Review Summary: Colonel Sanders said it best: "Finger-lickin' good."
Madonna's album Erotica
is her fifth, following a string of successful chart-topping albums throughout the eighties. Known throughout this decade as a pop idol for younger girls and women, Madonna decided to undergo a change of persona at the turn of the decade. In 1990, she released a music video for her song Justify My Love
, that contained images of sadomasochism, bondage, and nudity, and which would eventually draw a ban from MTV. Gone was any semblance of the innocent Material Girl
, and in her place was the reverent Mistress Dita, the dominatrix persona adopted by Madonna for Erotica
, as well as it's accompanying book, aptly titled Sex
begins with the title-track, which was the lead single for the album, and which also yielded a music video with a wealth of sadomasochistic imagery. Lyrically, the song is about inflicting physical pain while also finding a balance of sexual pleasure. Surprisingly, there is only one other track on Erotica
that matches the blatantly explicit nature of these lyrics, which is Where Life Begins
. This track details Madonna's…excuse me, Mistress Dita's insatiable desire to receive oral sex. Other topics on the album include relationship strain (Bye Bye Baby
), self-medicating to mask sadness (Bad Girl
), and experiencing loss due to the AIDS epidemic (In This Life
sounds much more mature than her previous output, adopting aspects of house, techno, and new jack swing in combination with her then-signature brand of upbeat dance-pop. The production, which was taken care of by Madonna herself with the help of Shep Pettibone, is light and airy, finding just the right balance between treble and bass without one overstepping the other. Madonna's vocal delivery is more subdued than it was on her eighties albums, to properly convey the sexual and seductive over- and undertones on the album, as well as to lie pleasantly upon the smooth and sensuous beats.
Song lengths on Erotica
average around five and a half minutes, as repetition of beats and hooks is favored, albeit not at all to the album's detriment. The total runtime of the album is an hour and ten minutes (if you listen to the non-explicit version, which I recommend due to it lacking the mediocre hip-hop track Did You Do It?
, which has no business being on the album). This would begin a trend of Madonna attempting longer and more decadent albums, in this case succeeding with consistency, but not always. While a lot of Madonna's music, older and newer, is meant to be sung along to, I feel that Erotica
's trance-like nature begs a more passive approach to listening.
I want to conclude by expressing my thoughts on Erotica
in the overall pool of Madonna's vast discography. I don't think that Erotica
is any better or worse than her eighties albums, although it was important for Madonna to experiment and take risks with her sound at this point in her career. Erotica
was followed up by the forgettable Bedtime Stories
, which also attempted to play into the sexual aesthetic, but much less remarkably. She delivered her masterpiece Ray of Light
in 1998, and then we entered a new millennium with Madonna struggling to match the quality of any of her eighties and nineties albums, with the exception of her largely popular Confessions on the Dancefloor
. So overall, for anyone who is searching for the good Madonna albums apart from the bad, Erotica
is one of the uniquely good, and should absolutely be given a chance.