For most of my childhood, an invisible barrier stood between Madonna and me. While my parents encouraged me in all fields, and supplied me with an endless supply of books and learning opportunities, they forbade any media with suspect content. Yes, Madonna ranked high on the list of all things verboten. By the time “Like a Prayer” hit the airwaves, I knew she was out there, but still found myself shielded from prurient music and imagery. In grade six, my friend got into his sister’s stash of the Sex book, and he shared this discovery with me, silver cellophane and all. While this moment certainly opened my eyes to a variety of themes and fantasies, Madonna’s music was still somehow evasive.
Upon entering high school, it felt as though every radio station was playing “Rain,” a single from Erotica. “Rain” gets credit for turning me on to Madonna. Yet, everything about that time in Madonna’s career awoke inside of me many conundrums. This was the era of cropped blond platinum haircuts, the “Erotica” single and video, grainy black-and-white photos of Vanilla Ice fucking Madonna-as-Mistress-Dita from behind, and the SM aesthetic of her Girlie Show world tour. While my classmates mourned the loss of Kurt Cobain, I was immersing myself a salacious aural world where I learned about role-play, oral sex, and being a bad girl.
Looking back now, some aspects of the Erotica era might seem dated or over-the-top. Nonetheless, as a young closeted queer, the sheer sexuality of the album—Madonna’s fearless portrayal of a promiscuous woman refuting shame and instead celebrating her raging libido—certainly left something within me unhinged.
Though “Deeper & Deeper” is one of my favourite Madonna songs, heed this warning: do not pick “Deeper & Deeper” at karaoke. It’ll just be a bad scene for everyone involved. I learned the hard way.
My top 10 Madonna songs:
1. Deeper & Deeper
2. Express Yourself
7. White Heat
8. Burning Up
9. Hung Up
10. Live to Tell