It used to be that all Madonna songs were hits. It was just the way things were. From 1984 until 1995, she’d had more than 30 consecutive top 40 hits. Even the mediocre ones, like “Rain” and “I’ll Remember,” and the ones that I’m pretty sure don’t actually exist, like “Oh Father” and “Bad Girl,” they all hit the top 40, if not the top 10. And then, in 1995, Madonna got all creative and artistic and weird and, obviously, interesting. Bedtime Stories was deeply weird and and fairly experimental, with songs written by people like Bjork. The first single “Secret,” was accessible enough and hit #3; later singles “Bedtime Story” and “Human Nature” were Madonna’s first singles to skip the top 40 in the U.S., despite very memorable videos.
Also missing the top 40 and rocking a memorable video was “I Want You,” her most understated and haunting song to date (and probably still. A sparse, aching melodrama of romantic and sexual yearning, it completely outdid Marvin Gaye’s kinda schmaltzy original. Helping things were collaborators Massive Attack and producer Nelle Hooper.
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“I Want You” was included on the Gaye tribute album Inner City Blues, and was set to be the first single off of the otherwise greatest-hits-but-only-ballads Madonna album Something to Remember in 1995, but a contract dispute with Gaye’s old Motown label prevented “I Want You” from being released as a commercial single, and thus not charting because of the Billboard qualifications at the time. But that shouldn’t have mattered. Madonna’s “Into the Groove” wasn’t a commercial single either, and that song was inescapable on 1985 radio. Ten years later, “I Want You” was too quiet, too weird, and too good, and thus too un-Madonna to embrace. It only makes sense that a song about yearning would be left unloved.