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.

Today in Madonna History: April 9, 1995

bedtime-story-australia-1 bedtime-story-australia-2 bedtime-story-australia-3 bedtime-story-australia-4

On April 9 1995, Madonna’s Bedtime Story single peaked at number five in Australia, where it stayed in that position for three weeks. It fell out of the top ten in the fifth week, and eventually exited the charts after a total run of nine weeks, falling to 44 on its last week in the charts.

Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine praised the song, claiming that the song had unfulfilled potential and that it “could have been the next Vogue“.

Today in Madonna History: October 17, 1995

I Want You 550

On October 17 1995, the Marvin Gaye tribute album Inner City Blues: The Music Of Marvin Gaye was released. Compiled and released on Motown Records, the album featured a beautifully poignant remake of the 1976 classic I Want You by Madonna with Massive Attack.

Motown Records had initially brought Massive Attack on board to produce the track before a lead singer had been confirmed. Early plans sought to have Chaka Khan perform vocal duties, but after failing to turn up for the recording session she was swiftly nixed from the project. Aaron Neville was then lined up as a replacement but plans again fell through when contract issues prevented his participation. Producer Nellee Hooper, who had recently produced cuts for Madonna’s Bedtime Stories album, suggested her as a potential choice. Surprisingly, getting Madonna’s vocal contribution involved less red tape and less prima donna behaviour than either previous option.

Massive Attack’s 3D and Hooper flew to New York and spent two days in the studio with Madonna. 3D commented on the recording session in interviews with The Face (Nov/95) and ChannelV TV (Jun/98) respectively:

“She sang it really well, she had it sorted out, you could tell she knew the song, she’d really worked fucking hard on it. Fucking good.” 

“It was quite freaky for me because I’m just a Bristol boy. She was singing in my ear as we were playing the music down, giving me her version of it. I wasn’t taking any notice at all really. I was just thinking about how mad it is. She is such an icon it takes you a while to adjust. When she was in the vocal room, it was amazing. We did a few takes just to cover it, but she sang it so well we could have done it in one take. It was that beautiful.”

Madonna was equally impressed with the results of the session, opting to include the song as the opening track on her forthcoming ballads compilation, Something To Remember – and book-ending the set with an orchestral version. Initially planned as a jointly-promoted lead single for both albums, a video was filmed for the song by director Earle Sebastien. While the video was put into rotation on music video channels in early October, plans to release the track as a single were scrapped due to label disagreements between Motown – who insisted on releasing the tribute album several weeks ahead of Something To Remember – and Warner. Perhaps fearing that Warner would withdraw their permission to include Madonna’s vocals on the tribute, Motown wisely ceded to its inclusion on Madonna’s own retrospective. The song was later featured on Massive Attack’s 2006 best-of, Collected.

%d bloggers like this: