Monday, October 22, 2012


Released on October 20, 1992, Madonna's Erotica album set off a firestorm and completely changed the career of THE musical icon of our generation. Up to that point, and as current as that summer's single This Used To Be My Playground, Madonna had been churning out thought provoking, but mostly non-explicit music to the general enjoyment of the masses. Her track record on the charts was stellar and her reputation as having her finger on the pulse of the music-buying public was unsurpassed. Her deal with Warner music had recently changed and she was given her own label, Maverick, and more control over her output. Her first album released under her new label was Erotica. This was not your older sister's 80s Madonna. Full of double entendre, and some straight up dirty talk, Erotica was raw, dark, cold and aloof in the sexiest possible way. Critics were pretty much on board, most praising the album's honest lyrics and some even saying it was Madonna's best work. Most remarked on the fact that Madonna seemed to be reacting to what the public was talking about: Her sex life and her image. The public? Not as much. Erotica was met with some pretty strong resistance. This lead to the very first era of "Madonna backlash". While I was sitting in my living room in Lubbock, Tx in absolute HEAVEN listening to every track on the album, turns out some people thought Madge had gone too far. Songs like Where All Life Begins (an ode to cunnilingus) and Secret Garden (about her vagina) weren't the Like a Prayer and Into the Groove people were hoping for. Madonna wasn't flirting anymore, she was demanding sexual satisfaction. She was woman, hear her roar. The album debuted and peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 album chart and went on to sale over 2 million copies in the US and 5 million worldwide, but compared to her previous albums, many considered Erotica a flop. HUH? 5 million is hardly a flop, but I guess at the time it was expected that Madonna would sell tons of albums straight out of the gate every time. The first single, Erotica, was a hip hop inspired tune that resembled her remarkable Justify My Love from a couple of years prior. A little more nasty and gritty, the song peaked at #3 on the Hot 100. More radio friendly singles like Deeper and Deeper(#7) and Rain(#14) would go on to make their mark on the charts, but for the first time in her career in the US one of her singles, the gorgeous and moody Bad Girl, would miss the top 20, peaking at #36. All the singles from Erotica would make the top 10 in the UK, including the European release of Fever. As time went on, and Madonna released her next, softer album Bedtime Stories, she backed off slightly from the oversexualized image she put forth with Erotica and its accompanying book, Sex, but she never apologized for her art. As a matter of fact, the single from Bedtime Stories, Human Nature, is about the backlash (And I'm not sorry. It's human nature) Madonna endured from her Erotica era. (Did I say something wrong? Oops, I didn't know I couldn't talk about sex. I must have been crazy) Most fans and critics agree, looking back, that Erotica is quite possibly one of Madonna's finest albums to date and its videos (which you can watch by clicking on the songs above) are all oustanding. It was ahead of its time with its sampling and frankness, its electro-lounge feel, but like most great works, sometimes things are not appreciated in their time. As for myself, I ALWAYS knew and appreciated the sheer genius of the cooly sexy album. The songs that people tend to forget to mention -- the sadness of In This Life, about all the friends Madonna lost to AIDS, and Why's It So Hard, her ode to acceptance and solidarity -- are the heart of the album really. It's where we get to hear the longing in her voice and the realness behind the sexual sheen. There are also moments of pure pop joy like Deeper and Deeper and Theif of Hearts, and of course the exquisite Rain, arguably Madonna best ballad. Erotica has stood the test of time and even improved with repeated listening over the years. Not many albums can do that. So happy 20th birthday to Erotica. You still got it, baby.

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