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20 years ago, Madonna released one of the most influential albums of the 90s, Erotica.
Erotica was Madonna’s fifth studio album. And though it is not amongst her best selling albums, it definitely is an artistic milestone in her career:
Erotica is the epitome of an artistic soul, of the creative mind and the spirit of a real artist.
To understand that, you need to check the context it came to life:
Erotica‘spredecessor studio album was the groundbreaking Like a Prayer. After that, she embarked in a groundbreaking tour and released her greatest hit at that point: the dance floor / ball anthem Vogue. Then came The Immaculate Collection, the music compilation album that still is the best selling music compilation in history - and one of the best selling albums in the world.
Instead of milking the success of those albums, instead of trying to create a new disco hit like Vogue, instead of flooding the market with her image and second-rate products, Madonna decided to go on a new route. She recreated her sound and her image.
Do you guys have any idea of all the artistic risks Madonna took with Erotica as the follow up album to the Blond Ambition Tour and the Immaculate Collection A.K.A. Pop supremacy?
Madonna showed her true colors when she decided to pursue a new artistic route, instead of repeating the formula of her past hits. And thank God for that!
Erotica was produced when music was still divided between the east and west coasts (it isn’t like that anymore). At that time, genres of music were still semi-pure, so when a first-class artist like Madonna decided to push the envelope by creating a hybrid - that was a risky and brave thing to do.
And one thing Erotica was all about was pushing the envelope. And that includes the SEX book (which deserves a post on its own).
Musically, Madonna left the more mainstream sounds behind and pursued a more urban sound (at that time, hip-hop and urban music were not the norm on mainstream music yet).
Thematically, Erotica discussed more adult and serious topics: homosexuality, prejudice, AIDS, love and sex.
The songs in Erotica were not like Katy Perry’s Firework, or Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. Unlike now, it was not cool to be an outspoken gay-friendly, or simply a “gay” popstar in 1992: Madonna did it all when it was not cool, when it was not part of the program, when it was even “career damaging”.
Today, being gay-friendly is part of the female popstar agenda. And they only do it now because Madonna did it before - and that did not kill her career. Once again, Madonna was paving the way for popstar to safely do it now.
Erotica is definitely one of the most important albums in the history of pop music, specially as a testament of artistic integrity in pop music.
Today, 20 years later, the album still feels dense. Its flawless production, with Madonna, Shep Pettibone and Andre Betts in charge, for the most part, still is as current as it can be: heavy on urban beats (now a mainstream thing), Erotica also had a few dance tracks (back in 1992) that influenced the dance music made in America until 1997. Songs like Thief of Hearts (click to hear) could still be heard in late 1996 and early 1997.
Enjoy the flawlessness of the videos made for the songs on Erotica:
Deeper and Deeper:
Bye Bye Baby:
Now tell me: