On this day: Feb.20: Madonna performs ''Bedtime Story'' live at the Brit Awards (1995)

"Bedtime Story" live at the Brit Awards (1995)

February 20, 1995

Madonna performs "Bedtime Story" live at the Brit Awards.
 

1995 'Bedtime Story' Brit Awards (Feb. 20)
 

 

Bedtime Story

Single by Madonna
From the album Bedtime Stories

B-side: "Survival"
Released: February 13, 1995
Format: CD, 7", 12", CD Limited Edition Storybook
Recorded: 1994; Chappell Studios
Genre: Electronic, house, trance, ambient
Length: 4:08
Label: Maverick · Sire · Warner Bros.
Writer(s):Björk · Nellee Hooper · Marius De Vries
Producer(s):Madonna · Nellee Hooper


"Bedtime Story" is a song by American singer-songwriter Madonna from her sixth studio album Bedtime Stories. The song was released as the album's third single on February 13, 1995 by Maverick Records. The song also appears in a shortened verson on Madonna's 2001 compilation album GHV2. Written by Björk, Nellee Hooper and Marius De Vries, it offered to Björk the chance to write a song for Madonna's album. Björk then composed a demo which was later partially re-written and whose title was changed to the present one, after which the actual song was produced by Madonna and Nellee Hooper.
 
"Bedtime Story" is a mid-tempo electronic song with acid-influenced "pulsating" house beats, ambient and techno tendencies and an underlying skeletal synth melody influenced by minimal trance music. The song also contains the presence of a drum machine, organs, gurgles, handclaps and has an intricate rhythmic structure. Furthermore, it has drawn comparisons to the style of new age music. A considerable departure from Madonna's work at the time, the track abandoned the singer's then pop-R&B-based repertoire in favor being more unconventional and electronic. The song starts with groans and eventually progresses into whispered speak-sung vocals, and the lyrics are about the joys of the unconscious world. However, scholars and academics have noted that the song contains lyrical subtexts.
 
"Bedtime Story" received favorable reviews from music critics, who praised the song's hypnotic and electronic style, and deemed it an underrated song which could have had great potential. The song was a moderate international success, reaching the top ten in the United Kingdom, Italy and Australia, but missing the top 40 in United States. However, the song peaked at number one on the Hot Dance Club Songs. The music video for "Bedtime Story" was directed by Mark Romanek and is listed as one of the most expensive music videos of all time at a cost of $5 million. It features surrealistic and new age imagery, with influences from artists such as Remedios Varo, Frida Kahlo and Leonora Carrington. The video received critical acclaim from critics and was stored in a collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
 
"Bedtime Story" was performed at the 1995 BRIT Awards in London with Madonna wearing white Versace dress and long hair extensions, becoming one of the 30 best moments of the awards show history. A remixed version of the track was also used as a video interlude on her Re-Invention World Tour in 2004, with a new video directed by Dago Gonzalez. "Bedtime Story" has left a legacy, with several critics, writers and scholars claiming that the song foreshadowed the singer's move towards electronic music in her future work. It was also written that it was part of the singer's influence in popularizing Sufism and the Mevlevi tradition in mainstream Western culture. Nevertheless, it has been described as one of her most unfulfilled potentially successful singles.

Background

According to Lucy O'Brien in her book Madonna: Like an Icon, Madonna wanted to "make an impact" on the soul musical scene, and started working with prominent producers from the R&B market. Aside from this, however, Madonna also wanted to explore the British club musical scene, where genres such as dub had been growing in popularity. In such a way, she decided to work with several European producers and composers within the electronic scene, including Nellee Hooper, who pleased Madonna due to his "very European sensibility". Inviting Hooper over to Los Angeles, sessions started taking place in the Chappell Studios of Encino, California. "Bedtime Story" was written by Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk, Marius De Vries and Nellee Hooper, and co-produced by Nellee Hooper and Madonna. According to Mark Pytlik in his book Björk: wow and flutter, it was offered a chance to write a track for Madonna's upcoming album, Bedtime Stories, to Björk. After she accepted the offer, she wrote a song initially named "Let's Get Unconscious". Once the song demo had been finished, De Vries and Hooper rearranged the track and the final version was called "Bedtime Story". The song was eventually released as the third single from the album.

Musical composition and lyrics

"Bedtime Story" is an electronic song, which is noted as a notable departure from Madonna's previous works and the other songs from the album, which are more R&B and new jack swing-driven; unlike Madonna's more up-tempo, melodic work, the song is slower and has less of a net melody, and also contains a complex rhythmic structure; it also places much emphasis on atmospheric qualities, containing an ambient-influenced tone. The track, furthermore, contains a "pulsating" and a "deep, bubbling" house beat which has drawn stylistic comparisons to acid house music, a "skeletal" synth arrangement, influences of trance, more specifically, minimal trance, as well as techno tendencies. The song's instrumentation, on the other hand, is synthesized, consisting of drum machine, loops, organs, strings, gurgles, handclaps, as well as a digitally-altered "homophonic" choir. The lyrics are a hymn to the joys of unconsciousness and a rejection of the supposed constraints of reason and language, hence the line "Words are useless, especially sentences, They don't stand for anything, How could they explain how I feel?" The song is linked to the ending of the previous album track, "Sanctuary", and starts with its chords. After this, the skeletal synth arrangement begins, over which the singer can be heard groaning. This is followed by sound of the drum machine and machine handclap. Madonna sings the song in a subdued, speak-sing manner, with the line "Today is the last day I am using words". In the song, Madonna sings certain lines in a hypnotic style. The ending of the track has a pulsating beat and a mix of the lead synth, with Madonna's voice whimpering and uttering "Ha-ha-aahs". It ends abruptly saying "And all that you every learned, try to forget, I'll never explain again" making the listener believe that it was all the part of a dream. According to sheet music published by Musicnotes.com of Alfred Publishing Co. Inc, is written in the key of G minor and has a moderate tempo of 108 beats per minute.
 
Lyrically, despite being a song about a trip to the unconscious, scholars have noticed subtexts within the song's meaning. They noted that postmodernism and new age themes seem to have been explored within the song's lyrics, especially with regards to their incapability of articulating the concept of the truth, as well as the song's theme of meditation and relax. Islamic mystic and sexual themes have also been noted within the song's lyrics. According to Vicente, the clichéd references to "honey", "longing" and "yearning", and the sexual connotations of being "wet on the inside" does not relate to "secular" love, but to "ecstatic" Sufi poetry. The song's lyrical themes contrast from those of her previous work, which was overtly sexual and based on erotic love. On the other hand, they explore concepts of movement which are "central" to Sufi philosophy, such as "leaving" and "going out". According to Vincente, these "subtly" allude to "achieving fana through sema (getting 'lost' and 'leaving logic and reason to the arms of unconsciousness')".
 
According to Victor Amaro Vicente in his book The aesthetics of motion in musics for the Mevlana Celal ed-Din Rumi, the song's music bears many resemblances to new age-era music and different forms of Sufi-inspired music. Its slow atmospheric qualities have drawn comparison to "Mevlevi-Sufi Relaxation" and the song's intricate, "steady and continuous" rhythmic structure has also drawn comparison to the zikr ceremony. Björk, one of the song's writers, has been credited for giving the song its particular style. According to Marius De Vries, one of the song's writers, the track's architecture is "distinctly Björkian" and she "has such a particular and idiosyncratic approach to the construction of lyrics and phrasing". In a chapter of Music and technoculture written by Charity Marsh and Melissa West, it is stated that one can hear the influence of Björk in Madonna's vocals during the song.

 

 

Music video

Background and development

The music video for "Bedtime Story" was directed by Mark Romanek over a course of six days in Universal Studios, Universal City, California. At a reputed cost of $5 million, it is one of the most expensive music videos of all time, and the most expensive at the time, with the music video for one of her earlier singles, "Express Yourself", which was also reported to have cost $5 million. Shot by cinematographer Harris Savides, the video was made on 35 mm film lens. Furthermore, Tom Foden was the video's production designer. Due to the vast number of digital effects required for the video, post-production lasted for weeks.
 
On March 10, 1995, the video was given a cinematic release at three different Odeon Cineplex film theatres in Santa Monica, California at the Broadway Cinemas, in Manhattan, New York at the Chelsea Theater, and in Chicago, Illinois at the Biograph Theater. Unlike most of Madonna's videos which debuted on either MTV or VH1 television channels, "Bedtime Story" was first put into circulation in Z100. The video has been exhibited and permanently kept in different art galleries and museums, including the Museum of Modern Art as well the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In order to promote the video, Madonna did a special known as Madonna's Pajama Party on March 18, 1995. where the singer could be seen reading a bedtime story in Webster Hall in New York City. At the event, "cutting-edge" tribal and trance remixes, made by disc jockey and producer Junior Vasquez, were also played. In an interview with Aperture magazine, Madonna revealed the inspiration for the music video:
 

"My "Bedtime Story" video was completely inspired by all the female surrealist painters like Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo. There's that one shot where my hands are up in the air and stars are spinning around me. And me flying through the hallway with my hair trailing behind me, the birds flying out of my open robe – all of those images were an homage to female surrealist painters; there's a little bit of Frida Kahlo in there, too". (Wiki)

 

Track listings and formats

US CD single, Cassette single, 7" single
1."Bedtime Story" (Album Version) – 4:53
2."Survival" (Album Version) – 3:33

European Cassette single, CD single
1."Bedtime Story" (Album Edit) – 4:08
2."Bedtime Story" (Junior's Single Mix) – 4:53

European CD single / UK CD single 2
1."Bedtime Story" (Album Edit) – 4:08
2."Bedtime Story" (Junior's Wet Dream Mix) – 8:35
3."Bedtime Story" (Junior's Dreamy Drum Dub) – 9:34
4."Bedtime Story" (Orbital Mix) – 7:43
5."Bedtime Story" (Junior's Sound Factory Mix) – 9:18

UK Limited Edition Storybook CD
1."Bedtime Story" (Junior's Single Mix) – 4:53
2."Secret" (Allstar Mix) – 5:11
3."Secret" (Some Bizarre Mix) – 9:48
4."Secret" (Some Bizarre Single Mix) – 4:17

UK 12" vinyl / European 12" vinyl
1."Bedtime Story" (Junior's Sound Factory Mix) – 9:18
2."Bedtime Story" (Junior's Sound Factory Dub) – 8:19
3."Bedtime Story" (Junior's Wet Dream Mix) – 8:35
4."Bedtime Story" (Orbital Mix) – 7:44

US CD Maxi-single
1."Bedtime Story" (Album Edit) – 4:08
2."Bedtime Story" (Junior's Wet Dream Mix) – 8:35
3."Bedtime Story" (Junior's Dreamy Drum Dub) – 9:34
4."Survival" (Album Version) – 3:33
5."Bedtime Story" (Orbital Mix) – 7:44
6."Bedtime Story" (Junior's Sound Factory Mix) – 9:18
7."Bedtime Story" (Junior's Single Mix) – 4:53

"Bedtime Story Chapter II" US 12" Promo vinyl
1."Bedtime Story" (Lush Vocal Mix) – 4:44
2."Bedtime Story" (Luscious Dub) – 7:38
3."Bedtime Story" (Percapella Mix) – 6:30
4."Bedtime Story" (Unconscious In The Jungle Mix) – 6:29

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