After the release of her seventh studio album «Ray Of Light» (1998), Madonna stated in a live interview with Larry King on January 19, 1999 that «I am going to do a movie in April («The Next Best Thing») and then I am going to rehearse to go on tour. And then I’ll probably play up until the millennium, New Year’s Eve».
The tour was delayed until 2001, as she had, in her own words, «been distracted by having children and filming movies». She also began a serious relationship with Guy Ritchie in 1999. By 2000, she had become pregnant with her son Rocco Ritchie, released her eighth studio album «Music» that year, and married Ritchie in December 2000.
When Madonna finally decided to go on the tour, time was short and she had to prepare the show within three months. Auditioning for the dancers started around March 2001. Jamie King was signed up as the creative director and the choreographer of the show. King said in an interview that the tour «was so hectic that I suffered from depressions and fell considerably ill».
Rehearsals continued for thirteen hours a day, five days a week, with more and more dancers joining for the show. In the end, ten dancers and two backup singers were used. Madonna had her guitarist Monte Pittman teach her to play the instrument, and she played both acoustic and electric guitar live in the show. French house music expert Stuart Price, who had worked with Madonna on her album «Music», was signed as bassist and keyboard player. Clair Brothers Audio support was roped in for providing a mixture of high-tech techno sound and fusion of acoustic and trance. Madonna released a statement saying,
«I don’t see the point of doing a show unless you offer something that is going to mind-boggle the senses. It’s not enough to get on stage and sing a song. It’s all about theatre and drama and surprises and suspenses.»
The «Drowned World Tour» was the fifth concert tour by Madonna in support of her seventh and eighth studio albums «Ray Of Light» and «Music».
It was also her first tour in eight years (following «The Girlie Show» in 1993).
The tour was supposed to start in 1999, but was delayed until 2001 as Madonna gave birth to her son, got married to Guy Ritchie, was working on «Music», and was busy filming «The Next Best Thing».
When the tour was decided, Madonna appointed Jamie King as choreographer and the tour was planned in a short timespan of three months, including signing up the dancers, musicians and technicians.
Designer Jean-Paul Gaultier was the costume designer who designed the costumes in such way that they indicated different phases of Madonna’s career.
The poster and logo for the tour included references to Kabbalah, which Madonna studied.
The show was divided into five segments, namely Neo-Punk, Geisha/Anime, Country/Western, Latin/Gypsy and Urban/Pimp. The setlist consisted mainly of songs from the last two studio albums released at that point, with two pre-90s song added. The first segment displayed high-energy performances with Madonna wearing a kilt and dominatrix style costumes. In the geisha segment performances Madonna wore a kimono and later performed airborne martial arts. Acoustic songs were performed in the country segment which featured Madonna in cowboy costumes. The Latin segment featured flamenco dancing and the last segment featured ghetto-themed performances. Drowned World Tour was critically appreciated from contemporary critics who complimented her ability to re-invent continuously.
The tour was a commercial success. It went on to become the highest-grossing concert tour of 2001 by a solo artist. She grossed more than US $75 million with summer sold-out shows and eventually played in front of 730.000 audience throughout the United States and Europe.
It received Major Tour of the Year and Most Creative Stage Production awards nominations at the «2001 Pollstar Awards», but lost them to U2.