The 6th album in the Madonna catalogue was an important one as she had received much backlash for her previous project “Erotica” which had gone alongside a ‘Sex’ book which included some quite intimate pictures of the singer. The message she was trying to send about body positivity was lost in a conservative mindset where people basically thought she was the devil intending to corrupt our minds with thoughts of sex.
“Bedtime Stories” comes away from those themes but not completely and Madonna does a great job in balancing the sexual and softer side to her nature without giving up totally on the themes that she was raising in the previous set. There are some excellent tracks on this album which is a mixture of pop, R&B, Hip Hop and dance.
I suppose I have a slight fascination with Madonna as there have been so few artists who have changed their styles up so regularly and continue to release albums today. That is not to say I like Madonna much as I wouldn’t call myself a fan or even someone who enjoys a lot of her music but there is something about the creative process that she acts out that makes her highly interesting.
Of all the Madonna albums I have listened to I don’t believe there are any that I have enjoyed as much with the sound on this album being something that I would veer towards if I was looking for something for myself. This album has the task of pulling things back from the previous album without apologising for it.
The albums opener is “Survival” and it sets the tone for the rest of the project with the lyrics:
“Ill never be an angel, I’ll never be a saint its true, I’m too busy Surviving, whether it’s heaven or hell I’m going to live to tell”
There is a nod to her hit “Live To Tell” from her 3rd album “True Blue” but ultimately Madonna is laying it out that she has been up and down but it’s all about survival and 11 years after her debut she is still dominating popular music.
The ‘hit’ off this album is “Secret” which is mainly based around an acoustic guitar sound that ends up bringing in a very cool beat as Madonna talks about being a relationship with someone who has a secret but we never find out what that actually is. I really enjoy this song where the whole production sounds rich and warm.
“I’d Rather Be Your Lover” has this hip hop style production that was very much of the time but sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1994. It has a timeless sound and she is joined by Me’Shell NdegéOcello who provides a rap verse over this pounding bassline.
On a track like this Madonna shows that she still wants to get into bed but instead of the full on nakedness that “Erotica” provided it would seem that Madonna is happy to at least have some underwear on before we get down to it thus is the slight restraint in her directness.
“Don’t Stop” is a weak moment with the lyrics being a tad banal. It’s a throwaway track which still had a funky atmosphere coursing through it but melodically and lyrically it is hollow.
“Inside Of Me” sees Madonna again flirt with a double-entendre that appears so obvious but at the same time she creates a hell of a sexy track and vocally she sounds convincing. This is a such a cool track.
My favourite song from “Bedtime Stories” is the 6th track “Human Nature”. This for me is everything Madonna wanted this album to be about. This is her anger about the criticism labelled at her being addressed. “Express yourself, don’t repress yourself” is the message she is getting across as she attacks those who questioned what she considers as human nature.
One could wonder if she was going to be apologetic as she made a play for a more central position in the pop world but she clearly address that by saying “I’m not sorry, it’s human nature, I’m not you bitch, don’t hang your shit on me”.
I love the funky nature of the track with this booming sub mass just immersing the entire instrumentation. Fantastic song.
“Forbidden Love” is such a sexy damn song. It might not include the direct and more vulgar lyrics like on the previous album but it conveys the point clearly. Madonna sounds great on this track and her vocal performance is not something that will often be praised but it shouldn’t be overlooked.
On “Love Tried To Welcome Me” the production is so warm and lush the instrumental on it’s own would be enough to enjoy. The vocal is soft and whispery which follows a trend on a number of the track but this feels like it has it’s own identity. It does go on for far too long though which is it’s down fall as we have 05.21m of a track that loses it’s way after the 3 minute mark.
There are quite a few mid tempo R&B songs on the project but “Sanctury” is one of the strongest. It takes a while to build up but the way it progresses is worth the wait. Madonna again sings in this almost whispery tone which makes the whole thing sound exactly as what it intended which is to be something for the bedroom. This may not be a concept album as such but the collection of tracks are woven together expertly.
On “Sanctury” Madonna offers a more committed feeling towards someone who not only satisfies them but also keeps her safe. The song has a repetitive nature but it is so atmospheric and the whole instrumental really consumes you as the listener.
The penultimate and title track is “Bedtime Story”. This is the most unique sounding song on the album and there is a writing credit from none other than Bjork.
This post club almost ambient instrumental is a departure from the R&B and Hip Hop production and I feel this song is a real pre curser to what Madonna would explore on her next studio album.
The echoy vocal processing sounds fresh and this album continues to show just how well it has dated. “Bedtime Story” was a bit of a grower as it did not catch me straight away but on multiple listens I think it is mesmerizing.
The final track is the gorgeous “Take A Bow”. Written with R&B slow jam God Babyface (who also does backing vocals) this is such a stunning way to end the album. The production with the strings makes this song sound so very grand and Madonna gives her best vocal performance since “Live To Tell”.
“Take A Bow” is just a straight up classy slow jam. Pure and free without any silly gimmicks. A straight up slow jam and I love it.
So overall did I enjoy this Madonna album? Yes I did. I thought it was fantastic and I would be interested to know if any other soul/r&b music fans have any opinions on the tracks provided because I think it sounds sonically superb and has stood the test of time.
I love this era of music but I did not expect Madonna to provide a classy and warm album such as this.
I have listened to 6 Madonna albums up until now and this is by far the best.