’s team. She recorded the film’s theme song, “This Used to Be My Playground”, which became a Hot 100 number one hit. The same year, she founded her own entertainment company, Maverick, consisting of a record company (Maverick Records), a film production company (Maverick Films), and associated music publishing, television broadcasting, book publishing and merchandising divisions. The deal was a joint venture with Time Warner and paid Madonna an advance of $60 million. It gave her 20% royalties from the music proceedings, one of the highest rates in the industry, equaled at that time only by Michael Jackson’s royalty rate established a year earlier with Sony. The first release from the venture was Madonna’s book, titled Sex. It consisted of sexually provocative and explicit images, photographed by Steven Meisel. The book caused strong negative reaction from the media and the general public, but sold 1.5 million copies at $50 each in a matter of days. At the same time she released her fifth studio album, Erotica, which debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. Its title track peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100. Erotica also produced five further singles: “Deeper and Deeper”, “Bad Girl”, “Fever”, “Rain” and “Bye Bye Baby”. The provocative imagery continued in the 1990s with the erotic thriller, Body of Evidence, a film which contained scenes of sadomasochism and bondage. It was poorly received by critics. She also starred in the film Dangerous Game, which was released straight to video in North America. The New York Times described the film as “angry and painful, and the pain feels real.”
In September 1993, Madonna embarked on The Girlie Show World Tour, in which she dressed as a whip-cracking dominatrix surrounded by topless dancers. The show faced negative reaction, specifically in Puerto Rico where she rubbed the island’s flag between her legs on stage. In March 1994, she appeared as a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman, using profanity that was required to be censored on television and handing Letterman a pair of her underwear and asking him to smell it. The releases of her sexually explicit films, albums and book, and the aggressive appearance on Letterman all made critics question Madonna as a sexual renegade. She faced strong negative publicity from critics and fans, who commented that “she had gone too far” and that her career was over.
Biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli describer her ballad “I’ll Remember” (1994) as an attempt to tone down her provocative image. The song was recorded for Alek Keshishian’s film With Honors. She made a subdued appearance with Letterman at an awards show and appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno after realizing that she needed to change her musical direction in order to sustain her popularity. With her sixth studio album, Bedtime Stories (1994), Madonna employed a softer image to try to improve the public perception of her. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and produced four singles, including “Secret” and “Take a Bow”, the latter topping the Hot 100 for seven weeks, the longest period of any Madonna single. At the same time, she became romantically involved with fitness trainer Carlos Leon. Something to Remember, a collection of ballads, was released in November 1995. The album featured three new songs: “You’ll See”, “One More Chance”, and a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You”.
1996 saw the release of Evita, in which Madonna played the title role of Eva Perón. For a long time, Madonna had desired to play Perón and even wrote to director Alan Parker, explaining how she would be perfect for the part. She stated, “This is the role I was born to play. I put everything of me into this because it was much more than a role in a movie. It was exhilarating and intimidating at the same time….. And I am prouder of Evita than anything else I have done.” After securing it, she underwent vocal training and learned about the history of Argentina and Perón. During shooting she fell sick many times due to the intense emotional effort required. However, as she told Oprah, she was also pregnant during the filming, which was also a factor: “I was winded after every take. I had to lie on the couch every ten minutes so I could recover from dizzy spells, I was worried that I was shaking the baby around too much and that would injure it in some way.” Nevertheless, Madonna managed to find a positive side to those problems, which she wrote in her personal diary at the time: “Ironically, this feeling of vulnerability and weakness is helping me in the movie. I’m sure Evita felt this way every day of her life once she discovered she was ill.”
After its release, Evita garnered critical appreciation. Zach Conner from Time magazine commented “It’s a relief to say that Evita is pretty damn fine, well cast and handsomely visualized. Madonna once again confounds our expectations. She plays Evita with a poignant weariness and has more than just a bit of star quality. Love or hate Madonna-Eva, she is a magnet for all eyes.” Madonna won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for the role. She released three singles from the Evita soundtrack album including “You Must Love Me” (which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1997) and “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”. Madonna was later presented with the Artist Achievement Award by Tony Bennett at the 1996 Billboard Music Awards. On October 14, 1996, Madonna gave birth to Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon, her daughter with Leon. Biographer Mary Cross writes that although Madonna was often ill during the filming and worried that her pregnancy would harm the film, she reached some important personal goals: “Now 38 years old, Madonna had at last triumphed on screen and achieved her dream of having a child, both in the same year. She had reached another turning point in her career, reinventing herself and her image with the public.” Her relationship with Carlos Leon ended in May 1997; she declared that they were “better off as best friends.” After Lourdes’ birth, Madonna became involved in Eastern mysticism and Kabbalah. She was introduced to Jewish mysticism by actress Sandra Bernhard in 1997.[11