where is the cerebral jester?

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

happy 15th birthday erotica!


wow! 15 years have passed since the ubersexual maelstrom of madonna's erotica was released! i was still in high school...a couple years into actively being a fag as well as along my way to being a devoted and obsessed madonna fan. after the insanely magical moments of 'justify my love 'and 'the immaculate collection', she released the soppy and sappy 'this used to be my playground'. where would she go next we all thought? no one had a clue. then came the not so popular yet extremely infamous trifecta of the 'erotica' album, the 'sex' book and the film 'body of evidence' exploded onto the world like a sheer act of marketing terrorism and genius! i remember listening to this album over and over again with my dear friend damian...i remember rushing out to the newport center mall in jersey city to buy the album on that tuesday in 1992 followed by rushing out to buy the 'sex' book that wednesday in 1992...every act of fueling the madonna machine was also simultaneously fueling my own destruction of my inhibitions. every moment felt naughty and taboo along with the increased concern to hide my own budding homosexuality. you would hear the album playing in every little avant garde clothing shop on 8th street in manhattan and remixes of fever eventually echoed throughout the walls of the roxy later that following year. the video was banned again, the book took the world by storm and the album became a true madonna fan gem. 'thief of hearts' uttering the word 'bitch' before every refrain, the flamenco guitar bridge in 'deeper and deeper', the eerie 'i'd like to hurt you' bit in 'bye bye baby', the epic keyboards and harmonies and lyrics in 'rain', the breathy spoken beat poetry and sexiness that had quite the presence on most of the tracks and the overall feeling that you were listening to something you weren't supposed to be listening to will all strongly resonate in my memory when i think of my latter high school years. thank you dita...you wanted to put us in a trance...and you certainly did.


below is a review of Erotica from the rolling stone fifteen years ago...its funny how the album was pretty well recieved critically but commercially it bombed...this time around i side with the critics..it propelled her deep into an artistic world noone knew she was capable of.


Rollingstone 4/5 Stars -- Arion Berger
It took Madonna ten years, but she finally made the record everyone has accused her of making all along. Chilly, deliberate, relentlessly posturing. Erotica is a post-AIDS album about romance – it doesn't so much evoke sex as provide a fetishistic abstraction of it. She may have intended to rattle America with hot talk about oral gratification and role switching, but sensuality is the last thing on the album's mind. Moving claustrophobically within the schematic confines of dominance and submission, Erotica plays out its fantasies with astringent aloofness, unhumid and uninviting. The production choices suggest not a celebration of the physical but a critique of commercial representations of sex – whether Paul Verhoeven's, Bruce Weber's or Madonna's – that by definition should not be mistaken for the real thing. It succeeds in a way the innocent post-punk diva of Madonna and the thoughtful songwriter of Like a Prayer could not have imagined. Its cold, remote sound systematically undoes every one of the singer's intimate promises.

Clinical enough on its own terms when compared with the lushness and romanticism of Madonna's past grooves, Erotica is stunningly reined in; even when it achieves disco greatness, it's never heady. Madonna, along with coproducers Andre Betts and Shep Pettibone, tamps down every opportunity to let loose – moments ripe for a crescendo, a soaring instrumental break, a chance for the listener to dance along, are over the instant they are heard. Erotica is Madonna's show (the music leaves no room for audience participation), and her production teases and then denies with the grim control of a dominatrix.

Against maraca beats and a shimmying horn riff, "Erotica" introduces Madonna as "Mistress Dita," whose husky invocations of "do as I say" promise a smorgasbord of sexual experimentation, like the one portrayed in the video for "Justify My Love." But the sensibility of "Erotica" is miles removed from the warm come-ons of "Justify," which got its heat from privacy and romance – the singer's exhortations to "tell me your dreams." The Madonna of "Erotica" is in no way interested in your dreams; she's after compliance, and not merely physical compliance either. The song demands the passivity of a listener, not a sexual partner. It's insistently self-absorbed – "Vogue" with a dirty mouth, where all the real action's on the dance floor.

Look (or listen) but don't touch sexuality isn't the only peep-show aspect of this album; Erotica strives for anonymity the way True Blue strove for intimacy. With the exception of the riveting "Bad Girl," in which the singer teases out shades of ambiguity in the mind of a girl who'd rather mess herself up than end a relationship she's too neurotic to handle, the characters remain faceless. It's as if Madonna recognizes the discomfort we feel when sensing the human character of a woman whose function is purely sexual. A sex symbol herself, she coolly removes the threat of her own personality.

Pure disco moments like the whirligig "Deeper and Deeper" don't need emotional resonance to make them race. But the record sustains its icy tone throughout the yearning ballads ("Rain," "Waiting") and confessional moods ("Secret Garden"). Relieved of Madonna's celebrity baggage, they're abstract nearly to the point of nonexistence – ideas of love songs posing as the real thing. Even when Madonna draws from her own life, she's all reaction, no feeling: The snippy "Thief of Hearts" takes swipes at a man stealer but not out of love or loyalty toward the purloined boyfriend, who isn't even mentioned.

By depersonalizing herself to a mocking extreme, the Madonna of Erotica is sexy in only the most objectified terms, just as the album is only in the most literal sense what it claims to be. Like erotica, Erotica is a tool rather than an experience. Its stridency at once refutes and justifies what her detractors have always said: Every persona is a fake, the self-actualized amazon of "Express Yourself" no less than the breathless baby doll of "Material Girl." Erotica continually subverts this posing to expose its function as pop playacting. The narrator of "Bye Bye Baby" ostensibly dumps the creep who's been mistreating her, but Madonna's infantile vocal and flat delivery are anything but assertive – she could be a drag queen toying with a pop hit of the past. 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. (RS 644)


here's possibly my favourite track from the album..."somewhere in fontainbleu...lies my secret garden"

the lyrics are timeless and brilliant and still so poignant today for the queen of the universe

madonna - secret garden

In my secret garden, I'm looking for the perfect flower
Waiting for my finest hour
In my secret garden, I still believe after all
I still believe and I fall
You plant the seed and I'll watch it grow
I wonder when I'll start to show
I wonder if I'll ever know
Where my place is
Where my face is
I know it's in here somewhere
I just wish I knew the color of my hair
I know the answer's hiding somewhere
In my secret garden,

there's

A petal that isn't torn
A heart that will not harden
A place that I can be born
In my secret garden
A rose without a thorn
A lover without scorn

If I wait for the rain to kiss me and undress me
Will I look like a fool, wet and a mess
Will I still be thirsty
Will I pass the test
And if I look for the rainbow, will I see it
Or will it pass right by
'Cause I'm not supposed to see
'Cause the blind are never free
Even at my secret garden
There's a chance that I could harden
That's why I'll keep on looking, for

A petal that isn't torn
A heart that will not harden
A place that I can be born
In my secret garden
A rose without a thorn
A lover without scorn

I still believe, I still believe
'Cause after all is said and done
I'm still alive
And the boots have come and trampled on me
And I'm still alive
'Cause the sun has kissed me, and caressed me
And I'm strong, and there's a chance
That I will grow, this I know
So I'm still looking for

A petal that isn't torn
A heart that will not harden
A place that I can be born
It's in my secret garden
A rose without a thorn
A lover without scorn

Somewhere in Fontainbleu

Lies my secret garden...


2 comments:

Anomaly said...

Love it!

Bad Girl = Love.

Guy Ruben said...

I remember getting the cassette of Erotica for my bday that year. I also talked my brother into buying me the Sex book cuz i was a baby.

2 words= TONY WARD!!

Apture

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