Madonna's first and last concept album.

May 28, 2009 (Updated May 28, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:It's interesting. It's certaintly interesting.

Cons:Not her best effort. Vocal are all over the place. Two horrid songs.

The Bottom Line: For Madonna enthusiasts. And, uh, don't get it expecting to romance anybody...


I've reviewed this album once before, but that piece-o-crap write up has since been removed, and I hope to high heavens that you have no recollection of it! In other news, I've been racking my brain thinking of albums and singles to review, and I'm in a Madonna mood (take note of my shiny new 4 Minutes avatar). Though it's a debatable statement, I'd have to list 1992's Erotica as her only concept album. Between the mish-mash of mediocrity on American Life and the broadway-soaked songs on I'm Breathless categorized as a "soundtrack," this would have to be the lone disc from her discography that could be labeled as a true-blue concept album. The topic? Sex, love, pornography, fantasy, thrills, and the death that can easily follow. Hot on the heels of Madonna's cultural peak, this was known as a catastrophic low point for the superstar. Not financilly persay-- her Sex book sold-out quickly and her Girlie Show World Tour was immensely successful, especially consiering how she left the US out in the cold with only a few sparse performances in New York City. Socially, however, the perception of Madonna went from pop star to porn star. She was called a sell-out; an attention whore. Changing fifty dollars to see this woman naked and having sex didn't quite have the effect she intended.

The album and the book should have ruined her career-- after all, the book didn't exactly make anybody hot and bothered. Madonna herself stated that she judges her career based on before and after this era. Smart perception.

Concentrating solely on music and how succesful she was at creating a cohesive record, Erotica is a keeper. Generally speaking that is. First off, the general sound on this album is very much the product of 1992 dance music and 1992 urban music. There's little in the way of new jack swing, which was growing ever more passe by the second; Erotica dabbles more with a scratchy version of house music. Have to give the woman credit for making a house record tolerable. The first single was the first song on the album, introducing us to the world of Madonna's fantasies as a woman named Dita, who, according to the music video, is a dominatrix-inspired wannabe with slicked-back hair. This song isn't exactly a song so much as a quasi-poetic ode to the introduction of her album. Kind of a stupid idea for a first single, especially her video was immediately banned from MTV, so any chances of her showcasing her new look were immediately damaged. It's in an interestinly warm track, but only within the context of the record. Otherwise it's just awkward: I'll give you love / I'll hit you like a truck / I'll give you love / I'll teach you how to...

The cheap Shep Pettibone production irks the songs I do like, but the mastering on Deeper and Deeper is incredible, effectively creating the perfect celebration song akin to her older work. This song is more or less known amongst fans as "the song that should have been the first single," and I'm definitely among them. For one thing, Madonna's voice sounds really good here, as she sexily sings the incredibly catchy chorus: I can't help falling in love / I fall deeper and deeper the further I go / Kisses sent from Heaven above / They get sweeter and sweeter the more that I know. This song is reportedly from the point of view of a gay man coming out of the closet, and as a gay man myself, I'd say her words are pretty relavant. Just to set the record straight, maaaaybe (just maybe), her work to make homosexuality more visual is the reason her gay fan base is so tight. I'd say we owe her a lot.

The singles released from Erotica were all stellar: a sultry and fun cover of Peggy Lee's Fever is highly underrated, as is the tug-of-war track that was Bye Bye Baby; and lyrically, Bad Girl is one of her best songs, though her vocals leave a lot to be desired, hitting notes she can't maintain (ever wonder why it's only been performed once live?). As for the album cuts, some of them are real gems, like the blunt Where Life Begins, a musical love letter to the art of cunniligus from the point of view of a very aroused woman. It's one of the other spoken-tracks, but the vocalized chorus is playful and sensual, much more than anything in her photo book. Waiting is a song that never would have made it as a single, but it's still a theatrical piece of music that's cleverly irritating: Well I know from experience that if you have to ask for something more than once or twice, it wasn't yours in the first place.

As individual songs, these track are grading and unsuiting, and I rarely seek them out on their own. But if you let this record run through, you'll be taken from the bathhouse to the Playboy mention, particularly on the trippy and spacey Secret Garden, which is seriously a terrible song, though undeniably effective and a good way to close out this record. As for the other album cuts, the only song to watch out for is an ode to a lost friend who died of AIDS. In This Life is a really crappy way to pay tribute: her voice is horrible, the production is slow and drippy, and the song never goes anywhere. As nice as it was that she performed the song of her world tour, the song is horrible. Now, that's the only song, but there is definitely another track to avoid at all costs: a vulgar rap that has nothing to do with Madonna called Did You Do It?, which is the worst waste of space on a compact disc I've ever heard in my life. But if you need a little cleansing, you can wash away all the stickiness (yuk yuk yuck) with Rain, a ballad single that is definitely one of her better attempts at slow music: I'll stand out on the mountain top and wait for you to bring the rain.

JUDGING
Taking Erotica at face value is a really dangerous step, but you'll miss out on some very quality dance music. Aside from the fact that it is a house album, Madonna put her own spin on it and sets it apart from the typical Ace of Base sound. As a concept album, Erotica is a triumph. Unfortunately, it's difficult to seek out the bulk of the songs because of how tightly wound together they truly are. Not for Madonna beginners.

Erotica (4 Stars)
Fever (4 Stars)
Bye Bye Baby (4 Stars)
Deeper and Deeper (5 Stars)
Where Life Begins (4 Stars)
Bad Girl (4 Stars)
Waiting (5 Stars)
Theif of Hearts (4 Stars)
Words (3.5 Stars)
Rain (5 Stars)
Why's It So Hard (5 Stars)
In This Life (1.5 Stars)
Did You Do It? (0 Stars)
Secret Garden (3 Stars)

OVERALL SCORE: 4 STARS (3.7+)


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