Bedtime Stories

Madonna

Maverick Records, 1994

http://www.madonna.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/15/2006

After the sprawling forcefulness of Erotica, Madonna scaled back a bit and pursued a different direction on its follow-up, Bedtime Stories. Bringing in a few guest stars this time around, the Material Girl steers her sounds in a more R&B-flavored direction while retaining the common themes of her earlier lyrics.

The key difference here is how Madonna gets her point across. Erotica was in-your-face with its sexuality and thumping porno beats, daring the listener to get busy with the first person they came across on the dance floor. It was sex for carnality's sake and turned off a few people because of its forcefulness, even if it was a pleasure to listen to. On my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Bedtime Stories, Madonna turns up the warmth and seduction levels and turns in a set almost as hypnotic as Erotica.

Madonna really came into her own in the 90s -- gone were the thin beats, airy voice and radio-friendly pablum (catchy as it was). She starts strong with "Survival," which has a Mariah Carey feel and a catchy R&B beat, then pulls a complete 180 with the acoustic/dance "Secret." "I'd Rather Be Your Lover" and "Don't Stop" have similar themes to Madonna's early-80s work given more muscle.

A fat bass riff carries "Human Nature" as well as the critic-bashing lyrics: "Did I say something true? / Oops, I didn't know we couldn't talk about sex." She later asks "Would it be different if I were a man? / I'm not sorry / It's human nature." Great stuff and right on...damn those double standards.

"Forbidden Love" has great echo on the vocals, creating an eerie atmosphere, while "Love Tried To Welcome Me" is the requisite ballad but falls short of being memorable. "Sanctuary" and "Inside Of Me" are good filler too, leading up to the final one-two punch of the ending.

That would be the Bjork-inspired "Bedtime Story," with Madonna whispering her vocals over an uneasy techno-lite beat, and the production as a whole slowly works its way into the consciousness, sounding a bit like the spaciest parts of U2's Pop album but with more warmth. Then, the album closes with "Take A Bow," a much better ballad that features a good understated vocal performance detailing the end of a relationship with no hard feelings.

After this, Madge would star in Evita and tend to her personal life, resurfacing four years later with Ray Of Light, her best album. Bedtime Stories is nearly an equal to that one, the musical yin to Erotica's yang that continues to reveal Madonna's depth and songwriting power.

Rating: B

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© 2006 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Maverick Records, and is used for informational purposes only.