There are Madonna albums with more hits (True Blue) and others with more critical acclaim (Ray of Light), but Erotica — the Queen of Pop’s fifth studio album — was a game-changing classic that found her at the peak of her powers as a pop provocateur. Released 30 years ago on Oct. 20, 1992 — in tandem with her scandalous Sex book, a coffee table tome featuring Isabella Rossellini, Naomi Campbell, Big Daddy Kane, Vanilla Ice, Tatiana von Fürstenberg and others — the LP showed that Madonna’s artistic ambitions were only getting bigger after the heights of 1989’s Like a Prayer. Enlisting “Vogue” producer Shep Pettibone and “Justify My Love” producer André Betts, she continued to push boundaries — and buttons — liberating her creativity as well as her sexuality.
The album was not as big of a hit as its predecessor, the blockbuster Like a Prayer, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, making it her first studio LP since her self-titled debut not to reach the pole position on that chart. And while four of its singles were top 40 hits on the Hot 100 – including the No. 3-peaking title track and the No. 7 hit “Deeper and Deeper” – some felt that was a disappointment compared to the No. 1 peaks reached by then-recent previous singles “This Used to Be My Playground,” “Justify My Love” and “Vogue.”
But 30 years later, it’s abundantly clear that Erotica paved the way for other pop divas — from Janet Jackson to Beyoncé to Christina Aguilera — who were willing to get their freak on. Here, we rank all 14 tracks on an iconic album that forever sexed-up pop music.