Bedtime Stories

Madonna

Maverick Records, 1994

http://www.madonna.com

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/18/2008

After acting out sexually in the early ‘90s, Madonna’s reputation had taken a serious beating. Her defiant, profanity-laced appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman could have very well been last nail in her coffin when it came to public opinion of her.  Acknowledging her missteps, even going so far as to call them “acts of rage,” Madonna was then left to wonder what she could do – if anything – to salvage her damaged career.  With some hesitation, her fans were willing to give her a second chance. All she really had to do was to put her clothes back on and get on the R&B band wagon for all to be forgiven. Tracks like “Survival” and “Human Nature” give us some insight into Madonna’s somewhat surprising point of view, one that does not include any sign of apologetic regret. 

Toning down her extreme, slutty image wouldn’t be as much of a priority for her as putting out a solid album, however. The image thing would come later, with the costume drama Evita, her best acting performance since Desperately Seeking Susan. The music had to come first, as it always had been the most reliable medium for the mega-star. For Bedtime Stories, her sixth studio album, Madonna shrewdly aligned herself with a stable of top R&B producers: Babyface, Nellee Hooper, Dave “Jam” Hall and best of all, Dallas Austin.

With its colorful album art and some sweetly melodic tunes, this was ear candy at its finest. It almost made me like latter day R&B, though I was still hoping that this would be the only time she would try her hand at the genre. She can hope and dream to be black all she wants, but she ain’t black. Having said that, only Madonna would boldly go where no other white person had gone before – nbtc__dv_250 Harlem. And she did so with platinum blond hair and a nose ring! The video for the soulful single “Secret” says it all, as Madonna struts her stuff down the rough Harlem neighborhood streets dressed in a fur coat and spiked heels. I could only imagine what the city’s residents must have thought as this clip was being filmed. It’s a safe bet they were being paid handsomely for their participation.

Though Madonna handpicked a handsome Latino to be her boyfriend in the video, in real life she was still waiting to meet Mr. Right. On “Inside Of Me,” she makes it abundantly clear that her biological clock was ticking away at full volume. Too bad the song is almost as bad as “Where Life Begins” from Erotica. As fate would have it, Madonna finally found a new boyfriend as Bedtime Stories was being released. His name was Carlos Leon and he would become the father of her firstborn child, daughter Lourdes Maria. Unfortunately, the pregnancy came at the worst possible time for the star as the filming of Evita was just getting underway. It doesn’t take a genius to realize just how arduous things would become for Madonna at this watershed moment in her life.

In terms of how Bedtime Stories went over, the album only made it as far as #3 on the charts. Its saving grace was the very last song, a ballad in the form of “Take A Bow.”  Essentially a duet between Madonna and Babyface, this instant classic turned out to be the longest-running #1 single of her career. As for the title track, “Bedtime Story” was penned by impish Icelandic singer, Bjork and was the real standout for me, since it was something of a departure for Madonna. The video that was directed by Mark Romanek was particularly fantastic with its special effects and dreamlike imagery. Call it Madonna Goes Intergalactic. I was fortunate enough to work for the digital effects company that was chosen to bring this music video to fruition, R/Greenberg & Associates. Even though I was fired before I had the chance to meet my idol, I did have the opportunity to see the video story boards that were being developed.

The only other Madonna “connection” I had while living in Los Angeles was through a co-worker friend of mine, who turned out to be the girlfriend of one of Madonna’s bodyguards. When I had to move back to Massachusetts in 1998 for health reasons, he was nice enough to pick up and mail out my boxed-up belongings via the Maverick mailroom. In fact, I still have the Maverick mailing tape on the boxes. In addition, my friend even sent me two Girlie Show items (an unwashed red satin top and concert program) that Madonna had apparently given her while cleaning out one of her closets. 

So close, yet so far, though I still hope to officially meet Madonna in person one day.  Now that would be a Bedtime Story…

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Michael R. Smith 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.