Madonna video isn't exactly sexy, it might arouse you to titters

October 05, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

"Erotica," which debuted on MTV over the weekend, is in many ways the most efficient Madonna video ever. Naturally, it does a nifty job of introducing the pop siren's latest single, a slow-thumping, heavy-breathing dance ditty called "Erotica." But it also manages to plug "Sex," her upcoming book about, well, sex, as well as set the stage for what will undoubtedly be yet another round of Madonna-bashing controversy.

Not bad for five minutes of television.

MTV took a typically hype-intensive approach to the premiere, prefacing it with an hour's worth of older Madonna vids before bringing out MTV-Newsman Kurt Loder, to warn that the clip showed stuff some viewers might find "repellent." Indeed, MTV is only showing the video after midnight, while NBC's "Friday Night Videos" has declined to air it at all.

What's it show? Though the smart-aleck answer would be "as much as Madonna could get away with," the truth is that it suggests more than it actually depicts. Visually, the video seems to take its tone from vintage stag movies, using grainy, overexposed images and deliberately jumpy editing to convey a sense of furtive desire.

There's no nudity, of course, but plenty of kink. After introducing herself as "Dita" -- the character Madonna assumes for her sexual adventures in both book and album -- we're given quick glimpses of how our heroine amuses herself.

She's quite the busy girl, too. Included in her sexual itinerary are everything from a frolic on the beach with Naomi Campbell and Isabella Rossellini to a sequence in a leather bar in which she's strapped into an elaborate and ominous looking contraption labeled "N.Y. STRAP & PADDLE." It ends with a shot of Madonna hitchhiking in the buff (though her naughty bits are thoughtfully covered by black bars).

Sure, it's outrageous. But sexy?

Not really, and that's probably the most shocking thing about the video. Admittedly, some of the scenes are pretty steamy, like the bit where she, Campbell and rapper Big Daddy Kane grind slowly together. Others, though, are distinctly disquieting, as when she's shown tied to the floor in a ring of candles as some unnamed liquid splatters across her face.

But what ultimately undoes the video are moments like the one in which Madonna, dressed in a glittery evening gown, uses reins and a riding crop to drive a team of naked men. Stuff like that is neither arousing or enraging; mostly, it's just plain silly.

And that's a lesson Madonna might consider learning. Sex, after all, isn't kept behind closed doors simply because it's personal or perverse. Sometimes we hide it away because the people watching might start to laugh.

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