Greatest sex-themed album from a pop queen: 'Erotica' or 'Janet'? | The Tylt

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Greatest sex-themed album from a pop queen: 'Erotica' or 'Janet'?

Madonna is known for pushing the envelope, but she pushed some folks over the edge with her fifth studio album "Erotica" and coffee table book "Sex." The conceptual album centers around Madonna's "erotic" alter ego Mistress Dita, sex, and a little romance too! Madonna tapped deeper into her emotions on some tracks like "Why's It So Hard" and "In This Life," which is about friends she lost to AIDS. 

Many critics praised the album for being Madonna at her most revolutionary. But the album was also deemed too raunchy and its companion book, "Sex," controversially featured naked photos of the pop icon. As a result, the album wasn't nearly as commercially successful as Madonna's previous records, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums. Still, the album sold 2 million units by 1993, becoming certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. And don't get it twisted—Madonna scored a few more top 10 Hot 100 hits: "Erotica" and "Deeper and Deeper."

Billboard revered "Erotica" as the '90s most controversial album, but it's also one of the most groundbreaking LPs too—especially for revolutionizing explicit female sexuality.

If her earlier work was an invitation to celebrate sexuality without shame, Erotica was a challenge from Dita Parlo – Madonna's unashamed, unflinching dominatrix persona – to witness and perhaps even indulge in society's sexual taboos. Madonna may have addressed the male gaze before, but on Erotica, she wasn't just staring back – she was making the world her sub.
Erotica occupies a watershed place in the pop pantheon, setting the blueprint for singers to get raw while eschewing exploitation for decades to come. For its 25th anniversary, Billboard spoke to the players involved in Madonna's most creatively daring release. Here's what producer-writer Andre Betts, backup singer Donna De Lory, producer-writer Shep Pettibone, co-writer Tony Shimkin and Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish recall of the writing and recording of Erotica, the insane release party for the LP and book, and the collective societal pearl-clutching that followed.

Watch a live performance of "Erotica" from The Girlie Show World Tour below.


Listen to Madonna's controversial "Erotica" album below via Spotify. 


Janet released her self-titled album "Janet" in 1993 to rave reviews and commercial success. The conceptual album details love, sex, and relationships. The album itself served as Janet's sexual awakening. It marked a dramatic departure from her "Control"-era days of preaching abstinence, like on "Let's Wait Awhile." The album is often stylized as "janet.," the period signaling to the world that Janet was her own woman and artist. She previously declared her independence on "Control." Her fifth self-titled LP still proclaims Janet as a proud Jackson, but now riding off the merit of her own success and not her brother Michael's fame.

It's also the era Janet became a bonafide sex symbol and, with her subsequent "Janet World Tour," a world icon. During most of her live shows, Janet would often show off her rock-hard abs, a staple amid in her performing career. 

The album features #1 pop hits "That's the Way Love Goes" and "Again," the latter nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song. "Again" is also featured on the soundtrack for "Poetic Justice." The album also features other top 10 pop hits: "If," "Because of Love," "Any Time, Any Place" and "You Want This." "Janet" marks not only a sexual breakthrough for Janet as a woman, but is highly regarded for its experimental and successful intersection of multiple musical genres into one '90s pop tour de force—including R&B, soul, hip-hop, funk, jazz, classical, grunge, and even old-school Motown on "Whoops Now."

While Madonna may have beat Janet to the expressive female sexuality punch by seven months, "Janet" is still just as revolutionary of an album as "Erotica." Donna Summer paved the way for black women to explicitly express their sexuality in the '70s, but Miss Jackson took sexual expression to the next level in the '90s with bops like "Throb" as well as "If."

Below are some notable lyrics to "If," per Genius, to show what we mean.

🎶Allow me some time to play with your mind. And you'll get there again and again. Close your eyes and imagine my body undressed. Take your time cause we've got all night, ooh. You on the rise as you're touchin' my thighs. And let me know what you like, if you like I'll go. Down, down, down, down, da, down, down. I'll hold you in my hand and maybe...🎶
🎶Your smooth and shiny feels so good against my lips, sugar. I want you so bad I can taste your love right now, baby. Day and night, night and day. All I've got to say is.🎶
🎶If I was your girl, oh, the things I'd do to you. I'd make you call out my name, I'd ask who it belongs to. If I was your woman, the things I'd do to you. But I'm not, so I can't, then I won't, but if I was your girl.🎶

In celebration of the album's 25th anniversary, Billboard ranked the songs from the album. 

The album—released 25 years ago on May 18, 1993—went on to become her biggest-selling LP, notching six top 10 singles (including two No. 1s) on the Billboard Hot 100. It also represented a turning point in her music career, setting the sultry template for much of her future work. In celebration of this classic’s silver anniversary, we rank every single song—minus those interludes.

Watch Janet's iconic performance of "That's the Way Love Goes/If" at the 1993 Video Music Awards below.


Listen to Janet's iconic #1 pop album "Janet" below via Spotify. 

Greatest sex-themed album from a pop queen: 'Erotica' or 'Janet'?
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