Today In Madonna History: July 15, 1995

On July 15 1995, Madonna’s Human Nature single peaked at #46 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.

Human Nature was written and produced by Madonna and Dave Hall, with its bass and percussion parts sampled from the track What You Need by Main Source.

The North American Human Nature single was backed with the album version of Sanctuary, which was produced by Madonna & Dallas Austin with additional remixing by Nellee Hooper.

Sanctuary was originally written by Anne Preven and Scott Cutler of the short-lived 90’s band, Ednaswap, best known for Nathalie Imbruglia’s cover of their original song, Torn. Madonna was passed a demo tape of Sanctuary by a friend of Preven and Cutler, who heard an early version of it and thought “Madonna would love this song!” Madonna’s version came out before Ednaswap had even signed a record deal, and the song deviated significantly from the demo. Preven originally thought Madonna had ruined the song, going so far as meeting with Madonna to plead for changes. However, upon hearing the song as part of the whole album, Preven had a change of heart and “understood what [Madonna] was going for.”

The most significant change was Austin and Madonna’s interpolation of Sanctuary with an instrumental demo Austin had created which centers around a looped sample from Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man (the funk-based arrangement from his 1973 album, Head Hunters). Madonna also provided additional lyrical and melodic contributions.

While Austin’s instrumental demo that was worked in to Sanctuary later leaked to the internet, Ednaswap did not release their own version of the song and their original demo recording has yet to surface online.

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.

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