This was originally going to be the only Madonna song on the list. Now it will be one of two. I chose this one because I feel like it’s one of Madonna’s most underrated singles, even though when I first heard it, I was kind of put off by the remarkable amount of vocoder. What worked for Cher in “Believe” apparently didn’t work for Madonna on “Die Another Day.”
When Madonna was chosen to record the title song to the 20th James Bond movie, the Madonnasphere, as it was in 2002, went crazy. Expectations were pretty high, to say the least, especially amongst the music people involved with the film who wanted a hit. Originally, the title of the song was rumored to be “Can’t You See My Mind?” which naturally set Jeff and I into fits of laughter because of its similarity to the Love Theme from Superman, “Can You Read My Mind.” The song, if it ever existed, remains unreleased although certain YouTube videos purporting to be “Can You See My Mind” are listed. None of these contain Madonna’s vocals and most are actually other songs. Ultimately, Madonna ended up titling the song to match the film and “Die Another Day” was the result.
But when I think of “Die Another Day” I’ll always remember a friend I had at that time. He lived in Ohio and we were both part of an online men’s listserv which, in its hey day, generated a thousand posts a month. Since I was always looking for ways to connect with people and because I was living in small-town Iowa at the time, it was a good way for me to discuss issues near and dear as well as meet new people. Much like face-to-face contact, there were some people that I found really cool and amazing and others that had me backing away slowly. But Ed and I really hit it off, trading e-mails at a furious pace. It helped a lot that we were both at the similar points in life. While 5 years older than me, he had a newborn daughter and mine was about to turn a year old. He was a stay-at-home dad and although I wasn’t, his not working outside the home was timely as it allowed us a lot of time to send e-mails and chat in Yahoo! Instant Messenger (those were the days.) We developed a pretty tight bond over lots of things – we both dealt with depression, we both had young daughters, we both were deeply interested in what being a man meant in those early years of the 21st century. But I downloaded “Die Another Day” from Kazaa or BearShare or whatever one night while Ed and I were IMing and he got the play by play of my reaction.
Around this time of year in 2002, I made a mix CD of a lot of the music that had been mentioned in our e-mails and chats and phone conversations and sent him a copy. I even crafted a cover that had photos of both of us at the computer with our daughters. Naturally, “Die Another Day” was on there. In January of 2003, I took Amtrak to Ohio and visited him for the better part of a week. It was a fun week that hampered primarily by the fact that I started getting sick as I left and came home with a full blown ear infection.
As 2003 progressed, the listserv started to dry up, as did my friendship with Ed. It ended more with a whimper than a bang – and even to this day, I wouldn’t say that it ever really ended. We just kind of stopped e-mailing and talking. It wasn’t really anyone’s fault. To paraphrase Janet Jackson, it’s just the way life goes. But I did learn some important lessons from him, the most important of which being that finding people you can connect with really is a numbers game – the more you do it, the more likely you are to find it. Of course, you have to suffer a lot of failures, but the results are usually worth it. When he said that, I remember being angry about it, but the real reason I was angry was because it was true. But because of this, I will always remember him fondly.
As Madonna says in “Die Another Day” – “analyze this!”
“Die Another Day” eventually found a home on American Life, Madonna’s much maligned 2003 album. It has always stuck out like a sore thumb for me on that album – while production-wise, it’s similar to the other songs, it has a very one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other feel to it. The video is one I watched once and never again – this time period was a very unmemorable period for Madonna’s videos. So instead, I’ll leave you with her performance of the song on 2004’s Re-Invention Tour. I think it’s “live” only in the respect that Madonna is actually living and breathing in front of you.