Monday, October 6, 2014


20 years ago today Madonna took a step back from the overt sexuality and a step toward electronica. After the supposed failure and backlash that accompanied her hyper-sexual period in the early 90s with the album Erotica, the Sex book and the film Body of Evidence, Madonna was ready to take it back to the music and focus more on her dance and R&B roots. (By the way, Erotica sold 6 millions copies worldwide, so failure? I think not) Madonna was looking to soften her image up a bit and enlisted producers Babyface, Nellee Hooper and Dave "Jam" Hall to give her a more urban, New Jack Swing sound on her upcoming album. The result is the criminally underrated Bedtime Stories. For some reason it seems people often forget about this album, being sandwiched between the controversy of Erotica, the theatrical triumph of Evita and the spiritual awakening of Ray of Light. Bedtime Stories is packed with not only great music, but also some very personal and emotional songs, not to mention some foreshadowing of the electronic music that would steer all of Madonna's late 90s/early 00s output. The album did perform well commercially, eventually selling over 7 million worldwide, but because of its subtlety it is often overlooked. The songs on Bedtime Stories range from New Jack Swing, R&B to electronic. The first single released was the excellent Secret in September of 1994 just before the album's release. A smooth R&B groove drives the song along and it was a major radio hit, peaking at #3 on the Hot 100. Of course, it wasn't really until second single, Take a Bow, was released that the album really took off. Written and recorded with Babyface, the ballad was Madonna's first #1 single since 1992's This Used to Be My Playground and it held the top spot for 7 weeks, Madonna's longest running #1 single to date. The album's sales began to rise again and the next single was the Bjork-penned electronic song Bedtime Story. A startling departure from any previous Madonna single, Bedtime Story was electronic, stark and surreal. The accompanying video is still one of her most eye-catching. While not a hit on the Hot 100 (#42) the song did top the Hot Dance Club Play chart and hit #4 in the UK and #5 in Australia. Definitely a precursor to Ray of Light, you can tell Madonna is comfortable in the genre. The fifth and final single from Bedtime Stories was Human Nature. Taking inspiration from the New Jack Swing movement, at the time lead by its princess Aaliyah, Madonna sits steady on top of a hard groove on a song of empowerment, answering her critics from the Erotica era with the sassy refrain, "...and I'm not sorry. It's human nature." The rest of the album is really where the meat is though. From the opening, smooth wave of Survival, the disillusioned little girl of Inside of Me, and the call to the dance floor of Don't Stop, Madonna's journey is one of joy, inner peace and acceptance. Perhaps one of her strongest ballads ever, Forbidden Love (not to be confused with the song of the same name from Confessions on a Dance Floor) also recorded with Babyface, was somehow not released as a single. TRAVESTY!!! I really don't know how that happened. Another electronic stunner from the album, and perhaps even more closely related to the Ray of Light work that would come four years later, was Sanctuary written with Dallas Austin. This song is the highlight of the album, along with Secret, in my opinion. Re-listening to Bedtime Stories really drives home the fact that Madonna can tackle almost any genre of music, even on one album. The songs still sound fresh and lovely and Madonna's voice was in fine form. It was a return to pure music, very little controversy or dialogue to get in the way. It's ultimately what Madonna is all about, stripped to her core. Enjoy the videos from Bedtime Stories below and click on the songs in the post to hear the non-singles. I can't believe it's been 20 years! Enjoy!

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