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Bedtime Story: The Tale Behind Madonna’s Classic Dance-Pop Cut
In Depth

Bedtime Story: The Tale Behind Madonna’s Classic Dance-Pop Cut

A bold creative move and a massive club success, Bedtime Story is the song that first hinted towards Madonna’s electronica reinvention in the 90s.

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The standout club track of 1994’s Bedtime Stories album, Bedtime Story wowed the critics but put a brief halt on the “Queen Of Pop”’s run of US Top 40 singles. It’s promo video helped create a long-lasting statement, but was the world ready for a new type of Madonna song?

Listen to the best of Madonna here.

Who wrote Bedtime Story for Madonna?

Writing credits on Madonna’s albums had, by the 90s, usually been shared between the singer and the co-producer responsible for the lion’s share of each record. Bedtime Stories took a different turn, with Dallas Austin, Babyface, Dave Hall and Nellee Hooper dividing principal production credits between them.

Released as the album’s third single, Bedtime Story had an even more unusual pedigree, with writing credits shared between Marius De Vries (who would later contribute to Madonna’s 1998 album, Ray Of Light), Hooper and Björk. The Icelandic singer had enjoyed a chart breakthrough of her own the previous year, with her first international solo collection, Debut. The two artists had never met at the time of Bedtime Story’s recording, and Björk would later go on to issue an interpretation of her original song, titled Let’s Get Unconscious in demo form, as Sweet Intuition.

Why did Madonna release Bedtime Story as a single?

Following the controversy that greeted her 1992 album, Erotica (now routinely applauded as a 90s game-changer), Bedtime Stories was something of a departure for the “Queen Of Pop”. For Erotica’s follow-up, she was leaving little to chance: fusing her classic pop sensibility with the hit-making nous of contemporary producers, she created a surefire success – and one of the best breakup songs of all time – in Take A Bow, which extended Madonna’s run of No.1 singles when it topped the US charts for seven weeks. Released on 13 February 1995, Bedtime Story was the record’s most dance-oriented statement and became a massive club success. It was the strongest hint yet of the move towards electronica that would emerge with Ray Of Light.

Were there any Bedtime Story remixes?

Issued to streaming services in 2021, the Bedtime Story (Remixes) EP collects an impressive 14 Bedtime Story remixes, but most physical formats at the time of the song’s original release, in what was predominantly a CD market, settled for a more select seven to nine remixes, with Junior Vasquez creating the most highly regarded treatments. The celebrated DJ and producer worked on some of the biggest hits of the era, including Spice Girls’ Wannabe and Janet Jackson’s Runaway; in 1996, he created a bit of a stir when he issued a dance track called If Madonna Calls, which allegedly sampled a message she’d left on his answering machine. In 2022, Madonna picked Junior’s Single Mix for inclusion on her dance compilation Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones, as the track had topped the US club chart.

Was Bedtime Story an expensive video to make?

Considered to be one of the most expensive video shoots of all time – rumoured to have cost $9 million in adjusted-for-inflation costs – Bedtime Story’s promo clip helped the song create a long-lasting statement. It was added to the permanent collection in New York City’s Museum Of Modern Art, and is one of the creative peaks of the impressive CV of Mark Romanek, who also directed the videos for Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off and David Bowie’s Jump They Say.

The Bedtime Story video featured Madonna in a series of montages that paid homage to her love of surrealist painting, particularly from female artists such as Leonora Carrington and Frida Kahlo. It received its premiere in select US cinemas on 10 March 1995, though Madonna committed to an MTV promotional project called Madonna’s Pyjama Party a week later, in which the clip also featured. Despite the video’s strong promotional push, the single stalled outside the US Top 40 (the first time this had happened to a Madonna single since Burning Up, from her self-titled debut album, more than ten years earlier), but in the UK Bedtime Story reached No.4, and there was a Top 5 placing in Australia and further success across continental Europe.

Has Madonna performed Bedtime Story live?

Madonna used a remix of Bedtime Story for an interlude during 2004’s Re-Invention World Tour. A decade later, with contemporary society seeking to understand the opportunities and threats posed by AI, she chose to comment on the debate with a video sequence that presented her as an avatar during performances of the song on the 2023-2024 Celebration Tour.

Perhaps her most celebrated live performance of Bedtime Story was, however, during the 1995 BRIT Awards. Her first appearance at the ceremony, during a year in which she was nominated for Best International Female Solo Artist, Madonna performed in long blonde hair against a ferocious wind machine while flanked by two male dancers. She received a rapturous reception, but lost out on the night to k.d. lang.

Madonna wouldn’t perform at the BRITs again until 2015, with the Rebel Heart number Living For Love. By 2022, the “Queen Of Pop” had been nominated for 12 BRIT Awards, and in 2001 and 2006 she was deservedly crowned Best International Female Solo Artist.

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Original article: 13 February 2021

Updated: 19 October 2023

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