As an example of the definitive Madonna album, Ray of Light will permanently impact how her discography and career will be assessed. Though she made great music before and after, this 1998 release would be a critical point in her life that would neatly cleave her career into two: pre-Ray of Light and post-Ray of Light. Longtime fans – those who followed her career from the beginning in 1982, when her self-titled debut album was released – would find themselves choosing one camp over the other: the music before Ray of Light was arguably more accessible and radio-friendly.

Though pretension and affectation were always a part of her image, the music on Ray of Light and after would be far more self-consciously arty and intellectual. Motherhood, aging, and spirituality would be significant themes found in the studio LPs after Ray of Light, which has had a lasting effect on her music. The mid-1990s European-influenced electronic dance music that she embraced with Ray of Light would find its way to all of its subsequent follow-up albums. 

Full article at Popmatters