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 more mainstream sound. The singer wanted to soften her image following the critical and commercial backlash she faced after releasing sexually explicit projects in the previous two years, notably the Erotica album and the Sex book in 1992. The success of the soundtrack single "I'll Remember" in 1994 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, 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.
- 1 Background
- 2 Development
- 3 Music and lyrics
- 4 Artwork
- 5 Promotion
- 6 Critical reception
- 7 Commercial performance
- 8 Legacy
- 9 Track listing and formats
- 10 Credits and personnel
- 11 Charts
- 12 Certifications and sales
- 13 See also
- 14 Notes
- 15 Bibliography
- 16 External links
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. During the same period, Madonna's appearance on David Letterman's talk show was noted for her controversial statements. 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 highest ratings it ever received. All releases were panned by critics and fans alike, calling Madonna 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 personality 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.
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. 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. Academic Georges Claude Guilbert, author of Madonna As Postmodern Myth, felt that the album's title was a pun; "[Madonna] is referring to (possible erotic) stories told at bedtime (in bed). In a way (the album) is really a book of stories you can tell your kids at bedtime [...] sexuality explained to children [...] Madonna has always thought that children should be better informed in that aspect".
Music and lyrics
The album's opening track is "Survival". It is a "sweetly funky number" which lyrically evokes past singles, and tries to "convey a loosely drawn narrative of the punishment she endured from the media and her feelings leading up to the release". "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 has a fetish about 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, at the Eden Roc Miami Beach Hotel in the United States in September 1994. She also worked with hairstylist Sam McKnight for the pictures, which were directed by Fabien Baron. McKnight recalled that it was a "low-key" photoshoot featuring less than 50 people, and was conducted on Madonna's birthday, hence it was wrapped up fast since the singer had to go for her party. 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 singer sported over-plucked eyebrows for the photos which were designed by makeup artist Francois Nars. Cecile Van Straten, while writing for The Philippines Star, 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 artwork, 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. British journalist Paul Du Noyer gave a detailed description of Madonna's image change with the album, during an interview with the singer for Q magazine, saying:
Madonna looks both older and younger than she does in the photos and the videos: a little more lined and possibly tired, but also less mature and grand. Her manner is quite teenaged, not femme fatale. She seems up for mischief, and yet quite conscious of her power. At the same time, her very frankness is almost innocent. These combinations are odd, and they give her the air of a prematurely wise child. Her current style is 1930s Hollywood meets early 1970s flash: Jean Harlow and Angie Bowie. She is not bewitching, but is certainly beautiful. She wears the nose stud that so troubled Norman Mailer in a recent interview. If you saw her in the street, you'd think: she looks like a girl who looks a bit like Madonna.
In order to promote the album's release, Madonna talked about the album in an audio message available exclusively online prior to its release. There were promotional advertisements aired on television channels proclaiming that there will be "no sexual references on the album" and Madonna adding that "it's a whole new me! I'm going to be a good girl, I swear." One of the first promotional appearances the singer did was in Paris, where she was interviewed by Ruby Wax and talked about the album. According to Wax, she was quite intimidated by Madonna and her entourage and, in her own words, "[my] nerves got the best of me". 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.
Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera mentioned that Madonna would play in Italy as part of a world tour to promote Bedtime Stories in Spring or Fall 1995. However, 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".
"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. J. Randy Taraborrelli, author of Madonna: An Intimate Biography, praised the album for being "considerably more tame in tone and image than the ethereal sounding, sexually explicit Erotica". 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". On 2015, Billboard ranked it as Madonna's sixth best album; "while not as hardcore as 1992's Erotica, Bedtime captured Madonna in transition, swiveling away from explicit sexuality and relying on R&B and balladry before she dove headfirst into dance music four years later. Songs like 'Human Nature', 'Secret' and 'I'd Rather Be Your Lover' proved more compelling than most of the New Jack music being released in the mid-90s, and 'Take a Bow' added a classic slow jam to Madge's canon". 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 Story" and "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. Allen Metz and Carol Benson, authors of The Madonna Companion: Two Decades of Commentary, opined that "rather than signify(ing) some bold new direction for Madonna, Bedtime Stories takes hardly any risks at all. [...] it offers neither the pop epiphany of Like a Prayer nor the shameless frolic of Madonna's earlier dance hits". 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 three 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 four on November 7, 1994, and was certified double platinum by the Music Canada (MC) 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.
According to journalist Mary von Aue, Bedtime Stories is the "most important" album released by Madonna because she noted that for months leading upto its release, the promotion associated cited the record as an apology for the singer's sexually provocative imagery. Critics had also hoped for a return to more innocent form of music. However Madonna instead chose to portray herself as unaplogetic for her imagery, as well as talking about scrutiny that female musicians faced. Von Aue found that the singer contradicted herself from the promo videos for the album, and continued addressing her critics and people who had tried to shame her for being provocative.
Von Aue added that the two-punch of the tracks "Human Nature" and "Bedtime Story" illustrated the duality of the album, with the former being about how nonchalant Madonna was with the criticism she had faced, and the latter as a feminist piece. Von Aue concluded by saying that "Today, Bedtime Stories is not the first album that comes to mind in Madonna's legacy. It is, however, the most relevant to many of the cultural conversations that are still happening. Had she acquiesced to the public's call for apology, it could have set a dangerous standard for how the public can decree an artist’s silence, and it would have allowed the categories for female singers to remain in place."
Bianca Gracie from Idolator website wrote that "Bedtime Stories proved that Madonna never lost her edge; she just decided to soften it so that her image could regroup. When listening to the sultry undertones and R&B influences threaded throughout it, you come to realize how flawlessly the singer could change up her persona while still sounding genuine." Gracie believed that Bedtime Stories was an album with "timeless sound" and signified an evolution of Madonna as an artist, acting as the front-runner to her more experimental album like Ray of Light (1998). However she noted how the album never let go of the sexual provocation associated with Madonna and how the singer chose to turn against what people expected from her at that time—being apologetic.
Track listing and formats
|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: "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.
Credits and personnel
Credits and personnel adapted from Bedtime Stories album liner notes.
Certifications and sales
|Australia (ARIA)||2× Platinum||140,000^|
|Austria (IFPI Austria)||Gold||25,000x|
|Canada (Music Canada)||2× Platinum||200,000^|
|France (SNEP)||2× Gold||200,000*|
|South Africa (RiSA)||Platinum||50,000*|
|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
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