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The enduring legacy of Madonna’s ‘Erotica’

By Anthony Cesario


On Saturday, Madonna’s dark and sultry single “Erotica” turned 30. Later this month, her album of the same name will be celebrating its 30th birthday as well.


Though “Erotica” was quite controversial at the time – its sexually explicit lyrical content and dominatrix-themed music video caused it to be banned from MTV, and the album’s accompanying coffee table book Sex remains one of the most schocking and ambitious things a pop star in their prime has ever dared to do – it has undoubtedly stood the test of time and cements Madonna as the Queen of Pop. It continued where her previous album Like a Prayer (1989) left off by marking the transition from Madonna the ‘80s Pop Star to Madonna the Artist.


The Erotica era caused so much backlash it nearly cost Madonna her career. But if not for this record, women’s sexuality would have remained even more of a taboo topic for even longer than it did. It gave countless artists the courage to get more raw (and also raunchy) with their music; you can see its impact reverberating through the decades, from Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope, which came later in the ‘90s, to the careers of modern acts such as Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and Beyoncé.


Even today, listening to Erotica is an incredibly intimate experience. Madonna ventured into topics nobody else dared to at the time – sexuality, pleasure, the AIDS epidemic – and that are still often underrepresented in modern media. It is an enduring reminder of pop music’s power, how an artist can – if they have the courage to – singlehandedly inspire progress in the conversations of a society.




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