Twenty five years ago today, Erotica was released to the general public and was met with a wide variety of backlash. Some of which was due to the release of her Sex book, but also due to the S & M laced music video for the title track.
Looking back, I can understand some of the backlash because just months before this CD was released, Madonna had released ‘This Used to be My Playground’.. which was a heartfelt ballad with a beautiful music. To say that both the book and CD were a complete 180 from that song/video would be an understatement. Even though Madonna was known for sudden 180 turns in her image and music, this was a pretty big switch that felt like whiplash for some of her fans. Sadly, the merits of the album were not reviewed and it fell out of the charts within a matter of months.
As a pre-teen/young teen, the album spoke to me as I’ve written before, but I decided to listen to Erotica with an fresh perspective. Below is a breakdown of each song and my thoughts on them as an adult.
After hearing her redo the song for her Confessions Tour as a disco dance song, I find myself not feeling this version as much as I did back then. It did introduce me to the concept of S & M so for that, I’ll always remember this song :)
Cover song that takes a sensual song previously sung in a slow sensual manner, and adds a dance beat. What I most remember of the song was the video of a red spot light background with Madonna covered in silver singing the song. Decent cover, but much prefer the original version sung by Peggy Lee.
Bye Bye Baby:
Decent song, but not her most memorable song. Although I love the New Jack Swing beat :)
Deeper and Deeper:
My favorite song then and now :) A truly fun song done in a genuine club beat with the infectious flamenco guitar played during the bridge of the song.
Where Life Begins:
In middle school, I honestly didn’t understand the meaning of this song. My mom heard it and basically explained it to me. Listening to the song as an adult, I love the double entendres sprinkled throughout the song. It kind of reminds me of what she attempted to do on Holy Water from her Rebel Heart CD. The difference was that this particular song has a slower, r and b groove to it that sounds more sensual then the backdrop for Holy Water.
An overlooked song that barely made the top 40 back in early 1993, that was overshadowed by the more sleazy Erotica and Sex book. The music video for this song plays like a mini-movie (owing to Looking for Mr. Goodbar as inspiration for the video).
Another song I never paid much attention to back in the day, but it’s kind of catchy with a nice R & B groove about longing and waiting for the other person to not run away from their feelings.
Thief of Hearts:
A song about backstabbing and blaming the other woman when her man is stolen from her. Unknown if she was singing about anyone in particular, or if she was just singing about a common occurrence in the often complex world of female friendship and interaction. Catchy with a cool dance beat.
I admit to skipping past this song back when I first got the CD, but it’s a pretty good song about how powerful words can be especially if there is truth behind them. The only drawback to the song is the almost 6 minute run-time. Had the song been edited down to 4 minutes, I think it would have tightened up the song and gotten the message behind the song across better.
The most romantic song on the CD. It was released as the 4th single from the album with a really cool video that’s hi-tech (by 1993 standards), yet has a warmth underneath the cold beat of the song. I love this song more now then I did back then.
Why’s It So Hard:
Another song I never really listened to much back in the day, but now the message of the song fits with what is going on in the world. About feeling alienated, and wondering how she can fight to change the system without being in pain. I’d ask both GOP and Dems this very question since we are nation of division.
In This Life:
A sad song lamenting the loss of friends to AIDS. This song came out in 1992 right after the peak of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, especially in the gay community. The song briefly touches on the story of two people in her life that succumbed to the disease with her wondering who is next. Very sad sad song :(
Did You Do It?:
The song that caused the CD to have a Parental Advisory label plastered on it. Back in 1992, you had the option of getting the clean and non-clean version so naturally I only could purchase the clean version. Hearing the song now, it’s a rap with the chorus from ‘Waiting’ playing.. it’s two guys rapping about sex with someone. So I can see why it got the label, but the song could have easily stayed off the CD. It doesn’t add anything to the cd, except for a male point of view to the concept of the cd.. which was sex.
Another song I never listened to back then, but while it isn’t the catchiest of songs.. the symbolism and message behind the song speaks to me now as an adult. To me, even though she’s been hurt.. she still believes that she will find the perfect person and be happy all the time in her secret places of place.
So as I finish listening to this album, it’s one of her deepest and most honest pieces of work. It’s amazing how mature and introspective she was in this concept album. It examined the different variations of sex from a romantic, as well as primal, point of view. The fact she wrote/produced this at 33 makes me look at current female singers and wonder when they will be producing such works of art. Beyonce is the only one that comes close to doing that, imho.
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