Sire, 1992

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Who the hell is André Betts and why did Madonna recruit him to be one of her producers for her fifth studio album, Erotica? That question would go unanswered, perhaps because of all the controversy surrounding Madonna’s other multimedia ventures that were happening virtually simultaneously in late 1992.

Her Sex book caused the loudest furor of all, with most people thinking that she had either gone too far or had lost her mind completely. And then, with the release of the most disastrous film of her career, Body Of Evidence, it was unanimous on all fronts that Madonna had finally overexposed herself. Many of her fans subsequently turned their backs on her and the music that made up the rather solid Erotica effort.


It’s a shame that this album was swept under the rug right along with the other “smut” that Madonna was peddling at the time. Now, it isn’t perfect, especially with the dreary and awkward André Betts tracks that threaten to spoil the broth. Madonna’s revelation that she enjoys eating out (on the tongue-in-cheek “Where Life Begins”) was one that she should have just kept to herself. I mean, she even quotes Colonel Sanders, for crying out loud. That’s bad. The other two Betts numbers “Waiting” and “Secret Garden” aren’t nearly as embarrassing, though they are perhaps the most boring songs Madonna has ever recorded. She was undoubtedly going for a deep R&B groove with jazz elements, but that particular genre of music is way out of her league. Nevertheless, you have to admire Madonna for the brave and brazen attempt in stretching herself.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250


Had Madonna chosen to go with Shep Pettibone as the sole producer, Erotica would have been a seamless and focused affair from start to finish. Ten songs by Pettibone alone would have been quite sufficient. While none of his songs on Erotica equal the success of his greatest triumph “Vogue,” there are still a few moments here that are worth mentioning. Shep channels Madonna’s defiant tendencies on two in-your-face cuts, “Bye Bye Baby” and “Thief Of Hearts.” You can’t help but read between the lines and realize that she is referring to Warren Beatty and Sandra Bernhardt, respectively, telling them both in no uncertain terms to “kiss off.” You go, girl.


Madonna reveals a lot more than just her rebellious nature and sexual tastes on Erotica, however. With some strong ballads, she shows the world that she too has a vulnerable and tender side. She sings of regret on “Bad Girl,” mourns the loss of her friends to AIDS on “In This Life” and completely sheds her skin on the soulful “Rain.” Only by scaling the valley of despair can Madonna begin to climb back up the mountain again and ultimately experience what it truly means to be alive. There are plenty of joyful, celebratory songs on Erotica to bring people together in a spirit of unity, which would be the main theme of her Girlie Show stage extravaganza the following year. Along with the gritty title track that is along the same (spoken) lines as “Justify My Love,” there is a revved-up remake of the Peggy Lee classic “Fever” and the “Keep It Together” clone “Why’s It So Hard.” With all that Madonna has achieved, family is still of the utmost importance to her.


The most remarkable aspect of this album is how transparent and free Madonna sounds. It serves as a fascinating glimpse into a celebrity who is attempting to come to terms with all aspects of her life. She is trying to peel back the layers of her own personality in hopes of learning more about herself and her place in the world. Since her mother had died when she was only five, Madonna has had to learn life’s hard lessons on her own; she had to basically mother, nurture and guide herself. Erotica is the vehicle she chose to share all that she had learned thus far.


Choosing to close the album with “Secret Garden” is an interesting choice, since it throws even more questions out. By the end of the nineties many of these questions would be answered and Madonna would finally find the “Ray Of Light” she had long been searching for. In 1992, however, her journey was still far from over.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-



© 2008 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sire, and is used for informational purposes only.