Madonna's 'Erotica' turns 25: the album that tackled homophobia and AIDS hysteria

Madonna 'Erotica'. Photo provided.

Twenty-five years ago, Madonna released Erotica and Sex.

The icon's fifth studio album, Erotica racked up six million sales worldwide and yielded several hits. While Sex, an elaborate coffee table book created with fashion photographer Steven Meisel and Fabien Baron of Harper's Bazaar, sold out its limited 1.5 million printing in a few days. 

Madonna previewed both works with the lead single and video for Erotica, which boldly picked up where Justify My Love left off, and is narrated by Mistress Dita, her dominatrix alter ego. 

As her stardom grew through the 80's and early 90's, AIDS decimated the scene that helped birth Madonna.

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Taking music and fashion cues from lower Manhattan's punk rebelliousness and midtown's disco hedonism, pre-stardom Madonna was a fixture in the bohemian underground chronicled by photographer Nan Goldin in her autobiographical The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, a likely Sex influence, along with the severe stylization of Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin and Robert Mapplethorpe.

By 1992, AIDS claimed Goldin's subjects. Mapplethorpe himself, much of the art world (including Madonna's friend Keith Haring), and a growing chunk of Madonna's audience. It also killed and would go on to kill her cohorts, including Blond Ambition dancer Gabriel Trupin.

AIDS and ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, the direct action advocacy and educational group whose motto was "Silence = Death"  inspired Erotica and Sex.

The album's most driving dance track, the hit Deeper and Deeper, revels in romantic surrender. But LGBT+ people may interpret it more specifically about embracing same-sex attraction. "This feeling inside, I can't explain/But my love is alive, and I'm never gonna hide it again," Madonna belts in the concluding verse, 

Set in a pansexual nightclub much like Danceteria, the video pays tribute to Andy Warhol, represented by actor Udo Kier, a Warhol graduate who also plays Sex's dungeon master. But it also tips a hat to Madonna's late mentor Christopher Flynn, who introduced the straight-A student and cheerleader to the gay discos of Detroit.

Sex and Erotica's greatest contribution remains their embrace of the other, which in this case means queerness, blackness, third-wave feminism, exhibitionism and kink. Madonna took what was marginalized at the worst of the AIDS epidemic, placed it in an emancipated context, and shoved it into the mainstream for all to see and hear.

Click here to read the original Rolling Stones article.

Copyright The Gayly – October 20, 2017 @ 11:50 a.m. CST.