Bedtime Stories (Madonna album)
|Studio album by Madonna|
|Released||October 25, 1994|
|Singles from Bedtime Stories|
Bedtime Stories is the sixth studio album by American singer Madonna. It was released on October 25, 1994, by Maverick Records. Madonna collaborated with Dallas Austin, Babyface, Dave "Jam" Hall, and Nellee Hooper, deciding to move into a mainstream sound. Madonna used this direction in a bid to soften her image following the critical and commercial backlash she faced after releasing several sexually explicit projects in the previous two years, notably the Erotica album and the Sex book. The success of the soundtrack single "I'll Remember" earlier that year marked the beginning of this transformation and Madonna used Bedtime Stories to continue it.
Bedtime Stories is a pop album which was inspired by contemporary R&B. Like its predecessor Erotica (1992), the album explores lyrical themes of love, sorrow, and romance, but with a toned-down, less sexual approach. Critics described the album as "autobiographical", as the song "Human Nature" addresses the controversy surrounding Erotica. Madonna also worked with Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk, as she wanted to explore the British club musical scene, where genres such as dub had been growing in popularity.
Bedtime Stories received generally favorable reviews from music critics, who praised the album's candid lyrics and production, and was nominated for Best Pop Album at the 38th Grammy Awards. Commercially, the album proved to be successful. Debuting and peaking at number three on the Billboard 200, the album was certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. It also became her fifth number-one album in Australia and peaked within the top five in other international territories. Bedtime Stories has sold more than seven million copies worldwide.
The lead single from the album, "Secret", gave Madonna her record-breaking 35th consecutive top ten single on the UK Singles Chart, while "Take a Bow" spent seven weeks at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100. Other singles released, "Bedtime Story" and "Human Nature", did not match the previous singles' success. In order to further promote Bedtime Stories, Madonna performed songs from the album on the American Music Awards of 1995 and the 1995 BRIT Awards. A concert tour was also planned, but did not happen due to Madonna's major role on Evita.
In 1992, Madonna released her controversial Sex book and her fifth studio album Erotica, both contained explicit sexual imagery and pictures of voyeuristic fantasies. She also starred in the erotic thriller Body of Evidence. All releases were panned by critics and fans alike, calling her a sexual renegade and claiming that "she had gone too far" and that her career was over. Hence she decided to re-invent her image, to connect with her fans and repair the damage that her provocative image had caused to her career. A song titled "I'll Remember" was developed for this purpose. It was included in the soundtrack of the film With Honors in early 1994. The song was well received by critics and was seen as Madonna's first positive step into reconnecting with the general public. However, during the same period, Madonna appearance on David Letterman's talk show was noted for controversial statements by Madonna. In particular, the singer said the word "fuck" fourteen times during the course of the interview. This made the episode the most censored in American network television talk-show history, while at the same time garnering the show some of the best ratings it ever received.
Regarding the controversial period of her career, Madonna said, "I feel I've been misunderstood. I tried to make a statement about feeling good about yourself and exploring your sexuality, but people took it to mean that everyone should go out and have sex with everyone, and that I was going to be the leader of that. So I decided to leave it alone because that's what everyone ended up concentrating on. Sex is such a taboo subject and it's such a distraction that I'd rather not even offer it up." During 1994, Madonna started recording her sixth studio album. In order to soften her image, she reunited with R&B producers such as Dallas Austin, Dave "Jam" Hall, and Babyface, and also enlisting British producer Nellee Hooper to the project. It became one of the very few occasions where she collaborated with well-known producers, the first since Nile Rodgers on Like a Virgin (1984). When asked about its music, Madonna said she wanted people to concentrate on the music, and would like music to speak for itself, because she was not interested in giving many interviews and being on the cover of magazines. She described the album as "a combination of pop, R&B, hip-hop and a Madonna record. It's very, very romantic".
Madonna worked with producers Nellee Hooper, Dallas Austin, Dave "Jam" Hall, and Babyface for the album. She initially worked with Shep Pettibone, who produced her fifth studio album, Erotica (1992). However, she found out that they were doing the same vein of music from the previous album, which did not please her. At the time, Madonna was a fan of Babyface's song "When Can I See You" (1994), and became interested in working with him, as she wanted "lush ballads" for her record. They would collaborate on three songs for the album in his studio in Beverly Hills, with "Forbidden Love" and "Take a Bow" ending up on the album. Recalling the latter's development, the producer commented, "I wasn't so much thinking about the charts. I think I was more in awe of the fact that I was working with Madonna. It was initially surreal, but then you get to know the person a little bit, and you calm down and then it's just work. And work is fun". He also said that for "Forbidden Love", "She heard the basic track and it all started coming out, melodies and everything... It was a much easier process than I thought it would be".
Madonna's backup singers Donna De Lory and Niki Haris were called in to provide harmonies on "Survival". She commented, "The minute you walked in [the studio], she was giving you the lyric sheet. That was the atmosphere -- we're not here to just hang out. It's fun, but we're here to work and get this done". De Lory recalls the sessions for "Survival" took a "couple of hours" and there were no retakes. During recording sessions, Madonna was interested in working with Dallas Austin after he produced Joi's debut album The Pendulum Vibe (1994). According to the singer, "She wanted to know, 'Who is this? Who produced it? How did this happen?'" Aside from this, however, Madonna also wanted to explore the British club musical scene, where genres such as dub had been growing in popularity. In such a way, she decided to work with several European producers and composers within the electronic scene, including Nellee Hooper, who pleased Madonna due to his "very European sensibility". Inviting Hooper over to Los Angeles, sessions started taking place in the Chappell Studios of Encino, California. Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk accepted the offer to write a track for Madonna's album, and wrote a song initially named "Let's Get Unconscious". Once the song demo had been finished, Hooper and Marius De Vries rearranged the track and the final version was called "Bedtime Story", which became the album's third single.
Music and lyrics
The album's opening track is "Survival". It is a "sweetly funky number" which lyrically evokes past singles. "Secret", second song, begins with just the sound of Madonna's voice singing over a rhythmic, folksy guitar, before opening up to a sparse, retro rhythm section. Madonna's voice remains at the center of the song's production, as she sings lyrics such as "happiness lies in your own hand". Throughout the song, Madonna also sings the lyrics "My baby's got a secret", however, she never discloses what the secret may be. During the next song, "I'd Rather Be Your Lover", Madonna lusts after the unattainable through processes of negotiation: "I could be your sister, / I could be your mother / We could be friends / I'd even be your brother". Towards the middle of the song an eight bar rap break is taken by singer and rapper, Meshell Ndegeocello: "Tell me what you want / Tell me what you need...". Madonna interrupts, with her voice foregrounded and juxtaposed over the short interjections of Ndegeocello's rap part. The album's fourth track, "Don't Stop", is characterized by a pulsating bass overlaid with strings punctuating and accompanying the riffs in sustained and glissandi gestures. The rhetoric of the track is displayed by Madonna's commands: "Don't stop doin' what you're doin' baby / Don't stop - keep movin' / keep groovin'". The next track "Inside of Me" has "throbbing" bass and jazz-y keyboards in which Madonna sings in a breathy vocal register. Madonna sings on the chorus, "Even though you're gone, love still carries on" about her deceased mother.
On the sixth track, "Human Nature", Madonna confronts chauvinism head on as she sings, "And I'm not sorry, I'm not your bitch, don't hang your shit on me", while telling herself in whispered tones to "express yourself, don't repress yourself". The next track "Forbidden Love" finds Madonna comparing rejection to an aphrodisiac and dismissing any relationship untouched by taboo. Track eight, "Love Tried to Welcome Me", is a ballad which was inspired by a stripper Madonna met in a club, and fetishizes rejection. She asserts that she is "drawn to sadness" and "loneliness has never been a stranger" on the song. The following song on Bedtime Stories is "Sanctuary". Lyrically, Madonna quotes Walt Whitman's poem "Vocalism", and aligns love and death. Musically it has a "techno pull". The song is linked to the beginning of the next album track, "Bedtime Story", which starts with its chords. It is an electronic song. During the song Madonna wonders "Words are useless, especially sentences / They don't stand for anything / How could they explain how I feel?" The last song on the album "Take a Bow" is a midtempo pop ballad with a "Sukiyaki"-like Japanese touch. The chorus expresses the theme of saying goodbye to a lover who had taken her for granted. The title plays upon the verse in the song "all the world is a stage and everyone has their part", a reference to the line by William Shakespeare in his play As You Like It, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women mere players".
The artwork for Bedtime Stories was shot by French fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier in Eden Roc Miami Beach Hotel in the United States in September 1994. She also worked with hairstylist Sam McKnight for the pictures. The cover was released online, and depicted the singer upside down, looking upward with heavy make-up, a nose ring, blond hair, and simple neon fonts. Inspired by actress Jean Harlow, the sported over-plucked eyebrows for the photos, designed by makeup artist Francois Nars. Cecile Van Straten, while writing for Phil Star website, stated that "Soon, tweezed eyebrows became a trend and then the norm".
Michael R. Smith from The Daily Vault website stated that the artwork was "colorful" and was seen by him as one of the high points of the release. While reviewing photographer Demarchelier's life and career, the cover was seen as "memorable" by Valentine de Badereau. American singer Christina Aguilera's fifth studio album artork, Back to Basics (2006) received comparisons to Bedtime Stories ' cover for being too similar. The packaging for Bedtime Stories featured white plastic digitray holding the CD, while the cover was sky-blue paper with a velvety texture.
In order to promote the album's release, Madonna talked about the album in an audio message available exclusively online prior to its release. On February 18, 1995, Madonna arrived in Europe to promote Bedtime Stories. During the same day, she performed "Secret" and "Take a Bow" on German TV show Wetten, dass..?, while she was also interviewed on the program. Madonna went back to United States and performed "Take a Bow" on the American Music Awards of 1995, accompanied by Babyface and a full orchestra. She returned to Europe to sing "Bedtime Story" during the 1995 BRIT Awards; she wore a white Versace dress and long hair extensions, and featured a trio of satin-clad male dancers. Madonna even invited Björk, who wrote the track, to feature in the performance; however, the singer turned it down. The singer also promoted "Take a Bow" by performing on Sanremo Music Festival. At the end of the performance, she thanked the audience in Italian language, and received standing ovation. In order to promote the video for "Bedtime Story", MTV aired a special titled Madonna's Pajama Party on March 18, 1995, where the singer could be seen reading a bedtime story in Webster Hall in New York City. At the event, "cutting-edge" tribal and trance remixes, made by disc jockey and producer Junior Vasquez, were also played.
Madonna planned a concert tour to promote Bedtime Stories, but she and her manager Freddy DeMann cancelled all plans after she was offered the role of Eva Perón on the film Evita, directed by Alan Parker. Her spokesperson Liz Rosenberg considered a "shorter tour" because of filming, however, Madonna commented, "I've waited years for this role, and I have to put every ounce of concentration into it. I love touring, and I very much want to go out with this album. But I can't - I'd be going straight from months on the road right into filming; I'd be exhausted and strained. It wouldn't be in the best interests of the movie for me to be at any less than my peak of energy".
Co-written by Babyface, "Take a Bow" became Madonna's first US number one in almost three years.
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"Secret" was released as the album's lead single in September 1994. The song achieved success in the charts, peaking inside the top five in most countries, while in the US the song reached number three on Billboard Hot 100. "Take a Bow", produced by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, was the album's second single. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for seven weeks and is her longest-running number-one single on this chart. It was her 11th single to top the Billboard Hot 100 and her 23rd top five entry-both records for a female artist. She also replaced Carole King as the female who had written the most number one songs.
"Bedtime Story" was released as the third single in February 1995. On the Hot 100 chart, the song peaked at number 42, becoming the first Madonna single since "Burning Up" (1983) not to reach the top 40. Had she reached the top 40, she would at the time have become the third woman in the "rock era" with the most top 40 hits, behind Aretha Franklin and Connie Francis. It would have given her a consecutive string of 33 top 40 hits, starting from her single "Holiday" (1983). Nonetheless, the song's "loss" of radio airplay and sales prevented it from peaking within the US top 40. "Human Nature" was released as the fourth and final single from Bedtime Stories in June 1995. Like the previous single, it failed to reach the top 40 in the United States, peaking at number 46. However, the song reached the top 10 in several countries.
|The Boston Globe||negative|
|Los Angeles Times|||
|The Milwaukee Journal||mixed|
|The San Francisco Examiner||positive|
Bedtime Stories received generally positive reviews from music critics. AllMusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave the album four out of five stars and a positive review, claiming that it is a "warm album" and that it "offers her most humane and open music". Jim Farber from Entertainment Weekly gave the album a positive review as well, giving it a B+ grade, and writing that "the new tracks work less as individual songs than as a sustained mood" and that Madonna "still has something to reveal". Barbara O'Dair of Rolling Stone also gave the album a favorable review and three-and-a-half stars out of five, writing that "Madonna has come up with awfully compelling sounds". Billboard, while giving a positive review, commented that it "sticks to a pop recipe that yields hits galore, with little excess baggage". In addition, Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine gave Bedtime Stories a positive review and four out of five stars, writing that it is "a fluffy-pillowed concept album that unfolds like a musical fairy tale". The New York Times writer Stephen Holden considered Bedtime Stories as "easily Madonna's best album", and concluded that it was a "seductive mixture of soft-focus hip-hop and bittersweet ballads". Peter Galvin from The Advocate magazine gave a positive review, describing the album as "a gourgeously produced R&B album with lots of funky beats lush keyboards, and soaring Love Unlimited-style string arrangements".
Barry Walters from The San Francisco Examiner praised the album as Madonna's most low-key album and her best work at the date. J.D. Considine, while writing his review for the album for The Baltimore Sun, declared that Bedtime Stories was more listener-friendly than Madonna's previous albums. He added that it "seems remarkably close in spirit to the singer's first album, emphasizing dance grooves and pop melodies over genre exercises and conceptual statements", while praising Madonna's vocal performance. Chris Willman of the Los Angeles Times gave it two-stars-and-a-half out of four, writing that the album "seems the least remarkable of all Madonna's albums. But it's not necessarily the least of them. [...] It has a nice, consistently relaxed feel, its slow jams hip-hop-inflected but not as self-consciously as last time". The Milwaukee Journal's Tina Maples provided a mixed review, criticizing its "hoary cliches" and "bland, mid-tempo soul-pop ballads that confuse sophistication with sonambulism", and added that with the album, Madonna was feeling the "fallout" of building her career on "shock value". However, she highlighted "Secret", "Bedtime Stories", "Take a Bow" as the standout tracks from Bedtime Stories. Steve Morse, writer from The Boston Globe journal, criticized the album for lacking "life", and being "flat and listless", and said that Madonna seemed lost throughout the album. British magazine NME ranked Bedtime Stories as the 30th best album of 1994. At the 38th Grammy Awards in 1996, the album received a nomination for Best Pop Album.
In the United States, Bedtime Stories debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 chart on the issue date of November 12, 1994, with 145,000 units sold in its first week. It was considerably less than its predecessor, Erotica (1992), which debuted at number two and sold 167,000 copies in its first week of release. Following Madonna's appearance on the American Music Awards, sales of the album increased 19%. It was eventually certified three times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments of more than million units within the country. According to Nielsen SoundScan, the album has sold 2,309,000 copies as of August 2009. In Canada, the album entered the RPM Albums Chart at number its peak of four on November 7, 1994. It was certified double platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) for shipments of 200,000 copies.
The album enjoyed success in Europe, reaching the top five of most countries of the continent. On November 5, 1994, Bedtime Stories debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart, behind Bon Jovi's Cross Road. It remained a total of 30 weeks on the chart. The album was certified platinum on November 1, 1994, by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), for shipments of 300,000 copies. Bedtime Stories also peaked at number two in France, staying in the top 10 for five weeks and remaining a total of 22 weeks on the chart. It became a number four hit in Germany, remaining 37 weeks on the German Albums Chart, and received a platinum certification by Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI) after moving in excess of 500,000 copies in that market.
Bedtime Stories also performed well in Oceania. It debuted at number one on the ARIA Charts on November 6, 1994, and remained on the chart for 30 weeks. It experienced moderate success in New Zealand, debuting at its peak of number six, before dropping to number 16 the next week, and remaining for nine weeks in total. Bedtime Stories also found success in the Asian market. It entered the Japanese Oricon Weekly Album Chart at number nine, continuing Madonna's uninterrupted streak of top ten hit albums there. In total, Bedtime Stories has sold 7 million copies worldwide.
|1.||"Survival"||Madonna, Dallas Austin||Austin, Nellee Hooper, Madonna||3:31|
|2.||"Secret"||Madonna, Austin, Shep Pettibone||Madonna, Austin||5:05|
|3.||"I'd Rather Be Your Lover" (featuring Meshell Ndegeocello)||Madonna, Dave Hall, Isley Brothers, Christopher Jasper||Madonna, Hall||4:39|
|4.||"Don't Stop"||Madonna, Austin, Colin Wolfe||Madonna, Austin||4:38|
|5.||"Inside of Me"||Madonna, Hall, Hooper||Hooper, Madonna||4:11|
|6.||"Human Nature"||Madonna, Hall, Shawn McKenzie, Kevin McKenzie, Michael Deering||Madonna, Hall||4:54|
|7.||"Forbidden Love"||Babyface, Madonna||Babyface, Hooper, Madonna||4:08|
|8.||"Love Tried to Welcome Me"||Madonna, Hall||Madonna, Hall||5:21|
|9.||"Sanctuary"||Madonna, Austin, Anne Preven, Scott Cutler, Herbie Hancock||Madonna, Austin||5:02|
|10.||"Bedtime Story"||Hooper, Björk, Marius De Vries||Hooper, Madonna||4:53|
|11.||"Take a Bow"||Babyface, Madonna||Babyface, Madonna||5:21|
- Additional notes
- Samples: "Survival" – "Hey Love" performed by Stevie Wonder. "I'd Rather Be Your Lover" – "It's Your Thing" performed by Lou Donaldson. "Inside of Me" – "Back and Forth" performed by Aaliyah, "Outstanding" performed by The Gap Band and "The Trials of Life" performed by Gutter Snypes. "Human Nature" – "What You Need" performed by Main Source. "Forbidden Love" – "Down Here on the Ground" performed by Grant Green. "Sanctuary" – "Watermelon Man" performed by Herbie Hancock.
|Austria (IFPI Austria)||Gold||25,000x|
|Canada (Music Canada)||2× Platinum||200,000^|
|France (SNEP)||2× Gold||200,000*|
|Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)||Gold||25,000x|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||300,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||3× Platinum||3,000,000^|
|Europe (IFPI)||2× Platinum||2,000,000*|
*sales figures based on certification alone
Credits and personnel
Credits and personnel adapted from Bedtime Stories album liner notes.
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