Erotica (Madonna album)
|Studio album by Madonna|
|Released||October 21, 1992|
|Recorded||November 1991 – August 1992|
|Singles from Erotica|
Erotica is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Madonna, released on October 21, 1992, by Maverick Records. The album and Madonna's first book publication, Sex, a coffee table book containing explicit photographs featuring the singer released simultaneously with Erotica, mark Madonna's first release with Maverick, her own multi-media entertainment company, which consisted of record and film production companies. Erotica is considered a concept album about sex and sexuality; she incorporated an alter ego for both the title track and Sex named Mistress Dita, inspired by actress Dita Parlo; she talks about sex and romance throughout the album. However, other songs also take on a more confessional tone, influenced by the loss of Madonna's two close friends to AIDS.
Madonna recorded the album in New York City with Shep Pettibone and André Betts while she was working on other projects. Pettibone sent her a tape with three songs when she was in Chicago and shortly after, they started the album's production in his apartment. During the sessions, they had problems during sequencing, and, as a result, Pettibone kept trying to move development as fast as possible as he did not want Madonna to lose interest in music. According to him, Madonna's compositions were serious, and intense, directing the creative direction of the songs into a deeply personal territory. The album's production was chronicled by Pettibone in an article called "Erotica Diaries", in Madonna's Icon magazine.
Erotica received generally favorable reviews from music critics, who regarded it as one of Madonna's most adventurous albums and praised her comments on taboos and AIDS. Commercially, the album was less successful than Madonna's previous records. It peaked at number two on the Billboard 200, becoming her first studio album not to top the chart since her debut. Internationally, it topped the charts in Australia and France, while peaking inside the top five in many other countries, such as Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Erotica was certified double-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and has sold more than six million copies worldwide.
Six singles were released from the album, with the title track and "Deeper and Deeper" becoming top-ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100. The album was supported by Madonna's fourth concert tour, The Girlie Show World Tour, which visited cities in North America, Latin America, Asia and Australia in 1993. Overlooked by the controversy surrounding her coffee table book Sex, Erotica has been considered as one of the most underrated albums of Madonna's career. The album was later listed as one of "The 100 Best Albums of the 1990s" by Slant Magazine.
In 1992, Madonna founded her own multi-media entertainment company, Maverick, consisting of a record company (Maverick Records), a film production company (Maverick Films), and associated music publishing, television broadcasting, book publishing and merchandising divisions. The deal was a joint venture with Time Warner and paid Madonna an advance of $60 million. It gave her 20% royalties from the music proceedings, one of the highest rates in the industry, equaled at that time only by Michael Jackson's royalty rate established a year earlier with Sony. Madonna said that she envisioned the company as an "artistic think tank" and likened it to a cross between the Bauhaus, the innovative German arts institute formed in Weimar in 1919, and Andy Warhol's New York-based Factory of artists and assistants. She stated: "It started as a desire to have more control. There's a group of writers, photographers, directors and editors that I've met along the way in my career who I want to take with me everywhere I go. I want to incorporate them into my little factory of ideas. I also come in contact with a lot of young talent that I feel entrepreneurial about." The first two projects from the venture were her fifth studio album, Erotica, and a coffee table book of photographs featuring Madonna, entitled Sex.
Madonna primarily collaborated with Shep Pettibone for the album. Pettibone first began working with Madonna during the 1980s, providing remixes for several of her singles. He later co-wrote and co-produced the lead single from the soundtrack album I'm Breathless, "Vogue", which topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1990. The same year, Pettibone worked on with Madonna on her greatest hits album The Immaculate Collection, co-producing new song "Rescue Me" and remixing her earlier songs for the compilation using audio technology QSound. In 1992, Madonna collaborated with Pettibone on the soundtrack to the film A League of Their Own, This Used to Be My Playground, which was produced while recording Erotica. Alongside Pettibone, Madonna enlisted help from producer André Betts, who previously co-produced "Justify My Love" for The Immaculate Collection. Madonna said that she was interested to work with Pettibone and Betts due to their ability to remain plugged into the dance underground, "They come from opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their music style and approach to music, but they're both connected to the street and they're still young and hungry."
According to Pettibone in an article "Erotica Diaries" published on Madonna's Icon magazine, he produced a tape with three songs for Madonna to listen to, before he traveled to Chicago, where she was filming A League of Their Own. She listened to the songs and liked all of them. After filming was complete, Madonna met Pettibone in New York City to start working together in November 1991. Their schedule was sporadic in the beginning. Madonna and Pettibone were in the studio for a week and then she would work with Steven Meisel on Sex, for two weeks. Occasionally, Madonna also would meet André Betts. At first, Madonna did not like the first group of songs she had recorded. She wanted Erotica to have a raw edge to it, as if it were recorded in an alley in Harlem, and not a light glossy production to permeate her sound, according to Pettibone. "Deeper and Deeper" was not working for Madonna. Pettibone said they tried different bridges and changes, but in the end, Madonna wanted the middle of the song to have a flamenco guitar.
They had problems during sequencing and had to repair the songs, taking some time. Pettibone had to keep things moving as fast as possible as he did not want Madonna to lose interest in the music. At this point, as far as the music went, it was getting a little melancholy. However, as Pettibone explained, Madonna's stories directed the creative direction of the songs into deeply personal territory as they were more serious and intense. Madonna left the album's production to work on her next film Body of Evidence in Oregon. Shortly after, Pettibone started on a song called "Goodbye to Innocence", which was not working. He further commented that he made a new bass line for the track. When Madonna went to record her vocals for "Goodbye to Innocence", she started singing Little Willie John's song "Fever" instead of singing the original words. They decided to record it, as they felt it sounded good. As they did not know the words, Madonna called Seymour Stein from Sire Records, and within an hour, they had the Peggy Lee version, and the original version of the song. This song was the last to be recorded for the album, in August 1992, and it was finished within a month later.
Erotica is a concept album about Madonna's point of view on sex. It is a pop and dance record which incorporates elements from classic disco, modern house, techno and new jack swing. Madonna incorporated an alter-ego named Mistress Dita, heavily inspired by actress Dita Parlo. "Erotica" is the first single and also the opening track from the album. Starting with Madonna saying "My name is Dita", she invites her lover to be passive, while she tells him to "do as I say" and leads him to explore boundaries between pain and pleasure. It deals with sex hang-ups, and has been described as "an ode to S&M". Her cover version of "Fever" follows the title track. It is described as a "sassy, house-style remake" of the pop standard. The third track, "Bye Bye Baby," starts with the declaration, "This is not a love song," and goes on to ask questions of a lover she is about to abandon. At one point, Madonna asks angrily: "Does it make you feel good to see me cry?" The fourth track and second single from Erotica, "Deeper and Deeper," is described as one of the "pure disco" moments of the album. Its bridge features a flamenco guitar, and its lyrics talk about sexual obsession. In the following track, "Where Life Begins", Madonna promises to teach "a different kind of kiss" to the listener. In the song, Madonna talks about the pleasures of oral sex and also references safe-sex. The sixth track is "Bad Girl". It talks about a woman who would rather get drunk than end a relationship she is too neurotic to handle. The seventh song, "Waiting", has been described as a "yearning ballad." Featuring spoken words, it addresses rejection and unrequited love. The song has also been described as a sequel to "Justify My Love" (1990).
"Thief of Hearts", the song that follows "Waiting", is a dark and rumbling song. It uses tough hip-hop language to ward off a rival for her lover's attention. It opens with the smashing of a glass, and Madonna shouting, "Bitch!/Which leg do you want me to break?" and later, she sneers, "Little miss thinks she can have his child/Well anybody can do it." "Words" was compared to the previous track "Thief of Hearts," with music critics finding similarity in scope, each with sharp lyrics and catchy beats. The song features clattering programs and icy synth block-chords. "Rain" is the tenth track and fifth single from the album. Its lyrics talk about waiting and hoping for love. The song features a crescendo towards the end. The subsequent track, "Why's It So Hard," is considered the album's plea for solidarity with her audience, as Madonna sings: "Why's it so hard to love one another?" The following song, "In This Life," was written in memory of friends who Madonna had lost to the AIDS epidemic. The drums were compared to a doomsday clock and the keyboard intervals were also compared to George Gershwin's blues lullaby "Prelude No. 2," creating a sense of dis-ease. The thirteenth track, "Did You Do It?" features rappers Mark Goodman and Dave Murphy. The song was omitted in the clean edition of Erotica. Producer André Betts claimed that for fun, he just rapped over the track "Waiting," while Madonna was gone, and she liked it after hearing later. The last track from the album, "Secret Garden," is described as Erotica's most personal song. In addition, "Secret Garden" is dedicated to the singer's vagina, "the secret place where she could enjoy herself." It features a jazz-house beat.
|The Baltimore Sun||(positive)|
|The New York Times||(mixed)|
Erotica received generally positive reviews from music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic called it "ambitious" and noted that Erotica contains some of Madonna's best and most accomplished music. Paul Verna from Billboard considered it her most varied and creatively challenging collection to date. Arion Berger of Rolling Stone praised the album's "cold, remote sound", and wrote that "Erotica is everything Madonna has been denounced for being — meticulous, calculated, domineering and artificial. It accepts those charges and answers with a brilliant record to prove them". Yahoo! Music editor John Myers stated that the album is musically some of Madonna's best work and offers intelligent insight into the taboos people have been taught to be afraid to speak of, combined with equally clever musical arrangements. NME said: "When Erotica the album is good – i.e. when it's funny, original, lively and, yes, sexy – it's about as good as the modern media event gets." J. D. Considine of The Baltimore Sun stated that the most surprising thing on the songs is that they find Madonna singing about love, not about sex. Phil Sutcliffe gave three stars in a review for Q, writing: "The biggest surprise is 'Deeper and Deeper', which could be mistaken for a bopalong tribute to Kylie. However, the substance of Erotica resides in a range of straight-talking, almost intimate songs based, not on an idea about sex, but on experience of relationships." A retrospective review in Blender concluded: "That female artists (except Millie Jackson) never come on this strongly makes Erotica shocking and, well, arousing."
Charles Aaron from Spin noted that the album is a brave comment on the chilly, tragic detachment of sex under AIDS. Stylus Magazine commented that each song has its own energy. He also noted that "Erotica was too sophisticated for a mainstream besotted with The Bodyguard and a college-radio claque eager to praise R.E.M.'s opaque dirges for the wisdom that Madonna's club fodder showed with less fuss and with a better rhythm section". Robert Christgau commented that "The singer doesn't have great pipes, but because she's too hip to belt [this time], she doesn't need them. She's in control, all understated presence and impersonal personality except when she's flashing some pink. [...] "Love your sister, love your brother" thing, the lyrics are not stupid. I love the rap where the boast turns out to be a lie." Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine recognized that "Pettibone's beats might be time-stamped with the sound of a genre that ruled a decade of one-hitters before being replaced by commercialized hip-hop" and classified Madonna's voice as "nasal and remote".
David Browne of Entertainment Weekly declared that Erotica may be the most joyless dance music of all time, while critizicing Madonna's "soulless" voice. Stephen Holden from The New York Times wrote that the album is far from Madonna's best album, as the hip-hop songs lack the "musical breadth and confessional poignancy" of Like a Prayer, the record that established Madonna as a mature pop songwriter. "Erotica has been expertly designed to hit a dance/rave audience while achieving mainstream pop crossover. But efficiency has been at the expense of joie de vivre", observed The Guardian.
In the United States, Erotica debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 on November 11, 1992, with first week sales of 167,000 copies. It was held off from reaching the top spot by Garth Brooks's fourth studio album, The Chase, which that same week sold 4,000 copies more than Erotica. The next week, the album dropped to the fourth position. It was eventually certified two times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments of two million units. In Canada, the album debuted at number seven on the RPM Albums Chart on November 7, 1992. It reached a peak of number four on November 21, 1992. The album was present for a total of 38 weeks on the chart, and was certified two times platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) for shipments of 200,000 copies. In the United Kingdom, Erotica debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart, on October 24, 1992. It remained at its peak at number two for three weeks, and a total of 38 weeks on the chart. The album was certified two times platinum on June 1, 1993, by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for shipments of 600,000 copies.
In France, the album debuted at number one on the French Albums Chart on October 28, 1992, staying there for two weeks, then descending down the chart. However, it did not receive any music certification from Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP). In Australia, the album debuted at number one on the Kent Music Report albums chart, and was certified three times platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipments of 210,000 copies. It reached the top five of the New Zealand Albums Chart. In Germany, the album reached the top five on the Media Control Charts and was certified gold for shipments of 250,000 copies. In Sweden, the album debuted in its peak of number six and spent only seven weeks on the chart. Similarly in Switzerland, Erotica peaked number five on the week of October 25, 1992. It was certified gold in the latter. It was also certified platinum in Spain and gold in Brazil and Germany. To date, Erotica has sold more than six million copies worldwide.
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"Erotica" was the lead single released from the album in October 1992. It was described by music critics as "brilliant", who also compared it to her single "Justify My Love" (1990). It peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100. Internationally, it reached the top ten in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom. Following the release of the song, Leabanese singer Fairuz claimed her vocals appear on the song without her consent, and said the lyrics "he crucified me today", which was sung in Arabic, is taken from a religious song that is traditionally heard during Easter services. "Deeper and Deeper" was released as the second single in November 1992. It received generally positive reviews from critics, with most of them praising its disco theme. "Deeper and Deeper" achieved top-ten success in Belgium, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States. "Bad Girl" was released in February 1993, receiving positive reviews, with music critics naming it "riveting". The song had a modest success on the charts, peaking at number ten on the UK Singles Chart while reaching number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Fever" was released as the fourth single of the album in March 1993 in Europe and Australia. It received positive reviews from critics praising its house version. It became a top-ten hit in several European countries including Finland, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, while topping the Hot Dance Club Play chart without a North American release. The fifth single, "Rain", was released in July 1993. It was described by music critics as an extended cum metaphor, and noted it as one of Madonna's best works. However, it was described as a slushy rewrite of "This Used to Be My Playground" (1992), which is a slushy rewrite of "Promise to Try" from her album Like a Prayer (1989). "Rain" peaked at number one in Italy and number two in Canada. "Bye Bye Baby" was released as the last single from the album in November 1993. Critical response was positive, with music critics praising Madonna's "honest" performance and noting her electronically altered voice in the song. It reached the top ten in Italy and peaked within the top twenty in Australia.
Due to the high scandal and controversy surrounding the book and the album, there was not any need for Madonna to promote it; however, one of the few promotions for the book Madonna did, was appearing on the cover of the October edition of Vogue, where she appeared dressed in "Hippie trip" fashion. These photographs were taken by Meisel. After the book was released, on October 22, 1992, MTV aired a special called The Day in Madonna, hosted by Kurt Loder (the title of this special was a pun of the title of the channel's daily show The Day in Rock), which profiled the release of Madonna's Sex and Erotica, even taking the book to the streets to allow people, including a sex therapist and group of real-life New York City dominatrices, to view it. MTV also interviewed many people who had viewed the Sex book on the day of its release at the HMV music store in New York City. In celebration of the release of the book, the store held a Madonna look-alike contest and set up a booth where people could view the book for one dollar a minute, with all of the proceeds going to Lifebeat, the music industry organization founded to help fund AIDS research.
Madonna additionally performed "Fever" and "Bad Girl" on Saturday Night Live in January 1993. During the latter, she referenced Sinéad O'Connor's actions by ripping a photograph of Pope John Paul II and yelling "Fight the real enemy". The photograph Madonna used was of Joey Buttafuoco. During the 1000th The Arsenio Hall Show, Madonna performed the original version of "Fever" accompanied by a band, wearing a black classic dress and smoking a cigarette. Following this performance, Madonna sang "The Lady Is a Tramp" with Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, dressed up in matching skirts, stockings, leather vests and cat-ear caps. On September 2, 1993, Madonna opened the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards performing "Bye Bye Baby" cavorting with three scantily clad women in a brothel-style setting, dressed in tuxedos and top hats, danced with women in corsets in a choreographed, highly sexual routine.
The album was further promoted on her fourth concert tour, the Girlie Show World Tour, which visited Israel and Turkey, Latin America and Australia for the first time in 1993. The tour required 1500 costumes for the cast, and a 24-hour set up time for the stage. Madonna opened the show dressed as a dominatrix, surrounded by topless dancers of both sexes. Lighter moments included Madonna descending from the ceiling on a giant disco ball, wearing an Afro wig for "Express Yourself", as well as the singer singing "Like a Virgin" in the guise of actress Marlene Dietrich and singing the word 'virgin' as 'wirgin'. She caused uproar in Puerto Rico by rubbing their national flag between her legs on stage. Orthodox Jews protested to force the cancellation of the concert in Tel Aviv, Israel. However, the rallies were unsuccessful as the show went on as scheduled. The Girlie Show received positive reviews from critics, and was a commercial success, grossing around US$70 million.
Erotica was listed at number 24 on "The 100 Best Albums of the 1990s" by Slant Magazine. PopMatters ranked the album at number three on a list of "15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s". According to J. Randy Taraborrelli, the author of Madonna: An Intimate Biography, "At the time of Erotica's release in October 1992, much of society seemed to reexamining its sexuality. Gay rights issues were at the forefront of social discussions globally, as was an ever-increasing awareness of AIDS. A generation seemed increasingly curious to explore, without guilt, shame or apology, a different slice of life, something more provocative, maybe darker." In the review for fifteenth anniversary of the album, music critic Sal Cinquemani commented about the album's impact:
By 1992, Madonna was an icon—untouchable, literally and figuratively—and Erotica was the first time the artist's music took on a decidedly combative, even threatening tone, and most people didn't want to hear it. Erotica's irrefutable unsexiness probably says more about the sex=death mentality of the early '90s than any other musical document of its time. This is not Madonna at her creative zenith. This is Madonna at her most important, at her most relevant. No one else in the mainstream at that time dared to talk about sex, love, and death with such frankness and fearlessness.
Eric Henderson from Slant Magazine recalled, "No Madonna album was ever met with a louder backlash or was more rampantly misrepresented than this dark masterpiece." Madonna was banned from entering the Vatican and her music was banned there as well. The accompanying music video for "Erotica" also suffered of the mainstream condemnation due to its explicit sexual imagery. MTV put the video into heavy rotation, but only after midnight. It was completely banned from broadcast on NBC and Times Square because its bondage imagery was deemed too racy. The first album of her career to bear Parental Advisory label, Erotica was also banned in several Asian countries, such as China and Lebanon. In Singapore, after Erotica's worldwide release, the album was on hold for its release, because their government censors thought the track "Did You Do It" was too explicit. Managing director Peter Lau said, "We were elated when the album was cleared, but ['Did You Do It'] failed to pass. We're still waiting approval."
Taraborrelli commented that it is unfortunate that Erotica has to be historically linked to other less memorable ventures in Madonna's career at this time. However, he quipped that the album should be considered on its own merits, not only as one linked to the other two adult-oriented projects, because it has true value. When asked to name her biggest professional disappointment, Madonna answered, "The fact that my Erotica album was overlooked because of the whole thing with the Sex book. It just got lost in all that. I think there's some brilliant songs on it and people didn't give it a chance. That disappointed me, but I'm not disappointed in the record itself… Every review of the movie or the album was really a review of the book. It was transparent: they weren't even talking about the songs or the music. OK, I thought, I get what's happening here. It was a shame, but I understand it."
Musician Doug Wimbish noted that Erotica was a record ahead of his time. In the early '90s, Seattle grunge had kicked in, the bass-driven beats of jungle were emerging on the dance floor, and hip-hop hit a new level with the funky, conscious rap of acts like De La Soul. "Madonna's enough of an artist to take the hues and shades of what's happening and put a concept together, It's not just bash out a record", he said. "She had Maverick, she'd done the book, the film Dick Tracy, she dated a big-ass Hollywood actor [Warren Beatty], This was her first record with her concept. She just freaked everybody out. She turned the system upside down for a moment, and they had to deal with the shock and awe of it all". Wimbish believes that Madonna forged a path for the next generation of female pop artists: "She was bringin' it from her point of view as a woman, bringing it to the forefront for real. That set the template now for your Christina Aguileras, Britneys, Beyoncés. She paved the road for a lot of that. You can be nice and clean and then a freak. And there'll be a lot of money for you in it at the end!"
|1.||"Erotica"||Madonna Ciccone, Shep Pettibone, Anthony Shimkin||Madonna, Pettibone||5:20|
|2.||"Fever"||John Davenport, Eddie Cooley||Madonna, Pettibone||5:00|
|3.||"Bye Bye Baby"||Ciccone, Pettibone, Shimkin||Madonna, Pettibone||3:56|
|4.||"Deeper and Deeper"||Ciccone, Pettibone, Shimkin||Madonna, Pettibone||5:33|
|5.||"Where Life Begins"||Ciccone, Andre Betts||Madonna, Betts||5:57|
|6.||"Bad Girl"||Ciccone, Pettibone, Shimkin||Madonna, Pettibone||5:23|
|7.||"Waiting"||Ciccone, Betts||Madonna, Betts||5:46|
|8.||"Thief of Hearts"||Ciccone, Pettibone, Shimkin||Madonna, Pettibone||4:51|
|9.||"Words"||Ciccone, Pettibone, Shimkin||Madonna, Pettibone||5:55|
|10.||"Rain"||Ciccone, Pettibone||Madonna, Pettibone||5:25|
|11.||"Why's It So Hard"||Ciccone, Pettibone, Shimkin||Madonna, Pettibone||5:23|
|12.||"In This Life"||Ciccone, Pettibone||Madonna, Pettibone||6:23|
|13.||"Did You Do It?" (featuring Mark Goodman and Dave Murphy)||Ciccone, Betts, Pettibone||Madonna, Betts||4:54|
|14.||"Secret Garden"||Ciccone, Betts||Madonna, Betts||5:32|
- Additional notes
- "Erotica" contains a sample of "Jungle Boogie" performed by Kool and the Gang. Another sample "El Yom 'Ulliqa 'Ala Khashaba" by Lebanese singer Fairuz was used which led to a lawsuit, this was settled out of court.
- Anthony Shimkin has been officially added by ASCAP as a co-writer to "Erotica", "Bye Bye Baby", "Bad Girl", "Thief of Hearts", "Words" and "Why's It So Hard". Inlay notes to the album do not include this. Shimkin was only allowed to add his credit to one composition on the album, he originally chose "Deeper and Deeper".
- "Fever" contains lyrics written and rearranged by singer Peggy Lee, who remains uncredited for her contribution.
- CD – 13 track version, omits the track "Did You Do It?"
- CD – Explicit version with 14 tracks including the track "Did You Do It?" This version comes with Parental Advisory label.
- CD Collector's Edition – Australian collector's digipak edition released in 1993 to celebrate The Girlie Show World Tour in that country. Explicit version with 14 tracks including the track "Did You Do It?"
- Vinyl – 13 track version, omits the track "Did You Do It?"
- Vinyl – Explicit version with 14 tracks including the track "Did You Do It?" This version comes with Parental Advisory label. The vinyl was reissued in 2012 by Warner Bros. Records with a different catalog number.
- Cassette – 13 track version, omits the track "Did You Do It?"
- Digital Compact Cassette – European explicit version with 14 tracks including the track "Did You Do It?" This version comes with Parental Advisory label.
Credits and personnel
Credits adapted from the album's liner notes.
Charts and certifications
Sales and certifications
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- NME, c. December 1992, precise date unknown
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- The Guardian, c. December 1992, precise date unknown
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