Madonna has never been known for delivering memorable movie performances or impactful power ballads. And that’s OK! Not everyone can be good at everything. However, she’s made some noble efforts over the years. And not all of them have gotten the attention they deserve.
In 2000, the singer appeared alongside Rupert Everett in the film The Next Best Thing playing Abbie, who’s straight, and Robert, who’s gay. The two BFFs decide to raise a child together only to get caught up in a bitter (and homophobic) custody battle after their friendship falls apart.
Despite opening at #2 at the box office, The Next Best Thing was panned by critics and ultimately failed to earn back its $25 million budget. (Although it did land multiple Golden Raspberry nominations, including Worst Actress, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Screen Couple.)
Everett later said the movie was responsible for killing both his acting career and his friendship with Madonna, who he had been close with prior to filming. “We don’t see each other anymore,” he told The Telegraph‘s Stellar Magazine in 2020. “I do miss it.”
Madonna, he noted, is “an amazing person and that part of my life was incredibly exciting. To be doing a film with her, and to be a friend of hers, and to have been such a fan of hers. But the fallout from the movie’s failure was gigantic for me, like an outer-space explosion.”
Perhaps the only positive thing to come out of the project was its soundtrack, which Madonna executive produced. She handpicked all 12 songs, contributing two of her own: an electronic cover of Don McLean’s “American Pie”, which went on to be a #1 hit around the world, and a much lesser-known original track titled “Time Stood Still.”
The wistful electro-pop ballad was written by Madonna and producer William Orbit specifically for the film. It tells the bittersweet story of a relationship that has run its course, with Madonna reflecting over lush orchestral strings, “Maybe your the next best thing to happen/All the things we might have been.”
Despite being one of Madonna’s most beautiful ballads, in addition to one of her technically best vocal performances, “Time Stood Still” was never released as a single and largely went unnoticed… except, randomly, in the Czech Republic, where it briefly charted at #3 in the spring of 2000.
In 2005, British folk/electronic singer Ellie Lawson sampled “Time Stood Still” in her song “Inside Out” off her album The Philosophy Tree. Though it features an entirely different melody and lyrics, Lawson’s track uses the same instrumentals and production. Madonna, Orbit, and Lawson are all credited as songwriters on “Inside Out”.
The soundtrack to The Next Best Thing was released by Maverick Records on February 21, 2000 and reached #34 on the US Billboard 200 albums chart. It’s currently available to stream online. Madonna has never performed “Time Stood Still” live, although a few bootleg remixes have found their way onto the internet over the years.
While it may not have achieved the same status as songs like “Take A Bow” from Bedtime Stories, “You’ll See” from Something To Remember, or “You Must Love Me” from Evita, “Time Stood Still” is a noteworthy entry in Madonna’s catalogue of ballads. Nearly 25 years after being recorded, it still stands the test of time.