Ray Of Light (1998)

Ray of light is the eight seventh album from queen of pop, Madonna and was the stars' comeback album after her lengthy absence from music during the mid- nineties. The album received critical acclaim and is one of the stars most successful and musically accomplished albums to date. It won four Grammy awards and spawned many chart-topping singles, which re-established Madonna as the most successful female and versatile artist of our time.
Ray of light has been defined as Madonna’s spiritual album, which saw the star re-invent herself as a techno yogi, ready to share her most candid and soul searching stories ever. The albums inspiration comes from Madonna’s own practice of yoga, eastern philosophies and the birth of her first child, Lourdes.

The term Ray Of Light, from a yogic perspective, refers to the Sanskrit term, Sushumna Nadi, the main energy centre of the body, which runs along the spine. 
With the practice of yoga, this energy channel, and others, can be awakened to release energy to the body and mind. The title track thus, is an energetic techno-rave of pure light and joy, which uplifts any grey day. The inspiring lyrics and energy suggests the artist is spiritually, physically and mentally sound and also suggests someone who is rejoicing in their newfound knowledge. ‘She’s got herself a little piece of heaven’, ‘she’s got herself a universe’ and ‘I feel home’, are all lyrics from this track that support this interpretation. The track is carefully placed behind, Drowned world/substitute for love and Swim, both personal insights on redemption and spiritual growthRay of light extends these themes as a celebration on how one feels after much soul-searching and reflection.

The middle chunk of the album continues on the spiritual musical journey, with three tracks bursting with inspired enlightenment.
Nothing Really Matters is an honest, beautiful expression of love and compassion, encapsulating a universal idea of how to treat one and other. ‘Nothing really matters, love is all we need. Everything I give you, all comes back to me’ is the lyrical mantra which enriches with its message of loving another gives one and abundance of love back and that’s what really maters.
Sky Fits Heaven is a thumping kick-ass ride along a road of philosophical signs and following your heart. This track implies struggles with spiritual wisdom and how one should always follow their heart more than the oversaturated amount of offerings one could receive on their spiritual path. The verses are all philosophical offerings and advise on what one should do or could aim for when following their spiritual path, however the music is a pounding beat of electronica, which highlights the distortion between your own mind and an overload of information. The chorus on the other hand is melodic and sung beautifully, reflective of the lyrics, which suggest that following ones own road and heart may be the best way forward.
A traditional yoga mantra gets a techno-pop makeover in the form of, Shanti/Astangi. This track blends together Indian music, techno and Sanskrit to great effect and is never shy of being played in yoga classes. 

Listening to this album is like going on a journey- a journey through the pitfalls of fame and life, spiritual awakening and growth.  Being released in the late 90’s, a time when consciousness in the world, along with yoga, was being more and more valued as a way of life and superstars like Madonna, were able to bring those values into popular culture to reach a wider audience, inspiring many people to take up yoga and to adopt an eastern way of thinking. This is more than a pop album, it’s a concept, a spiritual guide and musically ahead of its time which still sounds modern and relevant today. An absolute must for any music fan and modern yogis alike.


Janet Jackson, The Velvet Rope (1997)

The Velvet Rope is the sixth studio album, by one of pop musics all time greats; Janet (Ms Jackson, if you're nasty!).

The album was recorded at a time when Janet was battling through depression and is an introspective look at the woman life as she lifts her 'velvet rope' for us, inviting us in to her mind and emotions. The Velvet Rope concept symbolises the VIP barrier between the so called 'special' people of the world...and the rest of us. Metaphorically speaking, the velvet rope is a barrier between ourselves and our emotions. Janet is suggesting your name is definitely on the proverbial list, as she allows you into her world that shares her secrets on sex, social issues, spirituality, love and follows her own path to self discovery. I will focus on the exposure to the artists emotions, the philosophical and spiritual themes. 

Come Inside!

'Living the truth, will set you free'.  The Velvet Rope
The title track opens the album with twisted musical beats, thought provoking dialogue and the unmistakable genius of Vanessa Mae's contemporary violin backing. The song explores our need to belong, and how the need within us to feel special, can bring the worst out in us and also the best in us. Janet's number one theme throughout suggests that we are all special, regardless of social status and ability. I guess she is saying that we are 'told' that the 'special' people are the celebrities/VIP's, and when it comes to this exclusive world of velvet ropes, you and i certainly don't count. The truth is of course; we do count, durr!
Truth, confidence and love are all things to be found within us and remembering that you are a special can fall- by- the- waist side if we continue to put an emphasis on the material world and the connection that has to our emotional understanding of us feeling important, excepted and loved. 
'Putting others down, to fill us up'.  Does this make us feel special...? 
'Outside leave judgment, outside leave hate. One loves the answer, you'll find in you'. How about now....? Much better.

'Check in the mirror my friend, no lies will told then'.  You
The second track follows beautifully, by continuing the theme of looking inside oneself and battling those possessing demons; you know the ones that make your head spin around and make you tell your mother all kinds of nasty things. Ok, so those type of demons, but the biggest demon of them all - YOU! We cant ever escape ourselves and we definitely cant escape the truth - it always prevails, whispering in your ear like a nagging mother. So, the cure is to make friends with the demon, the voice, with you. 
Satya meaning truth in the ancient poetic language of Sanskrit, is also one of the Yamas (moral codes) outlined in the yoga sutras by the great sage Patanjali. These sutras state that 'When one is firmly established in speaking truth, the fruits of action become subservient to him'.  This teaches us to live a  truthful existence, see the bigger picture and our rewards for doing so will be revealed.  I once described my own practice of yoga to someone, was like a mirror attached to your face that you cant shake off. I was obviously referring that there is no escape from the truth and one day you have to deal with it. I can happily say i do not describe my practice like that anymore, although that metaphorical magical mirror does come in handy. Truth leads us to freedom...well that's the plan anyway.

From this point on, the album explores many different ideas about love, death, emotions and sexuality. FreeZone explores our attitudes towards homosexuality, Rope Burn touches on sadomasochism and the beautiful Together Again rejoices in the concept of life after death, drawn from Janet's own experience of loved ones dying of AIDS. This album, simply put, is Janet Jackson's masterpiece. 

'You have to learn to water your spiritual garden, the you will be free'. Special
The album ends where it began in terms of its overall message. But instead of an dark and eerie music notion, light and happiness seem to be the concluding factors. Special is a corny song i have to say, (it has a choir and everything), but it does re-illiterate the fact that its so important that we must deal with our pasts problems to enable us to progress. Jackson stresses that you are important no matter what others or yourself may think, and that spiritual connection is a way in which one can learn and to feel that affirmation. Weather you practice yoga, meditation, go to church or visit temples, a spiritual life helps in answering those unanswered questions. Its not about religious attachments or living a life that doesn't relate to you. Its about living your truth. Essentially, as human beings our river of truths all runs to the same ocean. We all feel hurt, pain, love and happiness but is only us that can unlock the closed doors that open up to a life of freedom. Dive in, be brave and enjoy being free.


Alanis Morissette and her yogic album: Suppossed Former Infactuation Junkie

This has always been a very special album in my opinion. I remember listening to it first time around (back on its release in 1999) and falling in love with the deep lyrics and epic production. It was brash and brave and completely inspiring. Back then i knew this was a spirtual album - a usually trait amongst artists who have such huge success with one album, they then tend to back track on whats important in their lives..if not, it seems they pay Betty Ford a vist.
I still listen to this album, but no as a yogi boy, i see the album in a new light, particularly the songs BABA & THANK YOU which both have strong yogic themes.

BABA is an angry sounding song, both lyrically and musically. After a few listens (the angry element still stands), but more underlying layers of the songs actual meaning begin to unfold.
It tell us of an ethos of a spiritual path taken by Alanis and if this 'sold' idea of enlightenment is really what its all cracked up to be. The lyrics read as if she is a spectator in a somewhat frenzied world of lemming type spirituals, all of which are flocking to a gurus promise of absolution and she is the questioning outsider, who seems jaded by the process of enlightenment. There is also indications of her resentment to a gurus power and status, along with observations on what people sacrifice for spiritual evolution. The lyrics are clearly suggesting she is the voice for her fellow devotees and ambivalence is getting the better of her.
The song explores our attitude with impatience and how humans are always thinking, 'what about me?, What am i getting out of this?', 'Ive given so much and am getting nothing in return'.
We can all expect a little too much without ever putting the work in. How many of us can relate to this i ask? Furthermore, how many can relate this to our own practice of yoga? Enlightenment doesnt come in the form of a magic wand- patience and trust are key.
I feel this song and the experience had by Morissette, was an early stage of her spiritual evolution; something all yoga practitioners can relate to as we know whats it feels like to become impatient and have doubts about ones sadhana (or spiritual journey) and hopefully we all have learnt, that practice, acceptance and letting go are blessings and lead us to greater understanding......which leads me nicely to........

THANK YOU, (the second song to discuss) has been placed so beautifully in the track listings. For one its a great melodic commercial sounding production (which aids as a welcome antidote to the previous heavy track in discussion) and two, it follows the doubts of the first track in question (BABA), with a more quieter, reflective approach. This may suggest this was written at a more peaceful time than BABA and at a later stage of the writers journey into the values of a spiritual life.
The lyrically theme is about letting go, acceptance, gratitude and peace with one self. The musical beat and twinkling chimes are perfect for a sun salutation or two, and the vocals are extremely beautiful and uplifting.
Each verse of the song begins with 'how about' as a starting point. This shows the song is an offering, not a dictation. How about those things, are they so bad? Is it really a bad thing to cry your eyes out and not be embarrassed...... and to forgive and forget?
The lyric ' the moment i jumped off of it, was the moment i touched down', is a beautiful metaphor for getting over yourself, off your pedestal and becoming grounded. The time for reflection is important and being thankful is even more so, this is so beautifully express in the chorous where Alanis thanks India and simple things such as silence.

To conclude these thoughts on THANK YOU, i leave you with my fave lyric from the album that may get any sceptic thinking:
'How about no longer being masochistic and remembering your divinity'! 

Check out the published version here: