Ever mindful of contemporary pop’s comings and goings, 1994’s Bedtime Stories was billed as Madonna’s first all-out R&B record, even though her self-titled debut album – released before those extraordinary videos defined her image in a way hitherto unheard of – found her routinely assumed to be a Black act. By getting into bed with the predominant R&B tastemakers of the time, however, there was a calculated effort to redefine her sound while dialling down on the fuss her previous record, Erotica, had created. Here, Madonna chose a number of songwriters, including Dallas Austin and Babyface, leading to a more textured collection than she had created before, though her reputation as a promiscuous collaborator was already justly deserved.
Listen to ‘Bedtime Stories’ here.
Breathless intensity, dramatic posturing
Few of the album’s 11 songs stick strictly to their respective musical lanes, with pop influences folding into clubby trance and trip-hop. There are nods to her then-consolidating legacy (notably in the lyrics, which often referenced past hits), but Bedtime Stories undoubtedly moved Madonna’s sound on more dramatically than before, leading gently towards the subsequent renaissance of Ray Of Light.
With its opening Dallas Austin cuts (the jazz-tinged Survival and the album’s accomplished lead single, Secret) the album gets off to a fine start. Secret proved a decisive return to both the US and UK Top 5 in September 1994, just ahead of Bedtime Stories’ release, on 25 October. Erotica’s co-producer Shep Pettibone earned a credit for his work on the song’s demo, but Secret couldn’t be more different from his era’s output, with Junior Vasquez notably picked for remixing duties, teasing out the song’s clubbier core.