Today in Madonna History: November 26, 1992

On November 26 1992, Rolling Stone magazine published their review of Madonna’s Erotica album, written by 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 co-producers 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 My Love, 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.

Today in Madonna History: April 24, 1993

On April 24 1993, Fever/Bad Girl hit #1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales chart in America. It remained at #1 for two weeks.

Despite being marketed as Bad Girl, the release charted as Fever/Bad Girl on the Maxi-Singles Sales chart due to its b-side being the primary focus of the release in terms of content. Wisely, Bad Girl was left off of the accompanying promotional single that was serviced to clubs (on beautifully pressed transparent red vinyl), allowing it to top the Hot Dance/Club chart solely as Fever.

Today in Madonna History: May 15, 1993


On May 15 1993, Madonna’s Fever hit number-one on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Club chart in the USA. Fever was the fourth single from the Erotica album and was the b-side to Bad Girl in North America.

Today in Madonna History: May 11, 1993

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On May 11 1993, the music video for Fever premiered on MTV. The video was directed by Stéphane Sednaoui.

Today in Madonna History: November 2, 1999

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On November 2 1999, the Madonna: The Video Collection 1993-99 was released on home video and DVD.

Madonna: The Video Collection 1993-99 was released as a collection of Madonna’s favourite videos from 1993-1999. The collection contains 14 videos: Bad Girl, Fever, Rain, Secret, Take A Bow, Bedtime Story, Human Nature, Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, Frozen, Ray Of Light, Drowned World, The Power of Goodbye, Nothing Really Matters, and Beautiful Stranger.

Today in Madonna History: July 31, 1993

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On July 31 1993, the fifth single from Madonna’s Erotica album, Rain, debuted at #7 on the UK Singles Chart.

In Japan, a ten track Rain mini album or EP was later released to celebrate the single and the upcoming Girlie Show concerts.  As usual, Australia copied the release, but eliminated the obi-strip from their pressing.

The EP included the following tracks:

Rain (Radio Remix)
Waiting (Remix)
Up Down Suite
Rain (Album Version)
Bad Girl (Extended Mix)
Fever (Extended 12″)
Fever (Shep’s Remedy Dub)
Fever (Murk Boys Miami Dub)
Fever (Oscar G’s Dope Mix)
Rain (Video Edit)

Today in Madonna History: April 3, 1993

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On April 3 1993, Fever entered the UK Singles Chart at its peak position of number-six. Without the support of a proper music video at the time of its release (Warner UK instead issued a rarely seen compilation video of previous clips), the single spent only six weeks on the UK charts, dropping to number-seven the following week.

Strangely, Madonna did eventually decide to film a video for the song in late April  – nearly a month after its release in Europe. By the time the video premiered during the second week of May, Fever was spending its final week on the UK Singles Chart.

In North America the remixes for Fever had been issued commercially on Madonna’s previous international single, Bad Girl. Fever was also serviced to clubs as a promotional single in its own right, but it was not promoted to radio despite the video being added to into rotation on MTV and MuchMusic. While the release of the music video managed to coincide with Fever’s single week atop the Hot Dance/Club Play chart, its number-one status had already been confirmed several days prior to the clip’s debut, making the video’s intended purpose and the timing of its release all the more puzzling.

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