Today in Madonna History: January 5, 1995

On January 5 1995, Madonna’s fabulous Bedtime Stories album was certified platinum (for shipment of 1 million units).

Barbara O’Dair reviewed the album for Rolling Stone magazine:

After the drubbing she has taken in the last few years, Madonna deserves to be mighty mad. And wounded anger is shot through her new album, Bedtime Stories, as she works out survival strategies. While always a feminist more by example than by word or deed, Madonna seems genuinely shocked at the hypocritical prudishness of her former fans, leading one to expect a set of biting screeds. But instead of reveling in raised consciousness, Bedtime Stories demonstrates a desire to get unconscious. Madonna still wants to go to bed, but this time it’s to pull the covers over her head.

Still, in so doing, Madonna has come up with some awfully compelling sounds. In her retreat from sex to romance, she has enlisted four top R&B producers: Atlanta whiz kid Dallas Austin, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Dave “Jam” Hall and Britisher Nellee Hooper (Soul II Soul), who add lush soul and creamy balladry. With this awesome collection of talent, the record verily shimmers. Bass-heavy grooves push it along when more conventional sentiments threaten to bog it down. Both aspects put it on chart-smart terrain.

A number of songs — “Survival,” “Secret,” “I’d Rather Be Your Lover” (to which Me’Shell NdegéOcello brings a bumping bass line and a jazzy rap) — are infectiously funky. And Madonna does a drive-by on her critics, complete with a keening synth line straight outta Dre, on “Human Nature”: “Did I say something wrong?/Oops, I didn’t know I couldn’t talk about sex (I musta been crazy).”

But you don’t need her to tell you that she’s “drawn to sadness” or that “loneliness has never been a stranger,” as she sings on the sorrowful “Love Tried to Welcome Me.” The downbeat restraint in her vocals says it, from the tremulously tender “Inside of Me” to the sob in “Happiness lies in your own hand/It took me much too long to understand” from “Secret.”

The record ultimately moves from grief to oblivion with the seductive techno pull of “Sanctuary.” The pulsating drone of the title track (co-written by Björk and Hooper), with its murmured refrain of “Let’s get unconscious, honey,” renounces language for numbness.

Twirled in a gauze of (unrequited) love songs, Bedtime Stories says, “Fuck off, I’m not done yet.” You have to listen hard to hear that, though. Madonna’s message is still “Express yourself, don’t repress yourself.” This time, however, it comes not with a bang but a whisper.

3 responses

  1. Bedtime Stories is a bruised and battered masterpiece because in her reality and truth, Madonna was sad, alone and crying her tears! Along with Music and MDNA, could and just might be her saddest record to date! Best song-#1 hit ballad finale Take a Bow.

  2. Like the “Erotica” album, “Bedtime Stories” has aged like a fine wine and seems to be getting the critical reckoning it deserves nearly a quarter-century after its initial release. Once again, M took an underground trend (in this case “trip hop”) and turned it into Top 40 gold the way only she can.

  3. Madonna’s 90’s work remains her best for a multitude of reasons. Bedtime Stories was the album that solidified her as legendary. Madonna’s career could very well have ended after all the Erotica fiasco but she wisely and brilliantly dropped this gem and it showcases how versatile of an artist and singer that she really and truly is. Sadly, there were several cuts that were more worthy of being sent to radio (Survival, Forbbiden Love, Don’t Stop) but never were or this album would have sold better. The single Bedtime Story was ahead of its time, and shamefully broke her streak of singles that entered the top 40 which to this day kills me because it was one of my favorites from that album. Her most recent Rebel Heart outing reminds me most of her Bedtime Stories opus, though not quite as coherent in its sound and message. Too bad radio is all set with Madonna, she still knows how to make a good pop record.

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