When Madonna released her album Erotica in October of 1992, she was called a slut, whore, and every other name used to demean women. She was even compared to Hitler. Madonna talked about the aftermath of the backlash while receiving an award from Billboard last December.
The book SEX, which was (incorrectly) seen as a pictorial accessory to the album, also caused a lot of backlash. It was at this point in her career that headlines ran day after day about Madonna’s career being over with. People were celebrating her alleged failures even though the book sold over a million copies worldwide while Erotica, which might not have lived up to sales of previous Madonna albums, still sold around six million copies.
The album actually earned some praise before the backlash really settled in. Rolling Stone gave the album four stars in November of 1992, calling it a post-AIDS album about romance. Entertainment Weekly, a magazine that had been so pro-Madonna throughout the early 1990s that some even joked they were on Madonna’s payroll, completely turned on Madonna with the release of Erotica. Music critic David Browne ripped on Madonna’s voice, her “coldness,” and her bad lyrics.
Erotica became known as the album that ended Madonna’s career. Of course, two years later, she released Bedtime Stories, which has sold around eight million copies worldwide and launched the longest-running No. 1 song of Madonna’s career,”Take a Bow.” Then, there was 1998’s Ray of Light, an album many consider the peak of Madonna’s career. However, 25 years later, Erotica is considered a classic. Some even say Madonna’s most maligned album (at the time) became a groundbreaking moment for feminism.
This past week, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has recognized Erotica as one of the most revolutionary albums of all time.
“If Madonna spent the ’80s detonating sexual boundaries, then she doubled down on her provocative stance with the release of 1992’s Erotica. From the first track, Erotica celebrates the agony and ecstasy of sex and desire. To articulate her lustful vibe, the album blends sinewy hip-hop grooves and glittery club beats,” the narrator says in the video, which features scenes from the video of Erotica, which was banned.
While Madonna fans celebrate the album being recognized, the sexual imagery in the video (as well as the book) has continued to be divisive within her fan base. There are those who think Madonna made an absolute mockery of herself at the time. However, there are others who think that by exploring her sexual fantasies, Madonna was groundbreaking in giving the world hardcore sexuality from a woman’s point of view – something that was a definite taboo in 1992.
It’s important to note that the album Erotica, as a whole, isn’t aural sex; it deals with self-destruction, AIDS awareness (another taboo topic at the time), tolerance of homosexuals (even more taboo for 1992), and one who is yearning for love. It produced some minor hits. The title track was one of the highest debuting singles ever, but immediately dropped off the charts. However, “Deeper and Deeper” became a decent hit in January of 1993. When the third single “Bad Girl” only peaked at No. 36, even Madonna’s biggest supporter Kurt Loder at MTV did a segment which announced the end of her career. It was a truly dark time for Madonna and the supporters she had left.
There are fans that are begging Madonna to release an updated 25th anniversary edition of Erotica in time for the holidays. However, judging by the way she was treated when the album was first released, perhaps Madonna doesn’t want to invest in something that will only bring back horrible memories.
[Featured Image by Kathy Willens/AP Images]