Sunday, February 19, 2012

Madonna - the progression (Erotica)

On March 26, Madonna's "MDNA" will be released.  Leading up to that date, a few of her earlier discs will be featured here.

Erotica & the accompanying "Sex" book prompted quite the backlash - and hardly a deserved one at that.  Erotica is by its very title backs itself into a corner, but there is more to be had here than wanton carnality put to song.

The title track is Madonna in full-on slow-growl-burlesque mode - it's dirty, sure, but there is something tasteful about it still - some might argue the moans are cheesy - but there's something more classy about using them in place of certain words (see the lyric "I'll teach you how to ......"  This is a trick that leaves at least a small bit to the listeners' imagination.  A trick that another singer would have done better to employ on one of her own albums (see Janet Jackson's far-too-explicit-and-ruined-because-of-it train wreck "Damita Jo")

Madonna also succeeds on this album because she manages to balance this coy, teasing sexuality with flavors of herself she has already used.  There's the social consciousness/statement Madonna from Like A Prayer that comes out here on "Why's it so hard?" and to a lesser extent on "Words".  There's the torch singer of "Bad Girl", the dance queen of "Deeper and Deeper", and yes, she is a bit more the ice princess this time around, but that doesn't ruin the affair.  Truly, this can be seen as a counterpoint to the bubbly excess of most of her 80's work.  The "putting the trifling girl in her place" track "Thief of hearts" will either have you nodding your head or hitting the skip button - a very polarizing track to be sure.

Continuing on the supposedly over-sexed-up themes running through this disc - yes, "Where Life Begins" has sex on the brain, but again - it's all delivered through coy innuendos sung with an extra dash of burlesque flair, all delivered atop a slinky, simple-yet-effective beat.  It succeeds and is pleasant enough because, again - like the rest of the disc - it doesn't traffic in blatant statements that leave nothing to the imagination - it has class - something most of the listening public seemed to miss when it first came out.

One of the disc's final tracks is also one of her best (and certainly most overlooked) ballads "In This Life" - a tribute to friends lost to AIDS.  Madonna has done plenty of ballads, and there are many that are well sung, but often the gloss gets in the way.  Not so here - here it is all bare emotion, anguish at the loss, and the pure feeling comes through in a way even the best Madonna songs don't usually manage.

At the end of the day, Erotica is not THE best album Madonna has ever done - but it is an accomplished piece.  It plays to her strength (catchy, well crafted dance tunes) and gives them new life.  Some criticize this disc for having grooves that are too icy and harsh - rather than make it worse, they create a fresh flavor of Madonna - seriously, she could only do so many "Like A Prayer/Like A Virgin" styled albums before she fell into self-parody.  Worth the time, worth the listen.

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