Erotica is Madonna's fifth studio album that was released on October 20, 1992 by Sire Records and her own multimedia entertainment company, Maverick.
- Erotica 5:19
- Fever 5:00
- Bye Bye Baby 3:56
- Deeper And Deeper 5:33
- Where Life Begins 5:57
- Bad Girl 5:23
- Waiting 5:46
- Thief Of Hearts 4:51
- Words 5:56
- Rain 5:24
- Why's It So Hard 5:23
- In This Life 6:23
- Did You Do It? 4:54
- Secret Garden 5:32
Ten years after signing her first recording contract with Sire Records, 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.
Madonna 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 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.
During the recording session of "Erotica," Madonna and Pettibone worked on "This Used to Be My Playground" (the soundtrack single of the 1992 film "A League of Their Own"); it became Madonna's tenth Hot 100 chart-topper, making her the female artist with the most US number-one singles at the time.
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, saying: "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."
Having begun his career as a remixer, Pettibone built the basic music of the album's songs in the style of his remixes for which Madonna wrote the melodies and lyrics.
According to Pettibone in an article "Erotica Diaries" (published on Madonna's Icon magazine), he began with a tape of three tracks for Madonna to listen to, before he traveled to Chicago, where she was filming "A League of Their Own". Madonna listened to the songs and liked all of them.
After the filming for "A League of Their Own" was complete, Madonna met Pettibone in New York City to start working on demos in his apartment in October of 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, she 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" wasn't 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, she called Seymour Stein from Sire Records, and within an hour, they had the Peggy Lee version, and the original version of the song. The song was the last one to be recorded for the album, in August 1992, and it was finished within a month later.
"Erotica" is a concept album about sex and romance, on which she incorporated an alter-ego named Mistress Dita (heavily inspired by actress Dita Parlo).
Musically, it is a pop and dance record which incorporates elements from classic disco, modern house, techno and new jack swing. Lyrically, it played on innuendos and double entendres instead of explicit words.
"Erotica" is 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. The song deals with sex hang-ups, and has been described as "an ode to S&M".
Madonna's 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 from the album, "Deeper and Deeper," is described as one of the "pure disco" moments of the album. Its bridge features a flamenco guitar and the lyrics talk about sexual obsession.
In "Where Life Begins", Madonna promises to teach "a different kind of kiss" to the listener. In the song, she talks about the pleasures of oral sex and also references safe-sex.
The sixth track "Bad Girl" 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." The song features spoken words and addresses rejection & unrequited love. It ends with lyrics "The next time you want pussy, just look in the mirror, baby."
The next track, "Thief of Hearts", is a dark and rumbling song and 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 whose 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 disease.
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 the album's most personal song. In addition, "Secret Garden" is dedicated to Madonna's vagina, "the secret place where she could enjoy herself." It features a jazz-house beat.
In the United States, "Erotica" debuted at #2 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." During that same week, it sold 4,000 copies more than "Erotica."
The next week, the album dropped to #4 on the chart. It was eventually certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments of 2 million units.
According to Nielsen SoundScan, "Erotica" has sold 1.91 million copies in the United States as of December 2016, along with 79,000 sold through BMG Music Clubs. It has also sold more than six million copies worldwide.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic described the album as "ambitious" and noted that Erotica contains some of Madonna's best and most accomplished music.
Paul Verna from Billboard considered the album Madonna's 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".
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."
In a retrospective review in Blender, Tony Power 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 on the album 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 criticizing 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.