It’s hard to believe that Madonna’s Bedtime Stories is a full 17 years old but yep, it came out in 1994. She had successfully shocked the world (even more than she had previously) with the Erotica album that came before this one and, despite the provocative title, she definitely toned things down here.
However, she softened her approach on her own terms, soaking up the poppy R&B that was all over the charts at the time, bringing in Nellee Hooper, Babyface, Dallas Austin and Dave “Jam” Hall to co-produce, and taking a swipe at her critics with the song “Human Nature”, on which she sings, “You punished me for telling you my fantasies”, and, “You took my words and made a trap for silly fools”, and “Did I say something wrong? Oops, I didn’t know I couldn’t talk about sex”. You go, girl.
Madonna moved from her Michigan home to New York in ’77, 17 years before this record came out (the same amount of time between the record and now), and yet the smooth blend of R&B, pop and jazz makes it arguably the most “Detroit” sounding record she’s ever made. The singles, particularly “Secret” and “Take a Bow” are spectacular, but it’s the moments when she allows herself to experiment a little, like on the incredible, Bjork-written title track, that this album really stands out. Jeez, Herbie Hancock even pops up on “Sanctuary”.
Not many people mention Bedtime Stories when listing their favorite Madonna albums, and that’s a shame because this is our girl exploring new territory and coming out on top, artistically at least. Give it another go.