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Even ballads like “Bad Girl” take arrangement cues from club music; in this case, a somber, slo-mo slant on Black Box’s piano-pounding house anthems.Unlike Erotica, which contrasts moods and tempos but maintains a deep and yearning sonic continuity, Sex is varied in style and content.A.” Instead, Madonna demanded rawness, “as if it were recorded in an alley at 123rd Street in Harlem.” And so her “Vogue” collaborator reverted to the rhythm-intensive immediacy of his remixes as he reworked much of the album until it boomed, banged and sizzled like his increasingly popular remixes: Pettibone’s version of “Express Yourself” was the one heard in Madonna’s massive video.Instead of composing a radio-targeted album later reshaped for the clubs, Pettibone, together with Madonna, and André Betts – a newcomer who co–produced “Justify My Love” with Lenny Kravitz – made Erotica resemble an alternately party-minded and private collection of 12-inch singles.There’s more than a suggestion of struggle: Only her strained smile signifies consent. Sometimes she’s acting out scenarios likely avoided in real life.Elsewhere she’s clearly speaking her own mind, yet with the disclaimer, “Nothing in this book is true,” which, to follow her logic, might be a lie.
But for her vast audience, she was nothing less than liberating, and her uninterrupted string of hits defined pop for a decade.
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.
What some considered violations of taste made her more commanding: Even the way she toyed with ordinarily unflappable talk show hosts like David Letterman was more rock & roll than actual rock stars.
Nearly everything changed two years later with Erotica and Sex.
Booze, chain–smoking, and anonymous sex can’t numb the pain (“Bad Girl”), and a friend steals her man (“Thief of Hearts”).