“Perhaps Madonna correctly guessed that the public overdosed on the raw carnality of her book Sex” (Erlewine), a collection of nude photographs that came out around the same time as previous album Erotica. By contrast, “Bedtime Stories is a warm album, with deep, gently pulsating grooves; the album’s title isn’t totally tongue-in-cheek. The best songs on the album (Secret, Inside of Me, Sanctuary, Bedtime Story, Take a Bow) slowly work their melodies into the subconscious as the bass pulses” (Erlewine).
“In that sense, it does offer an antidote to Erotica, which was filled with deep but cold grooves. The entire production of Bedtime Stories suggests that she wants listeners to acknowledge that her music isn’t one-dimensional. She has succeeded with that goal, since Bedtime Stories offers her most humane and open music; it’s even seductive” (Erlewine).
From a commercial standpoint, this album sold about on par with Erotica, which is to say that it sold well by any other artist’s standards, but was a low performer by Madonna standards. Erotica showed that not every single released by Madonna was a guaranteed hit; the song ‘Bad Girl’ fell far short of the top 10, peaking at #36 on the U.S. pop charts. This time around, Madonna produced her first album to feature a single that fell short of the top 40 – and it did it twice.
Not all the news was bad, though. Ironically, the album also featured the biggest chart hit of Madonna’s career. While her obituary will some day no doubt reference her as a singer with memorable #1 hits such as “Like a Virgin,” “Vogue,” and “Like a Prayer,” her biggest #1 hit was “Take a Bow,” with seven weeks atop the U.S. pop charts. However, in the U.K., the song was only her third out of 36 charted hits to miss the top 10.