11/07/1994 at 01:00 AM EST
After 1992's Erotica, a chilly cocktail of disco, techno and S & M that didn't go down so smoothly with her fans, Madonna
has gone back to her pop roots to produce a winning album—with a little songwriting and production help from such friends as Babyface, Dallas Austin and Björk. "Secret," with its psychedelic acoustic-guitar intro, persistent syncopated beat and orchestral flourishes, is easily the best Madonna
single since 1989's "Like a Prayer." And "I'd Rather Be Your Lover" (featuring Me'Shell NdegeOcello) and the flamenco-tinged "Love Tried to Welcome Me" are sexier than any of the bedtime fantasies on Erotica.
, who borrowed from the sexy rap style of former Prince protege Ingrid Chavez to create her No. 1 hit "Justify My Love," still draws shamelessly from her contemporaries ("Human Nature" is reminiscent of A Tribe Called Quest's "Electric Relaxation"). But her lower-register vocals, sounding less thin than on previous albums, are well-suited to these smooth, hip-hop arrangements. Her voice—and some seriously infectious grooves—makes these Bedtime Stories worth staying awake for. (Maverick/Sire/Warner Bros.)