Madonna has finished shooting the video for second single Ghosttown last week in Los Angeles. The video, which features Empire actor Terrence Howard and directed by Jonas Åkerlund, will be released mid-April.
Meanwhile, several remixes have been made and are in the process of being approved. The first official remix, by Don Diablo, has been premiered by Billboard today (see post below). The other remixes will soon be available.
Meanwhile, Madonna continues her promo tour. Jo Whiley, from BBC Radio 2, will be interviewing Madonna tonight. Madonna will also be a guest on NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on the episode of April 9th.
Fresh off Madonna's performance of her new single "Ghosttown" during the iHeartRadio Music Awards (with special guest Taylor Swift!), Billboard has the exclusive premiere of the song's first official remix.
"Ghosttown" is the follow-up to "Living for Love," which became Madonna's record-extending 44th No. 1 on the Dance Club Songs chart in March. Both tracks are lifted from Madonna's latest album, Rebel Heart, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 -- her 21st top 10 effort.
As "Ghosttown" makes its way toward dance floors, the original version of the song continues to grow on the airwaves: it climbs 21-20 on the Adult Contemporary airplay chart dated April 11, while it’s bubbling under the threshold of the Adult Pop Songs tally.
Thanks to Jay Z's high-profile launch party for Tidal, Madonna and deadmau5 have finally buried the hatchet. Maybe. Sorta.
As you may recall, back in 2012, the dubstep DJ ripped into Madge after she called out "molly" during Avicii's set at Ultra 2012. After his online attack, Madonna insisted the "molly" she was referring to was from an obscure song, but deadmau5 didn't buy it and laid into her hard on social media for allegedly glorifying drug use. It eventually ended in an awkward stalemate.
Fast-forward to 2015 at the Tidal launch party. As a parade of A-list artists filed onstage to discuss their allegiance to Jay's music streaming service, Madonna and deadmau5 were strategically positioned next to each other. Joel Zimmerman, wearing his mau5 head, stuck out his hand for a hearty shake, which Madonna circumvented while going in for a hug.
It wasn't exactly a seamless hatchet burying ceremony, but the message was clear: No hatred between the two.
"Yeah. That just happened. Awkward? Maybe. But I do believe in this venture! #tidal"
Jay Z's ambitious entrance into the streaming music business, which came as a surprise to industry observers, debuted Monday (March 30) at an event at New York's James A. Farley Post Office in Herald Square with more than a few aces up its sleeves. About 16 of them, to be exact.
Tidal and WiMP, the two services under Swedish umbrella Aspiro, which he acquired earlier this month, will be the streaming home for artists like Shawn Carter himself, Beyonce, Rihanna, Kanye West, Jack White, Arcade Fire, Usher, Nicki Minaj, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Calvin Harris, Daft Punk, deadmau5, Jason Aldean, J. Cole and Madonna. (In case you didn't notice, the group features a golden god from each of the most-liked music genres.)
The general public first got wind of the launch just after midnight EST when artists began changing their Twitter avatars cyan-blue in support of the #TIDALforall hashtag. Additionally, Sprint was announced as Tidal's first mobile carrier partner.
"It's about putting art back into the forefront." #TIDALforALLPosted by Madonna on Tuesday, 31 March 2015
It looks like music has two new BFFs. Madonna and Taylor Swift didn't leave their love for one another on the stage at the iHeartRadio Music Awards on Sunday night, in fact they kept it going on social media even after the cameras had stopped rolling.
After Swift joined the Queen of Pop on stage to play guitar on "Ghosttown," the two pop stars took to Twitter to flaunt their envy-inducing friendship.
Madonna shared her admiration for Swift on Twitter.
And, Swift was unsurprisingly pretty excited by the collaboration.
Madonna performed her ballad Ghosttown live at the iHeartRadio Music Awards on Sunday night.
The singer had a little help onstage — seated next to her was Taylor Swift, who accompanied her on the guitar.
Appropriately, the performance prefaced the show's award for best collaboration.
Madonna also presented the Song of the Year award to Taylor Swift.
It's almost a given. Every time Madonna goes out on tour, critics claim she is flopping, ticket sales are low, etc. In 2008, several outlets predicted that Madonna's deal with Live Nation would go bankrupt because she was failing to sell out every single seat six months before the Sticky & Sweet Tour. According to MTV, Madonna ended up ranking $408 million on the tour — the most ever by a solo artist.
In April of 2012, the New York Post published an article repeating that Madonna and Live Nation were doomed due to supposed poor ticket sales and album sales. Last week, the same publication wrote a hit-piece that actually claimed Madonna should call her tour "Like a Has-Been."
"But tickets are not selling as briskly as for her MDNA tour in 2012, leaving thousands of unsold seats in the eight North American cities that began selling tickets on March 9. In 2012, Madonna reportedly sold out Yankee Stadium in 20 minutes, prompting concert promoter Live Nation to add a second date at the 60,000-seat venue."
While it’s true tickets aren’t moving as fast as her last tour, it appears that the New York Post reported completely inaccurate information. As Billboard reported at the beginning of 2013, Madonna sold around 79,000 tickets for both shows at Yankee Stadium. This shows that, like most stadium shows, Yankee Stadium usually holds a maximum of 40,000 per show.
However, there is another blow to the credibility of the New York Post article. Several second dates at venues across the world have been added. According to Madonna’s website, dates have not only been added all over Europe, but also in North American cities such as Miami, New York City, Toronto, and Edmonton. It’s a well-known fact that concert promoters would not risk adding second dates at certain venues if the first ones weren’t selling very well.
Perhaps people just want to see Madonna fail. Madonna, herself, thinks a lot of it has to do with a combination of ageism and sexism. Madonna has spoken out against those issues in a recent interview with Rolling Stone.
"It's still the one area where you can totally discriminate against somebody. Because of their age. Only females, though. Not males. So in that respect we still live in a very sexist society."
In the same interview, Madonna wonders why there is a backlash against people who make racist or homophobic comments, but ageist comments are completely acceptable.
The Queen of Pop charts her first song at the format since 2007.
Debut No. 21 "Ghosttown" Madonna
Madonna debuts on Adult Contemporary with "Ghosttown," the second single from her new album, Rebel Heart. First single "Living for Love" reached No. 36 on Pop Songs, aided by concentrated plays on iHeartMedia-owned stations; spins on certain AC stations in the chain likewise spur the start of "Ghosttown." (It bubbles under Adult Pop Songs, also thanks to iHeartMedia plays in that format).
The bow of "Ghosttown" ends Madonna's longest break from charting on AC: she last reached the list with "Jump," which hit No. 21 in January 2007. She makes her 36th visit to the tally. Since her first week on the chart in June 1984 (with "Borderline"), only Elton John (43), Celine Dion (41) and Rod Stewart (40) have made more appearances.
Living for this! As teased last week, the Queen of Pop, 56, recently chatted with Us Weekly's Entertainment Director Ian Drew for an extended interview about her legacy, her romantic past, her kids, her famous friends (including her crush, Drake!) and much, much more. Read this very special edition of 25 Things You Don't Know About Me now!
2. My favorite city is Rome. It's so beautiful. The light is soothing and calming to me, and the architecture is splendid and the food is incredible. I totally love it.
3. I can’t stand mushrooms. Or escargot. Yuck! It’s like snot. Expensive snot.
4. The person I idolize most is Paul Farmer. He’s a doctor and activist who rebuilt the health-care system in Haiti even before the 2010 earthquake. He’s done the same in Rwanda.
5. The last time I went grocery shopping was a year ago.
6. I miss absolutely nothing about growing up in Michigan. Nothing at all.
7. The person I most want to meet is President Obama. When the heck am I going to meet him? He just needs to invite me to the White House already. He probably thinks I’m too shocking to be there. I’m serious. If I was a little bit more demure…or if I was just married to Jay Z. Hey, if Jay would only take me as his second wife, then I’d score an invitation.
8. The one thing I’d never be caught dead wearing is a fur bikini.
9. My happiest moments were when my children [Lourdes, 18, Rocco, 14, David, 9, and Mercy, 9] were born and when I got married both times [to Sean Penn and Guy Ritchie].
10. My favorite part of my body is my eyes. My least is my dancer's feet. They are pretty disgusting.
11. I have found marriages don't last if you share bathrooms. The best thing about being single is there's no one to throw out of the bathroom when I want privacy.
12. The thing I miss least about marriage is being called "the wife." The worst.
13. My most fattening indulgence is either pizza or french fries. Or potato chips, actually. Love them all.
14. The last time I was starstruck was when [French actor] Alain Delon called me while I was in Copenhagen during my last tour. I was trying to get him to do an onstage cameo during a small show in Paris. I was shaking because I love him so much! I never met the dude and only knew him from movies. He was my ridiculous teenage crush.
15. I don't really watch TV. I only like two shows — True Detective and an Irish series called The Fall - and I'm not embarrassed about them. Many people say, "The Fall with Jamie Dornan," but I say, "The Fall with Gillian Anderson." She's so good.
16. The lifelong ambition I still want to fulfill is to go on a dream date with Drake — and only kiss him.
17. The most embarrassing moment of my life was falling off stage — let me rephrase that, being choked off the stage by two little Japanese girls — at the 2015 Brit Awards. Extremely embarrassing!
18. The most beautiful thing I've ever seen was my daughter [Lourdes] playing the ukulele and singing "La Vie en Rose" for me.
19. My secret beauty ritual is to put ice on my eyes every morning. Ice, ice baby.
20. Speaking of, if I were trapped on a desert island with either [ex-boyfriend] Vanilla Ice or Dennis Rodman, I would pick Dennis. He has a better sense of humor. Plus, he could always wear my clothes.
21. The quality I most loathe in people is making assumptions. Not doing research, investigating or asking questions and just assuming something. Oh, that drives me bonkers. I also can’t stand when I’m talking to someone and they’re texting. My kids will do it! It drives me up the wall. I always put my hand on their phones and ruin whatever they’re doing.
22. I can't say what my worst date was, but there have been many. I’m a woman of the world, baby. One nonnegotiable attribute in a lover: He must not ever want to be away from me for more than two weeks at a time.
23. I have major claustrophobia. I don’t like being stuck in small, enclosed spaces or in crowds. They freak me out.
24. My ideal day off is spent lying in bed all day — sleeping for a few hours, then waking up and watching old movies, like my favorite, Breathless. I eat in bed, have my children come hang out with me, and then I fall back asleep. I never leave the bedroom.
25. My favorite memories of Michael Jackson were getting him to let down his guard. He was so shy. The time I succeeded most was after I got him drunk at the Ivy in Beverly Hills. I was driving my Mercedes and dared him to throw his sunglasses out the window. We couldn't stop laughing.
The Queen of Pop soars in, thanks to sales of her new album "Rebel Heart," while Swift reigns for a record-extending 19th week.
The Artist 100 is the first weekly survey dedicated to measuring artist activity across Billboard's most influential charts, including the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart, Top Album Sales and the Social 50. The Artist 100 blends data measuring album and track sales, radio airplay, streaming and social media fan interaction to provide a weekly multi-dimensional ranking of artist popularity.
The Queen of Pop arrives on the Artist 100 with almost all (97 percent) of her chart activity from album sales. As previously reported, Rebel Heart bows at No. 1 on Top Album Sales with 116,000 in traditional album sales in the week ending March 15, according to Nielsen Music. (It starts at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 with 130,000 equivalent album units earned.)
Madonna is up by 2,919 percent in overall Artist 100 points. She also gains by 31 percent in social reaction.
Thus, more than three decades into her legendary career, Madonna hits the top 10 on yet another chart; the Artist 100 launched last July.
Meanwhile, Swift tops the Artist 100 despite a 13 percent dip in overall activity. At 19 weeks in charge, Swift is far and away the leader for most weeks spent at No. 1; Sam Smith is second with three frames on top.
Maroon 5 rises 4-2 on the Artist 100, while Luke Bryan leaps back into the top 10, and to a new peak (25-3; up 233 percent), for the first time since August. The country star's latest spring break-themed album, Spring Break… Checkin' Out, starts at No. 3 on Top Album Sales with 89,000 in pure album sales (and No. 3 on the Billboard 200 with 106,000 overall units). Album sales account for more than two-thirds of Bryan's Artist 100 points.
Rounding out the Artist 100's top five, Ed Sheeran dips 3-4 and Drake falls 2-5.
In addition to Madonna, debuts on the Artist 100 belong to Mumford & Sons (No. 33), who zoom onto the Hot 100 at No. 31 and Hot Rock Songs at No. 4 with new single "Believe"; pop band Sheppard (No. 60), whose Bombs Away starts on Top Album Sales at No. 41 (6,000) and breakthrough single "Geronimo" jumps 74-58 on the Hot 100; and Ciara (No. 68), who bounds 29-15 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs with current single "I Bet.
While Rebel Heart has been kept off the #1 spot in the US and the UK by respectively the Empire soundtrack and Sam Smith's album, we have better news from several other markets.
Belgium: The album reaches #1 in Flanders and #2 in Wallonia, but for the national album chart that means she hits #1 in the Ultratop.
Australia: Another top of the album chart in Australia, where it became her 11th #1 album.
So in summary, the album is doing great!
It's official: Fox TV's breakout hit series Empire crashes in at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, as its soundtrack debuts atop the list after a battle was brewing between it and Madonna's new Rebel Heart album.
The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week based on multi-metric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA).
The Empire soundtrack was released March 10 through Columbia Records and bows with 130,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending March 15, according to Nielsen Music. It's the first TV soundtrack to debut at No. 1 since 2010, when three different Glee albums arrived atop the list. (Both Empire andGlee air on Fox TV.)
Madonna's Rebel Heart, also issued on March 10, starts in the No. 2 slot with 121,000 units. The Live Nation/Interscope Records release is Madonna's 21st top 10 album.
The rest of the new Billboard 200 chart's top 10 will be revealed on Wednesday, March 18.
A week ago, industry forecasters were projecting that there was a race for No. 1 between the titles, with some giving the edge to the multi-artist Empire soundtrack. What's especially notable is that Empire wasn't even initially a contender for No. 1. When talking to Billboard about Empire's performance over the past week or so, multiple sources have used phrases like "huge surprise," "has really blown up" and "how an album can change…!"
A week before the album was released, label sources were forecasting the album's first-week unit total to be in the 25,000 range. That forecast quickly rose to around 125,000 on March 11, the day after it went on sale. (Much like the show's blockbuster TV ratings -- which grew tremendously on a weekly basis -- the album's forecast quickly grew past expectations.)
As for Madonna's Rebel Heart, it too was aiming for a 125,000 start on March 11.
By Friday, March 13, industry forecasters continued to say that either Empire orRebel Heart could come out on top. As the final numbers show, Rebel Heart's performance slowed down a bit, while Empire galloped ahead of its forecast.
Empire features contributions from its newcomer cast, like Jussie Smollett, as well as hitmakers like Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige, Estelle, Rita Ora, Juicy J and Courtney Love (all of which have acted on the show). Empire stars Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.
Traditional album sales comprise 84 percent of Empire's first week, equating to 110,000 copies sold. That places the album at No. 2 on the Top Album Sales chart, which ranks titles by pure album sales. It lands behind the also-arriving Rebel Heart, which sold 116,000 copies (96 percent of its overall unit total) and is Madonna's sixth No. 1 on the Nielsen-driven Top Album Sales tally (its chart history dates back to May of 1991, when Billboard began using Nielsen's point-of-sale data).
Comparably, Madonna's last studio set, 2012's MDNA, started with 359,000 copies sold. Sources estimated that about 180,000 of those sales were generated by a concert ticket/album bundle offered with U.S. dates of Madonna's then-upcoming MDNA Tour. (Many acts have moved albums this way, including Cher, Austin Mahone and Bon Jovi.)
Madonna employed the concert ticket/album bundle offer again for Rebel Heart, but with a twist. Unlike the MDNA tour -- which saw all its U.S. dates on sale before the MDNA album was released, thus helping first-week sales -- only a handful of the Rebel Heart tour dates are on sale. Thus, sources say the Rebel Heart concert ticket/album offer has so far spurred less than 10,000 in sales. (The rest of the Rebel Heart tour dates go on sale over the next two weeks.)
It's also probably not incredibly helpful that the entirety of Rebel Heart, at least in demo form, leaked to the Internet in December. Then, in early February, what appeared to be the full mastered album turned up on the Web. Certainly, neither event helped the sales picture for Rebel Heart.
Although Rebel Heart debuts with more albums sold than Empire, it fell behind the soundtrack when it came to streaming and track equivalent album units -- so it ended up at No. 2 on the overall Billboard 200 chart.
Empire earned 17,000 units from track equivalent albums (thanks to the strong performance of the set's multiple Billboard Hot 100 hit singles like "You're So Beautiful" and "Conqueror"), while it tallied another 3,000 units from streaming equivalent albums.
Also helping matters: During release week, Empire's Jussie Smollett performed on TV's The Ellen DeGeneres Show (March 9) and on Fox's American Idol three days later (joined by fellow cast member Yazz).
Comparably, Rebel Heart's track equivalent album units totaled just over 4,000 (the set has yet to land a hit single on the Billboard Hot 100) and another 1,000 units in streaming equivalent albums.
Madonna did not perform on U.S. TV during release week, though she did a series of sit-down interviews with multiple news outlets, including a much-publicized 90-minute chat with Howard Stern.
Interestingly, Rebel Heart is Madonna's first studio album not to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 since 1998, when another red-hot soundtrack blocked the diva from the top: Titanic. Ray of Light settled for a No. 2 arrival on the chart dated March 21, 1998.
Titanic was so popular -- it spent 16 weeks at No. 1 -- that it also thwarted chart-topping debuts from Pearl Jam's Yield and George Strait's One Step at a Time: both debuted at No. 2.
Back in the present day, it appears that Madonna herself is a fan of Empire: on March 17, the diva announced that the show's Terrence Howard would star in her new music video for Rebel Heart's second single, "Ghosttown."
With the news that Kanye West has joined the Foo Fighters as the latest act confirmed to headline Glastonbury Festival 2015, all eyes now turn to the final Sunday night slot.
Digital Spy presents 11 possible contenders for the billing, ranging from bonafide legends to rock gods and pop queens.
Many legends have graced the fields of Glastonbury, but one still to top the bill is quite possibly the biggest of them all: Madonna. With a back catalogue of hits spanning over 30 years, the US star could helm one of the biggest pop concerts Worthy Farm has ever seen. If we're ever going to see Madge headline the UK's largest festival, then now would be the most opportune moment.
Glastonbury Festival will take place from Wednesday, 24th June to Sunday, 28th June 2015. Tickets are now Sold Out. There will be a resale of cancelled/returned tickets in spring 2015.
Pre-sales for Legacy members and Live Pass holders will start tomorrow March 18th. General sales start on March 21st (Montreal), 23rd (Cologne & Berlin) and 24th (Turin).
Monte Pittman is going back on tour with Madonna later this year. This will be Monte's 6th World Tour with the Queen of Pop. For the official press release and tour dates please go to madonna.com
Monte just got back from the promo tour, watch him below with Madonna performing "Ghosttown" at CANAL+
In a daytime and nighttime television exclusive, the "Material Girl" with an insatiable "Rebel Heart" is here for a week of music, games and talk surrounding the release of her brand new album… MADONNA returns! Today marks the beginning of a host of surprises when the iconic pop star joins Ellen to discuss the infinitely exciting world of her life. A "Ray of Light," who is always in "Vogue" and can "Live to Tell" about every escapade, the singer is one of the most famous musicians in history, persistently telling the stories she wants to tell, the way she wants to tell them, and with no fear. Because of her talent and tenacity, Madonna has sold over 300 million records worldwide. She will share the inside scoop on her latest work and tour when she returns!
The Queen of Pop is back on the throne Down Under.
Madonna's new album Rebel Heart has debuted at the top spot on the ARIA Albums Chart, becoming her 11th No. 1 in Australia, a run that stretches back to True Blue which reached the summit in August 1986.
The pop veteran now draws level with U2 for the most No. 1s on the Australian chart.
Madonna's career chart-toppers in Australia so far include True Blue, I'm Breathless (May 1990), The Immaculate Collection (November 1990), Erotica (October 1992), Bedtime Stories (October 1994), Something To Remember (November 1995), Ray Of Light (March 1998), Confessions On A Dance Floor (Nov. 2005), Hard Candy (May 2008) and MDNA (April 2012).
Rebel Heart held off homegrown pop-rock quartet San Cisco's sophomore set Gracetown, which debuted at No. 2 when the new chart was published on the weekend.
The legendary singer will reward her loyal Australian fans with a rare tour of these parts in support of her 13th studio album. "She has never played in Southeast Asia, and she hasn't been in Australia or New Zealand in probably 25 years," Live Nation's Global Touring division chairman Arthur Fogel recently told Billboard. "It's kind of bizarre when you think about it, that a superstar like that hasn't been to a pretty regular touring area for 25 years."
Rebel Heart, which features collaborations with Kanye West, Diplo, Avicii, Nicki Minaj, Chance The Rapper and retired boxer Mike Tyson, is facing a stiff challenge from the soundtrack to Fox TV's Empire for the top spot on the Billboard 200. The new Billboard 200 top 10 will be revealed on Wednesday, March 18.
Sam Smith has stopped Madonna from topping the UK album chart, denying her the 12th number one of her career.
Madonna's latest album, Rebel Heart, had been in pole position throughout the week, but Smith's In The Lonely Hour sneaked ahead at the last minute.
His record undoubtedly received a boost after he performed his new single, Lay Me Down, with John Legend on Friday night's Comic Relief show.
In the end, he beat Madonna by 12,000 sales, the Official Chart Company said.
In The Lonely Hour has now spent six separate spells at number one - a record for a male solo artist.
Only three other albums have done better - Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, which topped the charts on eight occasions; followed by Adele's 21 and Emeli Sande's Our Version Of Events, both of which managed seven.
Smith also topped the UK singles chart with Lay Me Down - the official Red Nose Day single - which achieved sales of 105,000.
The album version of the song, which does not feature John Legend, also charted at number 18.
Rebel Heart is Madonna's thirteenth studio album, and features collaborations with Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Alicia Keys and Avicii.
Well-received by critics, it explores the star's divorce from British film-maker Guy Ritchie, alongside her regular pet topics of sex, dance and religion.
The last time one of Madonna's studio albums failed to reach number one in the UK was 1994, when Bedtime Stories also made its debut at number two.
Elsewhere in the album chart, Rebecca Ferguson scored a new entry at number seven with Lady Sings The Blues, a collection of Billie Holiday covers.
Boyband Blue notched up their sixth top 20 album with Colours, which landed at 13; while Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits notched up its 386th week in the top 100.
Another Comic Relief performer, Ella Henderson, saw her album Chapter One leap 10 places, from 22 to 12.
Madonna's greatest hits collection, Celebration, jumped from 38 to 27, but the highest climber was George Benson's The Ultimate Collection, which rose 17 places to 37.
With mere hours until the release of her new album, Madonna sits behind a closed door in a suite at Interscope Records' office near Times Square. A stylist darts into the room for a few touch-ups. "She wants to look good for you," Liz Rosenberg, Madonna's longtime publicist, tells me. I pass a pair of security guards, then wait to be beckoned into the makeshift chamber. Not much has changed since 1984, when Madonna promised to "rule the world" and subsequently invented modern pop stardom. She is still the one to decide when, where and, most importantly, how we see her.
Over the past few months, however, a hacker challenged Madonna's right to govern her own image. "Living hell" is how she describes the multiple Internet leaks that plagued her 13th studio album, "Rebel Heart." For someone who approves every thread of her dancers' costumes before a performance, this was Madonna losing control, the very thing that made her the star she is. So it makes sense that the singer, who did almost no press for her previous album because its release was sandwiched between a Super Bowl halftime show and a world tour, has been ubiquitous in her promotion of "Rebel Heart," which was released March 10. The high priestess of reinvention maintains her relevance with the headline-making narratives that grow from each hit album, single, video, film and performance -- distinct storylines that expand Madonna's brand. Like the sexual dare of "Erotica," the spiritual-enlightenment yarn of "Ray of Light" and the political racket of "American Life," the new album now carries with it another chestnut to add to Madonna's biography. It's just not one she invited.
To create "Rebel Heart," the 56-year-old collaborated with the likes of Diplo, Avicii, Kanye West, Nas, Nicki Minaj, Chance the Rapper, Mike Tyson, Toby Gad, DJ Dahi, Ariel Rechtshaid and Ryan Tedder over 18 months. Two days after Thanksgiving, a pair of demos leaked online. Then, a week after other journalists and I previewed 13 tracks one evening in early December, the full album leaked as well. What can the most exacting and famous pop icon on the planet do when hackers threaten her power? What she's always done: reclaim control.
It's not dissimilar from what I glean during our 30 minutes of face time, which Madonna begins by offering me a Red Vine. She may not know what questions she'll be asked, but Madonna asserts herself simply by making it clear which ones she likes and which ones she does not. She's cognizant that even professionals flinch in her presence. Coy smiles give way to skeptical frowns as the conversation unfolds, underscoring the art of Madonna's protracted self-awareness.
In an age when pop stars feel like ephemera -- Britney Spears turns into Katy Perry, John Mayer gives way to Ed Sheeran, Janet Jackson yields to Rihanna -- Madonna is the only one to promote a persona that demands every move become another indelible page in the story she's writing about herself. That's tougher nowadays, when trends don't last as long. So, as usual, Madonna concocts her own tale: She releases mastered versions of six leaked songs with no announcement, becomes the first major artist to premiere a video on Snapchat and runs a contest that allows fans to chat with her on Grindr. Just don't think the leaks somehow benefited Madonna -- she scowls when I imply there's solace in their prompting her to stretch "Rebel Heart" from 13 tracks to 19, meaning she eliminated less from what at one point might have become a double album.
"It was really hard on everybody," she says of the leaks. "Everybody became very paranoid. It was like, ‘Oh, it could be anybody. It's got to be somebody close.' I was worried it was an engineering assistant or somebody that had access to everything." (It was a 39-year-old man from Israel. He has been arrested and indicted.)
Celebrity image control has evolved wildly since Sire Records president Seymour Stein signed Madonna after listening to her debut single, "Everybody," from his hospital bed in 1982. That Madonna has molded herself for the Instagram era despite having cut her teeth before social media was conceivable is a chief source of the "she's irrelevant" potshots her critics sling. Before she leapt onto the social-media bandwagon, which has served devotees-turned-counterparts like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift well, Madonna's control was born in the music-video era, when performers molded their personas primarily through MTV rotations. In Kanye West's eyes, for example, she is "the greatest visual musical artist that we've ever had." Instagram, then, is another visual platform where Madonna can craft her career narratives.
I tell Madonna that West has paid her such a compliment and ask whether she agrees. She looks at the floor, chuckles knowingly and looks back at me. "That is a trick question," she smirks. "Um. I think Kanye is a ..." -- and here she morphs into an exaggerated English accent -- "... brilliant man. Brilliant, brilliant. He says some very pithy things sometimes." (In an interview with the New York Daily News, Madonna tried her hand at pithiness, too: "Kanye is the black Madonna," she said.)
Others say things Madonna doesn't find quite so amusing. Case in point: Giorgio Armani. The designer fashioned the cape that led to her nasty tumble at last month's Brit Awards. A week after Madonna took to Instagram to thank Armani for the costume, he told the Associated Press she is "very difficult to work with."
"That was kind of disappointing because I don't think I was difficult to work with," she tells me. "I never blamed my cape for not being able to untie it. In fact, the day after it happened, I posted a drawing, a beautiful drawing, of the cape and thanked them for my costume. I didn't blame what happened on anyone, so I don't really know why they did that. I think that was a knee-jerk reaction on their part thinking they were going to get criticism, so they just had to make me the bad guy. Not very elegant, I don't think."
This pendulum -- a tick-tock between fierce loyalists and unforgiving detractors -- swings with every major moment in Madonna's career. Out of the reactions, the narratives are born. With the post-breakup anthem "Living for Love," the lead single from "Rebel Heart," Madonna fell down (literally and figuratively) and carried on, just as the lyrics promise. A "tumultuous" few months led to many sleepless nights as Madonna tied bows on the album, now according to her hacker's schedule. As a result, "Living for Love" emerges with the type of potent backstory the singer hasn't seen since 2005's "Hung Up," the heralded dance canticle whose John Travolta-influenced video marked a return to form after the departure of "American Life."
Throughout these recent obstacles, Madonna used Instagram to reach the fans who rallied behind her. That instant-access culture has taken interesting turns for the singer, though. In January 2014, she posted a photo of son Rocco, then 13, with a caption that included the hashtag "#disnigga." The backlash was swift and ended in a rare apology from the very woman who has a new song called "Unapologetic Bitch." After refusing to douse infernos involving alleged religious blasphemy ("Like a Prayer"), nude streetwalking (the Sex book) and smooches planted on Britney Spears' and Christina Aguilera's lips at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, why cave now?
Madonna explains that she only apologizes "when I see that there's a huge fire that's about to blaze through the center of the universe and I have to put the fire out -- especially if it comes to my children."
As with everything in the second half of her career, Madonna has straddled motherly enlightenment and relentless envelope-pushing, ensuring that we see her as an evolved artist who remains true to her initial priorities, even in the face of ageism and sexism. In the case of the N-word gaffe, Madonna says it was Rocco who told her how to caption the photo. "It was the one time that I listened to my son," she says. "It was his idea. I was like, ‘What caption do you want me to put on it?' And I did. I wasn't thinking."
This controversial Madonna is a theme on "Rebel Heart," with songs that probe some of the more audacious moments of her 33-year career. On the title track, she sings about "all the things I did just to be seen," echoing criticism predating the time she rolled around on the VMA stage in 1984, when hardly anyone had even heard "Like a Virgin." It also reminds us that almost all of those contentious moments, whether she regrets them or not, contain layers that most pop stars are lucky to achieve once or twice in their career. Still, it pays to be meditative, and that's the chief tune Madonna has sung since the mid-'90s, when she made "Evita," began studying Kabbalah and had her first child, Lourdes.
"There's a part of my character that's on automatic, that just likes to be a provocateur. And to a certain extent, maybe some of the things that I did didn't really have any thought process behind them necessarily, but they got attention," Madonna says. "I wasn't really thinking of anything specific. I mean, I could even think of shows that I did on the Lower East Side, when I was first starting in punk-rock bands. I can't say that every creative decision I made was altruistic or came from the deepest part of my soul or with the best intentions or was really well thought-out or anything like that. Sometimes I just did shit, you know? Just to, like, throw a firebomb in the room."
Times have changed: We don't see those firebombs from today's biggest pop star, Beyoncé, whose carefully curated image does not allow for the same spontaneity. Instead of subscribing to a traditional, interview-based press strategy, the "Flawless" singer perpetuates her offstage persona primarily through Instagram and Tumblr. Madonna says she's unaware of Beyoncé's PR tactics, in part because Bey is not among the 57 people she currently follows on Instagram. A more obvious pop comparison may be Miley Cyrus, whose Robin Thicke-accompanied twerking at the 2013 VMAs faced minstrel-show accusations and electrified the cultural conversation for weeks. Cyrus seemed like she could become the decade's biggest star by courting controversy in a very Madonna-esque manner. Two years later, we're not paying much attention to Cyrus -- something you can never say for Madonna, whose doggedness stokes incomparable intrigue and avoids pop-culture limbo.
We don't like our pop stars to thrive for too long, anyway. Instant castigation awaits those who try too hard, seem insensitive or appear to appropriate other cultures for their own gain. Out of that came another Madonna apology, in January, after she reposted fan-made Instagram photos of Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Bob Marley with the same thin black cords that envelop her head on the cover of "Rebel Heart." Detractors accused the images of conjuring the chains of slavery. She acknowledges the political-correctness policing that has materialized over the past few years but was unaware that Cyrus, too, attracted such backlash after the VMAs. Way back in 1998, when Madonna opened her own VMA appearance with the Hindu ode "Shanti/Ashtangi," she surrounded herself with East Asian dancers and donned the religion's traditional facial markings. A quiet protestfrom the World Vaishnava Association ensued, but the Internet was nascent and the controversy -- tame compared to the Blonde Ambition Tour's simulated masturbation or a coffee-table book containing near-pornography -- barely registered. Today she wouldn't be so lucky, as we saw with the troublesome Instagram posts.
"Oh, they can kiss my ass," she says of critics who might accuse her of borrowing other cultures' fixtures. It's a topic she seems interested to discuss. "I'm not appropriating anything. I'm inspired and I'm referencing other cultures. That is my right as an artist. They said Elvis Presley stole African-American culture. That's our job as artists, to turn the world upside down and make everyone feel bewildered and have to rethink everything."
But the fact is that Madonna can get away with more than anyone else, not only because of longevity, but because her entire image has been manicured to remind us that her outlandishness always contains a story. Well before the hackers interceded, she made a calculated decision to expand her ubiquity to the Instagram audience. (And she does maintain her own account. When I mention that some celebrities hand off their phones for others to post on their behalf, she knowingly says, "Yes, they do.") Now, in between that mass networking and the exhausting press tour she's conducted since the start of the year, Madonna will "fine-tune," over just one week, four different performances for next week's "Ellen DeGeneres Show" residency. Then she'll continue to craft the various themes she'll incorporate on the Rebel Heart tour, which launches in August. In a few years, no doubt, she'll do it all over again, and a new narrative will rise.
At this point in the interview, Liz Rosenberg tells me I have two minutes remaining. Over a lightning round of quick hits, I ask Madonna to pick her favorite Instagram filter (X-Pro) and five most iconic songs ("Like a Prayer," "Like a Virgin," "Ray of Light," "Express Yourself" and "Vogue"). She thinks Katy Perry's Super Bowl halftime show looked "exhausting" ("That drunk shark!" she says) and would "rather not" list which musical acts she's listening to at the moment. Her bathroom is the only place she finds time alone. I tell her it's David Letterman's final year on the air (she wasn't aware), and Rosenberg interrupts to say Madonna will be making an appearance because "she loves him." With one question left, I inquire about the best party she's ever attended -- excluding her famed Oscar soirée. Her answer: "None."
Thirty-three years ago, she extended to the world an invitation. Times have changed, but we haven't left the dance floor.
"Only I throw good parties," Madonna says.
Rebel Heart fits squarely into a growing canon that also includes Björk’s Vulnicura, Kim Gordon’s new memoir and the autobiography of Slits guitarist Viv Albertine: female artists of a certain age making mature, candid work about divorce, and the rediscovery of the artistic self that follows in the wake of the rupture of their domestic life. Rebel Heart, likeVulnicura, digs in on the vertiginous aftermath (most spectacularly on "Living for Love" and "HeartBreakCity"), and finds steadiness in the pure loves of children, the bedrock of self, and spiritualism.
That moment in bed when you acquiesced to the loss of your youth, and found, by surprise, something so much more graceful in its place." The Madonna of Rebel Heart isn't in touch with that grace just yet. She's succeeded once again in the increasingly empty goal of sounding current, but by now this feels expected — even safe — coming from Madonna. The most rebellious heart is one that can show itself, and even its age, with #nofilter.
Madonna's 13th studio album, "Rebel Heart," beats with romance and rebellion. At 19 tracks, it's an overstuffed triptych through the iconic performer's life, careening between uplifting dance tracks, like the percolating "Living for Love" — her 44th No. 1 on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart — and corrosively bitter tunes such as the Avicii-produced "HeartBreakCity."
More: NY Times
This new batch of songs feels and sounds raw and powerful, like the woman herself, if occasionally a little hamfisted. Rebel Heart is not a perfect record—it meanders at lengthy 19 tracks—but it does boast some of the most introspective and lyrics Madonna has ever penned. She also once again brings in a crack team of producers, including Kanye West and Diplo, among many others to add some sparkle and modern-day Futurism to her confessionals.
After more than 30 years of pushing buttons and crossing boundaries, pop’s most predictably provocative diva tries to adopt a more subtle, mature and balanced approach on her daring 13th studio album. Even more surprising: For the most part, she succeeds impressively.
More: Toronto Sun
What we love most about 'Rebel Heart' is that it's very current, but doesn't sound like it's chasing trends or hoping on any sort of bandwagon. For example, the Diplo produced lead single 'Living For Love', feels very now (the whole 90's house revival), and at the same time, very then (does the choir in the single remind you of anything from Madonna's past?). We don't know about you, but it's already become a classic in Madonna's discography for us.
Singer discusses dating Tupac, an unreported assault and destroyed Basquiat paintings in candid interview
"I didn't think you guys liked me," Madonna said towards the end of her time on Howard Stern's SiriusXM radio show on Wednesday. For the first time, Stern and the pop star sat down for a mano a Madge-o, where the host got the Rebel Heart singer to open up about everything from her mother's tragic death to the details of her much-discussed romantic history. Here are 10 things we learned from the candid interview.
1. Her shocking VMA debut of "Like a Virgin" was an accident. "I had come down the wedding cake and my shoe fell off," she said. "I was like 'Oh shit, I can't dance in one shoe!" The mishap prompted quick decision-making on Madonna's end as to how to proceed with the performance and led to the controversial stage-humping that took place at the first Video Music Awards. "I didn't know my skirt was up. I proceeded to sing the song laying down on the ground. I was just making the best of the situation." She noted that her manager Freddy DeMann told her that her career would be over following the performance.
2. She craves normalcy every once in a while. "Every 3 days I crave it," she said. "Every three days I go, 'That's it. I'm moving to a cabin and living in the forest and no one's gonna fuck with me anymore.'" Stern probed as to why she thinks she could never give up her career and life in the spotlight. "Because I'm an artist and I'm tortured. I'm a masochist and I like to create. I don't know. Maybe one day I will."
3. Madonna's first year in New York included multiple robberies, an assault and an unreported rape. "I needed money for the payphone and [a stranger] gave it to me," she said. "He was a very friendly guy, and the phone was ringing. He was like, 'Oh, I live right across the street if you'd like to make the phone call from my house." The then 19-year-old Madonna agreed, blaming her "stupid friendliness" from her Midwestern roots. "I trusted everybody. The rest is not worth talking about."
4. She doesn't hate David Letterman. Stern acknowledged some early interviews between the pop star and talk show host, noting he could never tell if she liked him or was annoyed. "Oh, that's how I flirt with people," she revealed. "One time I was mad at him, when I said the 'f-word' a lot, but the rest of the time was good."
5. She dated Tupac Shakur. The late rapper had actually been the reason Madonna was mad at Letterman. "I was dating Tupac Shakur at the time, and he had gotten me all riled up about life in general," she said. "When I went on this show, I was feeling very gangster." Stern revealed his surprise about the little-known past relationship. "I think people know, if you're in the know," said Madonna coyly.
6. The misunderstood meaning of "Material Girl" gets on her nerves. "The song that irritated me the most about being associated with me is 'Material Girl,'" she said. "It was an ironic song because I'm certainly not a materialistic person." The topic came up as Stern had her clear up a rumor that she detested the success of "Like a Virgin" because other people had written it. The singer declared the rumor false, asserting that she loves the song and appreciates its writers.
7. Upon making her first $1 million, she indulged in buying a Frida Kahlo painting. "That was always my goal," she said on her art collection. "When I was married to Sean [Penn], I said 'When I make my first million, I'm going to buy art.'" Madonna had been a huge fan of Frida Kahlo since she was young. "I bought a self-portrait of hers. At the time it was rather inexpensive because people didn't know who she was."
8. Jean-Michel Basquiat destroyed all the paintings he had given to her. Madonna and Basquiat had dated when the singer was very young, but his heroin addiction ended up pulling them apart. "He was an amazing man and deeply talented. I loved him," she said. "When I broke up with him, he made me give all [his paintings] back to him. And then she painted over them black." She regrets giving the art back, but felt pressured to do so since it was something he had created.
9. She wrote "Vogue" in a few hours. Madonna stands by the idea that her best songs are the ones she wrote in only a couple of hours, "Vogue" included. "I thought it was a very cool dance, very presentational and elegant and all about vanity," she said about the dance of the same name. The song had been written for Dick Tracy, the film she made with ex-boyfriend Warren Beatty, and was inspired by all the classic movie stars. "[Warren] dated all of Hollywood, basically." She would ask him questions about what the stars she admired — and he dated — were like, including Natalie Wood and Julie Christie. "I looked up to [these women] and admired them."
10. "Ghosttown" will be her next single. "It's a beautiful song," commented Stern as he played the Rebel Heart song. He also noted that as it played, Madonna was smiling for the first time during the interview. "I love it," she said. "The song is about what if the world does collapse because sometimes it feels like it's going to any minute." The "Ghosttown" video will be shot next week.
Afterwards Rosie Perez revealed on The View that she had in fact introduced Madonna to Tupac:
The Queen of Pop is battling TV's hottest new series for No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart next week.
Industry forecasters say Madonna's new album, Rebel Heart, and the soundtrack to Fox TV's Empire are both aiming to shift around 125,000 equivalent album units in the week ending March 15. The two sets were released on March 10.
The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week based on multi-metric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). The new Billboard 200's top 10 will be revealed on Wednesday, March 18.
If Madonna opens atop the list, it will mark her ninth No. 1, stretching back to 1984's Like a Virgin. She last led the chart with her previous studio album, 2012's MDNA. (Among all women, Madonna has the second-most No. 1s, behind only Barbra Streisand, with 10.)
However, if Empire bows at No. 1, it will be the first TV soundtrack to hit No. 1 since 2010, when Glee, the Music: Journey to Regionals debuted atop the tally (dated June 26, 2010). Like Empire, Glee airs on Fox (at least for two more episodes).
Rebel Heart was released through Live Nation/Interscope Records, while theEmpire album was issued by 20th Century Fox TV/Columbia Records.
Also on tap for a big debut: Luke Bryan's latest spring break-themed album,Spring Break…Checkin' Out. It could move around 100,000 units and possibly debut at No. 3 on the chart, behind Madonna and Empire.
Go to Madonna.com/tour for Icon & Live Pass pre-sales and for VIP packages. The general sale for both dates will start on March 17th 10am for Paris and on March 19th 10am for Amsterdam.
Across the Atlantic, there's an additional date for Edmonton, AB on October 12th. The pre-sales have started already, the general sales start on March 16th.
"Why was she gay? Come on!"
Irked, Madonna twists her fingerless lace gloves, exposing a bejeweled skull on her ring finger. It's a Friday night in the dead of winter, and we're sitting in a windowless office in an anonymous skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan. The drab space has been enhanced at Madonna's request with a few cultural cues: Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless streams in an adjoining room, while Carl Dreyer's 1928 masterpiece, The Passion of Joan of Arc, streams in this one, as the Queen of Pop lashes me for my ignorance regarding the Maid of Orleans. The lashing is figurative, but Madonna's impatience is real. I'm only stating the obvious, I think, in observing that the virgin warrior must have been gay, but what this lazy assumption tells Madonna is that I have completely missed the point of Joan of Arc.
By extension, I have also missed the point of Rebel Heart, Madonna's 13th studio album, the eighth track of which is "Joan of Arc," a hauntingly beautiful mash-up of country and pop. "Joan of Arc" is one of the strongest tracks on the record, which, in its full Super Deluxe edition, comprises a staggering 25 songs, a dozen genres, scores of collaborators (ranging from rodeo raver Avicii to boxer and convicted rapist Mike Tyson), and nearly 100 minutes, making it the most protracted album of her career. As a manically curated compendium of contemporary beats — grasping for relevance in virtually every musical sub-niche — it could also be called her most ambitious album. All of which helps to explain why it matters to Madonna that I bring some rigor to my assessment of Saint Joan's sexuality. Rebel Heart is not a gay-club dance album, and Joan of Arc was not a gay saint.
"OK, she dressed like a boy and she cut off her hair," Madonna says. "That's what the church tried to say. Also that the dauphin who supported her, that he was gay." She bristles at the stupidity of equating a hairdo and a suit of armor with sexual orientation, and I, evidently no better than an English cardinal, sag with shame.
It is late, and I am the last in a procession of mostly gay reporter-supplicants who have lined up to interview her Madgesty, but an icon's work is never done. Madonna now has to school me in 15th-century European history to prevent me from spreading fallacies to a credulous nation: "According to historians, the dauphin is the one who supplied her with the army, the cavalry, whatever, to take on England. Did they thank her for that? Of course not. They went, 'Wait a minute, how could a girl do that? There must be something wrong with her.' "
Joan of Arc was burned at the stake while still a teenager for the crime of cross-dressing. "I can relate," Madonna says. "Sometimes I'm getting burned at the stake metaphorically. Though not right this second." Over the years, Madonna has been accused of innumerable heresies, including corrupting the youth, practicing witchcraft, being a disciple of a Baphomet (a goat-headed deity), and conspiring with the Illuminati, a calumny she satirically addresses on Rebel Heart with "Illuminati," a song she co-produced with Kanye West.
In the weeks before our interview, Madonna endured criticism for circulating fan-generated promotional art for her new album that featured various historical rebels standing in for Madonna, whose face appears on the album cover wrapped in thick black wire suggestive of BDSM. When Madonna posted pictures to her Instagram of Martin Luther King, Jr., Princess Diana, and Nelson Mandela wrapped in the same wire, the Internet revolted. Madonna apologized but refused to take down the images, confirming her talent for transgressing holy boundaries, even in our allegedly permissive times.
So Madonna's point about Joan: A strong woman, a mighty woman, a woman with a rebel's heart should not have her heroism explained away by lesbianism or anything else. To assume that a strong woman must be gay is to assume that a straight woman can't be strong. But the lesson isn't over — there is more, and so Madonna continues: "I said to one of my friends who knows a lot about history and film, 'Well, wait a minute. Why didn't the dauphin stand up for her? He was royalty. He had a voice. He was somebody important. If he had the power to give her troops, why didn't he have the power to protect her?' And he said, 'Because he was gay and nobody respected him.' "
A sexist cliché invades my thoughts: "Behind every great man is a great woman, and behind every great woman is a gay man." In the circumstance Madonna describes, the cliché belies a more complex web of interaction: The dauphin behind Joan is a gay man — a gay man for whom she fights a war; a gay man who is crowned king by virtue of her efforts; a gay man who, after all she has done for him, fails to "stand up for her." It led me to wonder, At 56, does Madonna fear being abandoned by her gay fans? Should she?
Madonna has been intimately connected to a wide community of gay men for decades, as an artistic collaborator, as a political ally, as an employer, as a friend, and as a sister. She was an early and vocal warrior in the fight against AIDS, and her commitment to AIDS activism struck many as too fervent for anyone without a personal stake in the matter. Consequently, she became gay by association, believed by a great many people — reportedly including her former husband Sean Penn — to be HIV-positive herself, despite her regular denials. "If this is what I have to deal with for my involvement in fighting this epidemic," she said at a fundraiser for AIDS research in Los Angeles in 1991, "then so be it."
Madonna's earliest exposure to homosexuality came during ballet class in middle school. Observing her teacher, Christopher Flynn, was the first time she "was conscious of understanding that there was such a thing as gay," she says. "It wasn't called that then. I just came to understand that he was attracted to men." Flynn introduced the teenage Madonna to a global culture that reached beyond the suburban narrowness of her Michigan upbringing. "He would bring me to museums. He also brought me to the first gay disco in Detroit, Menjo's."
Witnessing Flynn also helped Madonna appreciate that there was something different about her younger brother, Christopher. "It wasn't something I could articulate; it was just something instinctual that I noticed," she recalls. "My brother always had a lot of girls around him that seemed like they were madly in love with him, but he didn't seem like he was madly in love with them. And then I saw him interacting with my ballet teacher, and in my mind I unconsciously went, Oh, I get it. I didn't ask my brother if he was gay. I didn't even know there was a phrase 'gay.' I just understood that they were different. There was some silent, unspoken understanding that they had a connection."
After dropping out of the University of Michigan and moving to New York City to dance with Alvin Ailey, Madonna Louise Ciccone would be surrounded by gay men, eventually including art-world figures such as the painter Keith Haring. Her immersion in the New York gay community became so complete that she began to wish that she were gay. "I felt kind of left out," she says. "I didn't feel like straight men understood me. They just wanted to have sex with me. Gay men understood me, and I felt comfortable around them. There was only that one problem, which is that they didn't want to have sex with me! So…conundrum! I was like, 'How am I ever going to get a date? Maybe if I cut my hair and I lose a lot of weight, someone will mistake me for a guy and ask me out.' "
Over the first decade of her career, as Madonna began her journey to superstardom, her public association with gay men grew deeper and deeper. When she vaulted onto the world stage in 1982, hell-bent on sacrilege and desecration, most of the U.S. was a wasteland of sexual repression. Pregnancy outside of marriage was taboo. Masturbation was shameful. In a number of states, oral and anal sex were criminal offenses, even if you were straight and married. Strict codes governed the content of television and comic books. Many of Madonna's raunchy interventions have come to seem less shocking over time: Today, any 11-year-old with an Internet connection can browse an exhaustive menu of sexual options without purpose or planning and nurture a budding deviance with HD video; in the early '90s, hours of strategizing were required to glimpse so much as a same-sex kiss. The path of least resistance — the one that provided a dusting of plausible deniability for the gay-curious — typically involved one of several Madonna-related options: springing for a VHS copy of her racy video for "Justify My Love," which was banned by MTV; renting Truth or Dare, the astonishingly gay, astonishingly beautiful backstage documentary of Madonna's Blond Ambition Tour; or combing through Madonna's Sex book, still the best-selling coffee-table book of all time and one of the very few places in the pre-Internet era where a person was likely to behold a woman licking a man's ass.
In 1990, at the height of what might be called Madonna's "gay period," she released the video for her Harlem ballroom–inspired "Vogue" and shot the footage for Truth or Dare, which included shots of a gay Pride march, a moment of silence for those lost to AIDS, and bed-and-pajama make-out sessions between gay boys and their den mother. Until 2002, when it was displaced by Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, the film was the highest-grossing documentary of all time, a fact that may bewilder future historians, since it centers on the relationship between a rich white lady and a coterie of multiracial, homosexual dancers.
Truth or Dare prefigured reality television, setting a standard for infinite transparency and mandatory exposure of intimate moments that public figures are increasingly expected to embrace. In many ways, though, the original remains unmatched. As a portrait of a mirthful, liberated band of co-conspirators on a working vacation — the film's director, Alek Keshishian, called the tour's backstage vibe "Fellini-esque" and described Madonna as "the matriarch in a circus" — Truth or Dare is far more revealing than its more recent imitators, which include Taylor Swift's Journey to Fearless, Katy Perry's Part of Me, Beyoncé's Life Is but a Dream, and Madonna's own woeful 2005 follow-up, I'm Going to Tell You a Secret, which purports to track her Re-Invention Tour, but actually focuses on her unhappy marriage to Guy Ritchie.
Truth or Dare may have been too far ahead of its time. Months after the film's release, three of the dancers, unnerved by the exposure of their intimate lives to the world, sued Madonna for invasion of privacy and "intentional infliction of emotional distress."
The suit was settled in 1994 for an undisclosed amount, and suggests the extent to which Madonna's relationship with the gay community has often seesawed between intense mutual admiration and uneasy suspicion. Unlike Joan of Arc, who, in Madonna's telling, made a mistake in entrusting her life to a gay man who failed to protect her, Madonna has long been sensitive to the possibility of gay betrayal. "I wouldn't hire fags that hate women," she announced in Truth or Dare. "I kill fags that hate women. In fact, I kill anybody who hates women." Madonna's declaration is 24 years old, but it was only a few months ago that Rose McGowan was burned at the virtual stake for calling out gay misogyny. True, McGowan did not help her cause with the taunting assertion that gays had "fought for the right to stand on top of a float wearing an orange Speedo and take Molly," but then, neither did she threaten anyone's life, in jest or otherwise.
It's hard to think of any celebrity who has done more than Madonna to promote public awareness of gay culture — especially minority gay culture — but even as she has sprinkled stardust in neglected corners, she has also been accused of getting rich on the appropriation and mining of gay subcultures. Of course, censuring Madonna for ransacking gay subcultures could be viewed as just another variation on the time-honored practice of devaluing the accomplishments of female recording artists by attributing them to male collaborators. This impulse, which is sinister precisely because it is typically reflexive and unthinking, has been in the news of late: In January, Pitchfork published an interview with the singer Björk in which the avant-star expressed frustration with journalists for misreporting that her new album, Vulnicura, had been produced by 24-year-old musician Arca, a.k.a. Alejandro Ghersi, when in fact Björk herself had co-produced every track. "I've done music for, what, 30 years?" Björk vented to the music site. "I've been in the studio since I was 11; Alejandro had never done an album when I worked with him."
When I quote Björk's words to Madonna, she sympathizes. "People are always saying, 'So he's the producer,' or 'Who produced it?' and I have to say, 'I did. I co-produced that with Diplo. I co-produced that with Kanye.' Whatever — everything is a co-production. I'm the one who stays in the studio throughout, from beginning to end — all of these people come and go."
One week later, during a follow-up conversation after our late-night rendezvous, Madonna declares, "Gay rights are way more advanced than women's rights. People are a lot more open-minded to the gay community than they are to women, period." For women, she feels, the situation has hardly improved since 1983. "It's moved along for the gay community, for the African-American community, but women are still just trading on their ass. To me, the last great frontier is women."
Coming from Madonna, the analysis seems significant. I ask her to elaborate. "Women are still the most marginalized group," she says. "They're still the group that people won't let change." To be a successful woman, she asserts, "you must fit into this box: You must behave this way, dress this way." Immediately after our first interview, Madonna was snapped by a paparazzo upon exiting the building and endured criticism from The Daily Mail for wearing a "sheer corset, which left little to the imagination." This seems to be Madonna's point: Thirty-three years after she became, by her own reckoning, the first female pop star to make use of subcultures and to express herself "with an overt sexuality through her work" ("Before me, if it was anyone," she says, "maybe Debbie Harry, but she was less overt"), Madonna's costume changes are still attracting harassment from tabloid moralists.
She continues: "You're still categorized — you're still either a virgin or a whore. If you're a certain age, you're not allowed to express your sexuality, be single, or date younger men." Now in her 50s, Madonna has become a cougar virtuoso, cycling through three male-model boyfriends under the age of 30 in less than four years. This is behavior, Madonna points out, for which "a man would never be questioned or criticized." Madonna seems to be thinking primarily of straight men: Grand old queens with a taste for youth, like Liberace — or Stephen Fry — might empathize with Madonna's predicament.
With Rebel Heart, Madonna enters a new period, and the Madonna era enters its fourth decade. Over the years, we've seen many "new Madonnas" come and go, but the new Madonna is still always Madonna herself. Or as Madonna jokes, "I'm the new old Madonna." Joan of Arc, the most famous woman of her day, died a martyr at age 19, betrayed. Madonna, 56 years young, has made it clear that she will countenance neither martyrdom, nor marginalization, nor relegation to the status of "national treasure." She will not retire quietly into Cher-like fag-haggery or into Paula Abdul–ish irrelevance. If the kids are using Snapchat, she'll use Snapchat to release her video. If her hardcore fans are on Grindr, she'll live-chat on Grindr. Madonna will follow pop culture wherever it goes—over a cliff and into the sea, if need be. Her new album is many things. Above all, it is not her last.
Madonna opens her strong new album with "Living for Love," a jubilant house jam about moving beyond a debilitating breakup. But love, of course, is only one of the things that pop's most paradoxical superstar is living for these days.
On "Rebel Heart," released Tuesday after a batch of unfinished songs leaked online in December, Madonna, 56, mingles feel-good dance tracks like "Living for Love" with bitter recriminations such as "Unapologetic Bitch," in which she tells an ex, "When we did it, I'll admit it, I wasn't satisfied." Elsewhere, declarations of her continued relevance ("Iconic," "Bitch I'm Madonna") sit next to "Joan of Arc," a delicate ballad about feeling the sting of criticism.
And then there's the willfully provocative "S.E.X.," which sets a list of bedroom tools ("Twisted rope, handcuffs, blindfold, string of pearls") against a throbbing slow-grind beat.
With songwriting and production input from hitmakers that include Kanye West, Diplo and Avicii, "Rebel Heart" – Madonna's follow-up to 2012's rave-y "MDNA" -- is also one of the singer's most stylistically varied efforts, moving from cheerful reggae to slinky disco and rough-edged hip-hop. It gathers sonic strands she helped weave into the pop mainstream.
Madonna spoke about the album Monday night by phone from her home in New York, where she'd just sat down to a late dinner. "I hope you don't mind that I'm eating," she said. "It's potato soup with corn. So good."
As we're talking, "Rebel Heart" is due to come out in about two hours. Does releasing an album feel like the end of the race or just the beginning?
Oh my God, that's the beginning. Well, you know what? It's not the beginning. The beginning was the beginning. It's the middle.
The run-up to an album is much more intense now than it was a decade or two ago. You have to work harder earlier.
There's a lot more product out in the marketplace, and there are so many outlets that people have to hear music, whether it's iTunes or SoundCloud or YouTube or whatever. So the combination of the technology and all the... What's the word I'm looking for? I don't want to say "talent," necessarily, because not all of it's talent.
Is it competition? I don't think that's the right word, because I don't make music like everybody else's. But, yeah, if you release a record the same day some other big pop star releases a record, it's probably considered competition.
It's competition for people's attention, I think.
You told Rolling Stone recently that you miss the simplicity of the music business the way it used to be.
Of course I do! Who wouldn’t?
What was more simple?
I made a demo, I took it to a nightclub, I gave it to a DJ, he played it, people danced to it, an A&R guy was there, he signed me, I made a record. Then my song – if everyone liked it, fingers crossed -- was on the radio. It was just simpler. There wasn’t Twitter and Facebook and Snapchat. Even before MTV, there was really just live shows and the radio, and that was it.
You also didn’t have situations where half your record leaks before you’re ready to put it out.
Half of it? You mean all of it. Or practically all of it, in various incarnations. That’s part of the technology thing, which brings people perhaps a little too close.
When that happened, you spoke frankly about how invasive it felt. Three months later, has that feeling diminished?
Oh no, it's still very fresh on my mind, and I'm still very upset about it.
You don't think the official album has supplanted the leak in people's brains?
I think their brains have been contaminated by what they've heard. And because I was continuously being hacked into – with all the different versions from all the different producers I was working with in all the different recording studios -- it started making me second-guess everything. I had extreme anxiety.
Some of the demos that I had done, I actually liked as demos; I liked the simplicity of them. But then people were commenting on them: "Oh, I can't wait to hear the finished version." And I thought, Well, what if this is the finished version? And then other people were saying they liked things as demos that I had changed the production of.
In a way, it was almost like doing a test screening of a film. I went through this with my last film I directed, where the audience's comments actually weighed in and gave Harvey Weinstein the right to say, "If you change X, Y and Z on your film, I'll spend more money on the marketing." But that's not the movie I want to make. So from the point of view of the artistic process, it was devastating. And it still is.
The focus-group thing you're describing seems like such a drag.
It’s a drag. But if you start hearing the same things over and over again, you start thinking, Well, maybe there’s some truth to it, and even though I don’t want to hear it, I should be paying attention to it.
At the end of the day, we should all be left alone to do our work and finish our paintings, so to speak, and when we're ready to show our work, we show our work. Of course you invite the trusted opinion of people – your peers or people whose opinions you respect – and you say, "What do you think?" And sometimes you hear things you don't want to hear. But what's really strange is when it's the entire world, and everyone starts weighing in. I did try very hard to shut everything down and not listen to what people said. But I am a human being after all.
Something else that's changed in the record industry is the role of the producer. Guys like Diplo and Kanye West are far more visible than producers used to be; they're cultivating their own mythologies. Does that get in the way of what you're trying to do?
Not really. They both have strong opinions and a strong idea of what things should sound like, but so do I. And I think we all agreed to work with one another because we have a mutual respect for each other. And there was a clause built in for not necessarily agreeing on everything. But certainly I felt like Kanye made a very valid contribution to the production of the songs that he worked on. And Diplo, I spent a lot of time with him. I like the way he hears music; he draws on lots of different genres.
No one was coming to your earlier records to hear what Patrick Leonard or Mirwais had to say, though. On this one, there’s some Kanye in the music.
But those people weren’t personalities. Kanye’s an artist in his own right; so is Diplo. Mirwais is a very shy behind-the-scenes kind of person who doesn’t have an Instagram account. And Pat Leonard — I mean, he might have an Instagram account, I don’t know. But in those days it didn’t exist. They’re behind-the-scenes songwriter-producers; they’re not artists themselves, whereas Diplo and Avicii and Kanye and many of the people I worked with are.
Well, exactly. That seems like a new method for you.
It had its good points and its bad points. Obviously, the good thing about working with those people is being able to collaborate with them and their talent and tap into the way they look at music, hear music, feel music, create music. The downside is that they're very busy people too, so getting them to stay in the room for more than eight hours – more than six hours! – was hard. They're all over the place: multi-tasking, red-carpet events, "Oops, I've gotta go do my DJ gig now." I had to share. I felt oftentimes like a child stomping my foot, going, "Where do you think you're going? We haven't finished this song yet!" I found myself bargaining with them.
I assume that was a novel experience.
It was. Diplo said to me, "You're the only artist I actually sit in the studio with. Everyone else I just send them stuff." Wow, OK, thanks a lot.
One product of these various collaborations is that the album really embraces a sense of contradiction, even more than your work usually does. There are points where you move directly from one emotion to another that might be perceived as its exact opposite.
Could you give me an example?
Going from "Joan of Arc" to "Iconic." That's really two sides of a coin.
A duality. A paradox.
A paradox, right.
Well, that's what life is.
And that’s something you want to capture in your music.
I do. Because I think that’s the essence of life. Everything isn’t black and white; we live in the gray. And unfortunately everyone takes everything too literally. I can be as vulnerable as I can be a badass. And I’m not claiming that as my unique quality; I think other people can do that too. It’s just whether you can express it or not.
Sometimes you squeeze that duality into one song -- "S.E.X.," for instance. To me that sounds like both an embodiment and a critique of a heavy-breathing sex jam. The words are super-raunchy; the beat slithers. But there's something weirdly dispassionate in your voice.
What's that song saying?
It's kind of a social commentary about the way everybody hooks up now and the lack of intimacy. When I made my "Sex" book I was being incredibly ironic, but I was also saying, "Look, it's not only a man's place to objectify a woman -- a woman can objectify herself too." In the song "S.E.X.," when I do the sort of rap in the middle and I do the list, I made myself sound like I have a lisp. Go back and listen to it. It's meant to be ironic -- even though there's some very handy items on that list.
"Holy Water" does that a little bit too. The double entendres are so over the top.
At this point all my songs about sex have to be tongue in cheek. There's no other way I can approach it. Since exploring sexuality has been such a big part of my career as an artist, I felt like I wanted to address it, but almost from a voyeuristic way, like I'm on the outside looking in.
In a way these songs don't even seem interested in pleasure. "S.E.X." talks about breaking the bed, but you don't sound like you're having much fun.
There’s a loneliness to it, which I suppose is the voyeurism.
I don’t think love is involved. But remember that I did the record with Kanye, and he has a very specific point of view about sexuality, which I find amusing. It’s not meant to be sexy.
What if a listener doesn’t grasp that?
Well, let’s face it: There’s lot of subtleties in life that are hard for most people to grasp. Don’t you think?
"Joan of Arc" risks that too. It's about the unseen struggle of a pop star, which some might find hard to sympathize with.
I certainly didn't write it from a victim's point of view.
But you know that some people will say, "Oh, boo-hoo."
Well, I don't really care what they say. What the song says is, even though I am perceived as a person who is a superhero or who is immune to criticism, there are times when things that people say hurt me. And there are moments when a word of kindness can change everything for me. It's just the truth. And if people have a problem with that, then they have a problem with that. I admire the conviction that Joan of Arc had. Although I'm sure she had her moments of terror and doubt, I admire that she stuck to her guns. I wish I could always be that way.
Is that true, though? Because if you did—
Because caring about what people think is the death of all artists, really.
I get that. But some of the most effective moments on this record are the most vulnerable. What's the difference between caring what people think and being vulnerable?
Vulnerability just means you have feelings. That you feel. That you have empathy and compassion. That you're not a sociopath. Life is confusing if you're not a pop star or a celebrity or famous. You add that into the mix and it's really confusing. But I think also that "Joan of Arc" isn't necessarily the trials and tribulations of being famous. Perhaps all human beings can relate to it.
But being famous gives the song its unique power. You’re talking about the experience of having strangers think they understand your life because they’re privy to certain public aspects of it. But maybe that doesn’t bug you out anymore.
The thing is, I’ve been dissected and misinterpreted for over 30 years now. Sometimes I think about it; sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it shows up in my work; sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I want to speak about it; sometimes I don’t want to say anything.
Does that determine to what extent you put lyrics in your songs that could be deciphered?
Sometimes I like to be more coded and I don't want to be specific. I want to be specific about feelings but I don't want people to connect dots and start getting into tabloid kind of thinking. I like the idea that you can write a song about heartbreak or desire or falling in love, and even though it's specific to you, other people can relate to it and say, "I know what that feels like."
Sure. But then I hear a song like "Unapologetic Bitch," which totally invites us to speculate on who you're addressing.
Sometimes you've got to do that. Especially when the song has that crazy-ass bass line.
The bass line made you do it.
Blame it on the bass.
CHAT show host Jonathan Ross caused an upset with Madonna when he accused her of regretting having published her controversial x rated Sex book.
However, bungling Ross, 54, puts his foot in it during his TV chat with her when he suggests the singer - now aged 56 - wishes she had never launched it on the public.
He says: "The book was bold, interesting, a challenging idea and very unusual that someone who was already a success would want to do something like that.
"I believe you have since changed your opinion of it. I have been told you changed your mind. Someone told me you now regretted it."
A furious Madonna told him: "What do you mean? Are you going to believe everything you hear? I don't regret it at all. I never said that. I don't regret it. I love it. I paved the way."
A red faced Rossy says: "I wish I hadn't asked that question. I did something and it's my mistake."
Then he draws gasps of horror from the TV audience by comparing his bungle to Madonna's embarrassing fall at The Brits last month after she couldn't get her cape off in time.
He says: "I feel like I've just been pulled back by a cape!"
Unimpressed, Madonna tells him to leave the clip on the cutting room floor adding: "We'll just get that part out."
One approaches an interview with Madonna with the same reverence and terror you would an audience with the Pope. Except the Pope hasn’t been entertaining, scandalizing and enlightening fans for more than 30 years.
In person, Madonna is smaller than you expect, but no less regal or magical. At nearly 9pm, after a long day of press ops, she’s still a vision of glamour, with nary a wisp of hair out of place. She makes a point of asking all our names looks us directly in the eyes when we speak to her.
At first we all avoided discussing the leaks—the numerous Rebel Heart tracks and demosthat appeared online over the past few months, forcing Madge to move up her release date and reconsider other aspects of production. But when it became clear she still had a lot to say about the subject, we dove right in.
There was little territory that was forbidden, in fact: the Queen of Pop was happy to discuss her kids, her frustrations with Avicii and Diplo, her infamous "reductive" reference to Gaga, and what she thinks the gay community is missing today.
Just don't ask her to give up any tours about her upcoming tour. "Why would I do that? I want it to be a surprise for you."
Did the Rebel Heart leaks change anything about the album that was released?
It changed everything. First of all, it drove me insane—and made me feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety. It made me second guess everything, because suddenly I thought, 'Oh god, everyone's heard all these demos.'
There were some demos that I actually liked the demo version of, and I thought, 'Well they heard the demo, now they're going to be expecting other things.'
Then they heard the next level of versions, and it kept making me think 'Should I change it, or should I just leave it how it was?' I was second guessing everything rather than having to just choose for myself and put it out as I would normally, as an artist…
The way he leaked it and the way the stuff started coming out and coming out and coming out in all these different incarnations, it kind of drove me crazy. Then it started making me think I don't even know what version I should be putting out.
Some people were like 'Ooh, I love it! I love it!' and I was like, 'No, don't love it, because that's not the thing." So, it was crazy-making…
From now on I'll stay off the Web—everything HAND-DELIVERED!
Songs like "Veni, Vidi Vici" have a kind of self-reflective tone, with references to earlier hits. Were you feeling nostalgic when you worked on Rebel Heart?
I didn't set out to write certain kinds of songs—I just set out to write good songs. That was the mood I was in, and that was what I was channeling. Sometimes I was in nostalgic moods and looking back.
Sometimes I was in a mood to write a song as if I was writing in my journal and reveal certain parts of me that I was ready to reveal."
"Body Shop" is one of my favorite songs on the album. The music is very folksly, but the lyrics are very…
Well, yes. Was that your intention to contrast the instrumentals with the lyrics?
Was it intentional? No… it just happened. I was working with Toby Gad, who spent a lot of time in India. There's a sitar [in "Body Shop"] and the song has a very Indian flavor to it. I liked the idea of the body of a car as a kind of sexual metaphor — What you do to a car, what you do in a car — drive. So, lots of innuendos, and lots of fun.
And we all love a really cute mechanic, right?
Of all these collaborators you've worked with on this album, what was the biggest surprise that came from that?
I felt like I wrote a lot of good songs with Avicii's writing team, and I didn't expect that. I ended up writing a lot of personal and very soulful songs with [that group]—who I refer to as my Viking harem—who are all really wonderful, intelligent, soulful people. And they made me feel really comfortable. I guess I felt like I was safe enough to write those kinds of songs, and that surprised me.
And Diplo was very particular. He pushed me a lot, and it served me well.
What inspired the "Living for Love" video?
The thing about that song, it's such a passionate song, I had to present it in a passionate way. I used mythology to tell the story, with the story of the minotaur and the matador and fighting and fighting for love and the color red and flowers and horns and death and naked men. You know, the important things in life.
I don't want to make every video the same, but I did love the richness of that video. To me, it felt like a painting that came to life. That's what I was trying to do. I wouldn't want to do that for every video. When I do 'Bitch I'm Madonna,' it's going to be a whole different aesthetic.
You're doing a Grindr chat. What's your perspective on the new hookup culture apps like Grindr and Tinder have created?
It's part of the modern world we live in. I think there are just as many assholes meeting the old-fashioned way as there are meeting in the new hookup culture.
Have you seen a change in the gay community and your gay fans from the start of your career to now?
When I first came up, the whole AIDS epidemic was starting, and the gay community that I experienced from the beginning of my career was mostly — and overwhelmingly — concerned with staying alive. And, also, I felt really aware of the preciousness of life and time. The gay community and people who were HIV-positive were treated so badly, and I was very disturbed by things. But I also saw a lot of love and connection in the gay community at that time.
Like all progress that is made in all marginalized communities or groups, I think after time goes by and you earn certain rights or you break through certain barriers, you could sometimes, maybe, take it for granted what you have now that you didn't have before. And then that would lead to a certain lack of community, in a way, caring in a way, that I saw before.
What still frightens you?
What are you reading right now?
I'm trying to get through two different books. One is The Goldfinch and the other is a Bob Fosse biography.
Do your kids have a favorite song of yours?
They really love 'Bitch I'm Madonna."—that's my teenagers' favorite song.
My son youngest son David's favorite song — he plays guitar — and he likes "Devil Pray." That's his favorite.
What do you love the most about pop music?
I love how accessible it is.
What do you despise about pop music?
Despise? That's such a strong word. I'm not crazy about how sort of homogenized it's become. It used to be much more diverse. Maybe it's just what's played on the radio sounds very much the same.
But I can't say I "despise" it, that's just too much. In our house we don't use words like "despise" and 'hate,' we say "strongly dislike."
Because nobody can poke fun at Madonna like Madonna
The last decade of Madonna's career is a testament to the power of thin lines: an inch of slippage, and even the most venerated and groundbreaking artists can tumble from pop's vanguard to a zone somewhere in the back, fighting to catch up. After the commercial and critical debacle that was 2003's American Life, she temporarily stepped out of the pop arms race, traveling backwards in time to revisit her days as a Lower East Side disco queen with Confessions on a Dance Floor. As a result, she regained some momentum. But when she attempted to rejoin the present with the chunky, rhythmically dense Hard Candy and cold, shiny EDM of MDNA, she received criticism that was disproportionate to the quality of the product. Rather than being celebrated for working hard to stay contemporary after nearly three decades of work, she was called desperate and calculating, assertions that often stunk of sexism. (Try to find examples of similar criticisms being leveled at Giorgio Moroder, or Nile Rodgers, or Paul McCartney.)
It was a reaction that disregarded the fact that she was simply doing what she'd done for every album she'd ever released: cherry-picking collaborators with the relevance and skill to match her songwriting and nose for trends, and attempting to forge a sort of synergy. But the narrative had been set, and handfuls of good songs — like Hard Candy's "She's Not Me," a funky, strobe-lit romp that beat Daft Punk to the nü-Chic punch — were doomed to languish in relative obscurity. For a moment, it seemed like Rebel Heart, her 13th studio album, was going to be submarined for similarly non-musical reasons. When a huge batch of demos and sketches leaked at the end of 2014, she went nuts in response, comparing the leaks to "artistic rape" and "terrorism." Given all the turmoil, it's impressive — and a little surprising — that the final product is her most consistent album in a decade, and one that renders any hypothetical "bid for continued relevance" moot by remaining proudly scattershot. It's an album that places more emphasis on Madonna the person than Madonna the sonic visionary, and it benefits as a result.
Of course, that doesn't mean she's completely eschewed the bleeding edge. About half of Rebel Heart lands somewhere between "contemporary" and "innovative," with songs that evoke the frenetic uncanny valley pop of PC Music, Kanye West's serrated and menacing Yeezus and Avicii's country-EDM fusion. (West and Avicii both appear on the album via writing and production credits; Diplo, enigmatic UK producer Sophie, and indie darling Ariel Rechtshaid are also among the small army of collaborators.) Single "Bitch I'm Madonna" manages to somehow pull from all three, and the result is a glorious mess, a whirlwind of unexpected texture and silly sound. But staying ahead of the curve isn't the album's ultimate goal, and there are just as many songs that land with surprising delicacy: simple folk guitars, churchy piano melodies, and arrangements that recall the soft, intimate sweep of 1994's underrated Bedtime Stories. The album presents two faces, neither of which are designed to stand alone: the #1 Baddest Bitch out for sex and blood ("the Rebel") and the vulnerable veteran reflecting on love, life, and difficult choices ("the Heart"). And while the songs in the former group are great fun, because nobody can poke fun at Madonna like Madonna — the repeated snarl of "Bitch, get off my pole" on the lurid "Holy Water" is funnier than every Twitter joke about her tumble at the BRIT Awards put together — the latter ones are the true stunners.
They're rich in the same reckoning with faith, sacrilege, and love that have marked Madonna's work for three decades, but there's a new and palpable fatigue to the writing and performance. Her voice sounds great, light and a little worn around the edges; it bears the weight of a full love, of love won and lost, real pain and real joy. On highlights like the gentle "Joan of Arc" and weightless fantasy "Body Shop," she sounds a little like a mother tucking into an old story at the kitchen table, running through the decisions she's made and the paths she could've taken: her years of purposeful provocation, the isolation that stems from defiance, the fight to accept imperfections within yourself. There are albums where it's been difficult to remember that Madonna is a real person and not just a figurehead, a concept, a lightning rod. That's not the case with Rebel Heart: it has surprising gravity, and doubles as a portrait of a lion approaching the winter of a career without precedent. It's the realest, and the best, Madonna has sounded in quite some time.
Madonna's Rebel Heart show at Bercy, Paris on December 9th is sold out. All 20,000 tickets were gone 45 minutes after the general sales started yesterday morning.
It is the only show in France that has been announced so far. But the tour schedule leaves 4 days before and 5 days after the Paris date open, so it's possible that more dates will be added.
For more info on the current ticket sales and pre-sales, go to Madonna.com/tour
The Award show will be hosted by Jamie Foxx. Other performers include Rihanna, Iggy Azalea, Sam Smith, Kelly Clarkson, Snoop Dogg and many more.
Read more here.
Rebel Heart is on track to top the Official Albums Chart this weekend.
Madonna's Rebel Heart has taken an early lead in the race for this week's Number 1 album. The LP is outselling its nearest competitor - current Official Albums Chart Number 1 Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' Chasing Yesterday – by nearly 3:1 after just 24 hours on sale.
Other new entries set to score Top 10 placings this weekend include Rebecca Ferguson's Lady Sings The Blues and Blue's Colours. Click here to see all of this week's new releases.
If its momentum continues, Rebel Heart will be Madonna's 12 UK Number 1 album following Like A Virgin (1984), True Blue (1986), Like A Prayer (1989), The Immaculate Collection (1990), Ray Of Light (1998), Music (2000), American Life (2003), Confessions On A Dance Floor (2005), Hard Candy (2008), Celebration (2009) and MDNA (2012).
Many pop acts, and most female pop artists, inextricably link themselves to youth. Stars exploit the beauty, rebelliousness and vogue of a fresh bloom, the connection with the obsessiveness of teen culture, to become icons.
The problem is people age. Even Madonna. Maybe especially Madonna, under the hot lights of three decades of scrutiny.
I wish Madonna didn't carry the burden of being 56 in a world where Britney is ancient at 33, because Madge's new album is her best this century. If we could forget how old she looks (she could barely pass for 45, gasp!) or how last month's Grammy performance was less than awesome, we could focus on how great "Rebel Heart" is.
"Rebel Heart" rolls forward Madonna's expanding, innovative approach of finding bridges between her classic '80s and '90s aesthetic and current sonic trends. Like 2012's "MDNA," a good record in itself, she continues her introspection on her 13th studio album, out Tuesday (to fit our maddening, modern age, there are two different deluxe editions with bonus tracks). But between the self-examination she doesn't forget to have fun. Would Madonna ever forget fun?
Thwarting a leak, Madonna released six of the 14 tracks in December. "True Blue" fans got a hook and harmony reminiscent of old-school Top 40 in "Living for Love" — a joyful, fresh and nostalgia-inducing single to compare with her best. They also got choice album cuts that, with help from producers du jour Kanye West, Diplo, Avicii and Billboard, explored EDM tricks, lyrics obsessed with the divine (some things don't change) and catchy choruses.
The other eight songs continue the delicious balance of Material Girl and modern Madge. "Iconic" begins with a sample of Mike Tyson ranting about his unparalleled skills before dropping down into a club-thumping beat with slippery, wicked verse from Chance the Rapper (who was born 10 years after Madonna debuted in '83). Getting into her specialty, "Holy Water" blends sex with the sacred and includes a well-placed snippet of "Vogue."
Not everything is great. Actually, not everything is good. This is a modern pop album, so there are songs that should be cut to make the music fit on two sides of vinyl — I nominate "HeartBreakCity," "Inside Out" and "Wash All Over Me."
Don't expect another "Like a Prayer." She'll never equal that (nor will Katy Perry, Taylor Swift or Maroon 5). But ignore the eternal gossip around Madonna's personal life, close your ears to suggestions she's too old to be relevant, and embrace the mix of the exotic and familiar. Her still impressive blond ambition remains one of pop's great voices.
A lesser mortal, or star, might have needed some down time after falling off the stage at the BRIT Awards. But Madonna, 56, simply untwisted herArmani cape and got on with the show. After all, the pop icon had a new album to promote: Rebel Heart, out Tuesday, featuring contributions from Kanye West, Avicii, Diplo, Nicki Minaj and Nas, to drop a few names. Madonna chatted with USA TODAY about the recording, as well as her children and art and Instagram.
Q: You took quite a tumble the other day. How are you feeling?
A: I'm fine. I had a tiny bit of whiplash. My head hit the floor and snapped my neck a little bit. But I didn't hurt any other part of my body, strangely enough -- I sustained no bruises or cuts.
Q: You've been keeping busy, certainly. You worked with an eclectic group of collaborators for Rebel Heart.
A: Lots of people I'd never met before, though certainly people whose work I knew. Usually, with an album, I choose a producer and it takes us a few weeks to get to know each other, and then the chemistry starts to percolate. In this circumstance I kind of got thrown into lots of groups of songwriters. Some people I had direct synergy with...I felt so rejuvenated just in the simple act of writing music. I felt like I was back in New York, in Queens, where I picked up a guitar and wrote my first song. Ideas flowed simply out of me.
Q: There's been talk about how sexually graphic some of the songs are, but they're also pretty emotionally raw. We're reminded that love and sex can work in tandem.
A: Or work against each other. I think love resides in all of the songs, even when they are overtly sexual. Songs like Holy Water and Sex have humor. They're layered. We're dealing with different ideas that I'm constantly exploring – spirituality, sexuality, different aspects of love, whether it's romantic love or the love you have for your children. And love can be as devastating and destructive as it can be rejuvenating and life-giving. I guess I try to capture all of that.
Q: Are you satisfied with the result?
A: I'm a perfectionist. I would say I could have used another month to go nit-picking through things, put on finishing touches and connect the dots. But everybody knows the boring story about the hacker, why I had to put my record out much sooner than I had intended to. But I'm OK with it. I'm proud of it. Maybe the universe was telling me that it was ready -- to get it out there.
Q: When early recordings of the songs were leaked online, it got me to thinking about how much media and how we use it have changed since you first became famous. Do you feel like you're under even more scrutiny now?
A: I've always been under scrutiny. But I used to just not really pay attention to what people said. Now I read people's comments on Instagram. I never had that kind of access – and people didn't have that kind of access to me. It's interesting, reading arguments people are having on my account that I'm no longer even a part of -- whether it's people arguing about Islam versus Israel, or the shooting in Paris, or homophobia or sexism. The one thing I don't understand is when people make comments who are clearly not fans of mine. I think, why are you here? Why are you wasting your time? It's fascinating.
Q: Your eldest child, Lourdes, is studying performing arts at college (theUniversity of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre and Dance). Do you talk with her about being a performer?
A: We talk about it non-stop -- about being an artist, being creative, where to put energy. She's home for spring break now, in fact. She's very talented in many areas. She doesn't know if she wants to be an actress, or produce music -- and she's an incredible singer and dancer.
Q: Are your other children musically inclined?
A: Absolutely. My son Rocco is a fantastic dancer. He's also into producing music. David plays guitar and sings and dances, and my daughter Mercy plays piano beautifully. So they're all musical in one way or another. Some are more uninhibited than others, but this is a very musical house.
Q: You apparently have a pretty fabulous art collection too.
A: I think all the arts feed off each other. My kids know who Picasso is, and they also know who Andy Warhol is and who Keith Haring is. I think that's important.
Q: For years, people have analyzed your influence on female artists, but you've had a more general impact on music as well -- the incorporation of dance-music textures into pop, for instance.
A: For sure -- bringing dance music into the arena of pop culture, bringing different kids of dance styles out into the public. Also, being outspoken, envelope-pushing, provocative – I think you could say someone like Kanye is walking on that razor's edge as well, and he's a man, not a woman. And I would say Truth Or Dare was the first reality show.
Q: You've also been a champion of gay rights. Have we made progress in that arena in recent years?
I think we've made huge progress, definitely. Is there still a lot of discriminatory behavior out there, against the gay community? Yeah. Against the African-American community? Yeah. We've made a lot of advances, but we're still very narrow-minded and judgmental. It's a contradiction.
Q: So now that the album is out, you must be focusing on the tour. What can we expect -- besides a lot of energy and spectacle?
A: I want it to be spectacular, definitely. But I also want to have more intimacy in my show. So you can expect more of that.
Madonna is the definitive pop idol par excellence, and by far the most enduring; she has outlasted all the others. She is iconic because she knows how to make every single gesture iconic, emblematic and historic. But Madonna is also a feminist icon, and a singer who has defined her own style: her feminism has never been canonical, or imposed by groups or ideologies. Her act of liberating the feminine has always been a quintessentially individual gesture. She lives her life without relying on a safety net, she is able to make new spaces in the collective unconscious possible with her aesthetic and lifestyle choices. Hers is a feminism without pre-defined limits, an infinite feminism.
A MENTHALIST THAT DEFIES TRUISM
Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone is undoubtedly a great performer, but she is also an enchantress and a menthalist. In the late 1970’s, she ran away from her painful childhood, from her house in Michigan, her overwhelming father, her many brothers and the memory of her deceased mother. She escapee and headed for New York in search of what she needed most of all: becoming something special. Never satisfied, Madonna courted everyone’s attention. She put this boundless desire to use, along with the unique ability to attract attention that goes with it, managing to deconstruct a whole series of clichés, of common and reassuring images. The episode at the Brit Awards just a few days ago was a mere accident but many people rightly considered it emblematic: Madonna Ciccone can fall but she can also rise again. She rises again, after 30 years and an incomparable career, where she revolutionised every look, every ambiance and every possible concept.
This despite the accusations, and the criticisms of people who would rather she were tame, more reassuring, or even retired from music. Madonna must keep raising the bar a little higher each time. She must undermine new prejudices, new clichés: the shocking relationship between sexuality and religion, or the attack on the rigid heterosexual polarity of the pre-defined models of past years, and now we have the image of the 57 year old popstar whom so many would like to see more moderate, and well-suited to her age. But no matter: that is just how she likes it now. She shows off her chest at concerts, wears mini skirts (with a ghostlike body) and constantly appears on social networks like a 14 year old, boundlessly, without ever sticking to what has been seen before, to familiar paths. She enjoys herself.
Madonna remains a pioneer. A pioneer who has taken on the task of being the first. And she goes on, preserving that precocious act of so long ago – her early 1980’s act – of the outrageous and slightly ungraceful debutante who mixes lace and crucifixes, and who sings of sexuality from a teenage girl’s perspective.
THE ACT OF FREEDOM
Madonna is an artist, performer, director, writer, and entrepreneur but also the mother of four children, a wife, an ex-wife, an admirer of beautiful young people and yet with all this she manages to keep space for freedom, experimentation, and the defiance of clichés. Madonna’s revolution has taken many forms, has passed through iconoclasm – or better, the transfiguration – of images and symbols of the Catholic Church. Religious symbols in the hands of Madonna have been incarnated, wept, burned, ejaculated. With her passion for stories, first Christian and then Jewish, Madonna has offered new ways to interpret religion: more human understandings of spiritual characters, creating reminders and passages between worlds which did not communicate previously.
With her thousands of changes in looks and unceasing transformations, Madonna is a true icon of post-modernism. She has changed her image an infinite number of times and, after all these changes, what remains? For her detractors, little remains, but for others her act of freedom remains, or the human gesture par excellence.Madonna has been and is above all this: a free woman. She is fully in control of her destiny, of her career, of her creativity. But she is also someone who has understood how to manage this infinite freedom: Madonna's great secret has been her discipline and has distinguished herself from many of her colleagues who have been unable to maintain their place in the pantheon of the stars. Madonna has understood – and perhaps she understood it immediately – that you do not play with the path that you have chosen and have imposed upon yourself, her commitments and her life, a strict and highly effective regime. Just as is stated in the Kabbalah, the mystical tradition of Judaism which Madonna has studied for many years and on which she now forges the lyrics of her songs: the success and effortless fulfilment causes a short circuit. You need to support your success with a constant effort, a discipline that must never be lost (this is the Kabbalistic concept of Tikkun, or "correction).
AN UNCONVENTIONAL FEMINISM
Madonna is a feminist icon whom feminists do not always like, because she demands absolute freedom in not perpetuating models deemed more noble and authoritative and imposed by others. Her artistic personality has always been profoundly free. She has taught women to get in touch with their sexuality and exert control over their own lives. She has fulminated against the patriarchal system: from her escape from her father’s house, the inherent rejection of her father in that gesture has continued to give rise to her mythical epic in show business.Her act of rebellion against her father – against fathers – became a gesture against the patriarchy, the Vatican and against close-mindedness in all its forms. An essential gesture of freedom, expressing her own existential target, her own identity, and the gestures of those other icons who have inspired her: Evita, Tina Modotti, Wallis Simpson, Anne Sexton, Frida Kahlo.
Feminists have criticised Madonna for many things but she has continued on her path, with a pride in her body and taste in sexuality. With her very individual gesture, Madonna has managed to provide an important contribution to the history of womanhood (and one which is perhaps not emphasised enough). She has reassembled an ancient divided culture, and has healed a little of that rift between the two souls of woman: Mary, the virgin mother of God, and Mary Magdalene, the whore. She has complicated and enriched femininity and the discourse of emancipation, and has brought new images and new suggestions to the women’s liberation movement.
She has helped to reintegrate marginalised female figures, the more uncomfortable figures – the prostitute, the lustful, the bisexual – the more violent, vulgar and irreverent figures. She has been an atypical feminist and therefore perhaps especially powerful: "If you try to embody too many human aspects in your work, or if you have too many references, people get confused" she said recently, "I see a whole load of people getting really pissed off with Miley because she kind of just acts like a dude – but if she were dude, no one would say anything". Madonna has brought the contradictory points of traditional feminism to light, she has revealed the remains of a durable mental blockage which also affects the same women, the same feminists. We should be grateful to Madonna and not because she has taught us to be lascivious, excessive, and exhibitionist – we should ideally thank her because she has taught many people that the space that men and women – straight, gay and transsexual included – inhabit, is much broader than we think. The lesson that Madonna teaches us is not so much that it is a duty to be sexual, provocative or irreverent but that this is part of the personal baggage of each of these possibilities, that everyone can move with their own style on the world stage, if you find sense, pleasure and beauty within it, and even if people tell you that aged almost 60 you should not go around bearing your bottom.
Madonna has found a new soul mate.
The connection goes far deeper than the fact that West collaborated on three tracks on the icon's new album, "Rebel Heart," out Tuesday.
The rapper has become the star people most love to loathe — a role Madonna has proudly held for decades.
After all, we're talking about a woman who outraged the world by appearing fully nude in her "Sex" book, was banned by her greatest supporter, MTV, for her S&M video "Justify My Love," had the Catholic League calling for her head for singing a song while hanging from a cross on her Confessions tour, and angered even the unflappable David Letterman by cursing up a storm on his TV show.
Madonna says she and Kanye have talked about their shared flair for pushing people's buttons. "We know, and recognize, that we have that in common," she says. "We're comrades in the envelope-pushing genre."
Madonna has hardly slouched in that pursuit of late. She has appalled untold people with her continued display of her body at an age many find inappropriate.
"Bitch, this is what my ass looks like — show me what your ass looks like when you're 56," Madonna says when asked what she'd say to those who found it offensive, if not disgusting, that, at that age, she showed parts of her behind to a worldwide audience at the Grammys.
"I take care of myself. I'm in good shape. I can show my ass when I'm 56, or 66 — or 76. Who's to say when I can show my ass? It's sexism. It's ageism. And it's a kind of discrimination."
The reaction is vintage Madonna — righteous, combative and, just under the surface, hurt.
That particular mix of feelings, and attitudes, comes up often during an interview, held in an appropriately rarefied environment.
Madonna chose to talk to the Daily News at the Upper East Side headquarters of Sotheby’s, the world’s highest-end auction house. Sitting in a room with Picasso masterpieces staring down at her, she holds court in a gothically-black dress that makes her look like a Victorian girl gone bad.
Up close, Madonna appears far different than she does in any picture or TV show. She's incredibly fine-boned, still with a ballerina's figure, and a far more feminine and pretty face than any photo captures. The bird-like scale of her body and the delicate nature of her features make a jarring contrast to her larger-than-life personality and her outsized impact on the world.
Her small size also contrasts her considerable physical strength. She bounced back immediately from her fall-seen-round-the-world at the Brit Awards. She has credited her resilience to years of vigorous workouts and her commitment to healthy living.
Her core strength also pours through in every quote. It's that balance — between the vulnerable soul and the warrior pop star — that Madonna uses to anchor "Rebel Heart."
Even so, more songs tip in the direction of the wounded. She sings about the press bringing her to secret tears, the photographers who rob her soul, and a recent love affair that ended horribly.
"I'm only human," she says. "I'd like to get to the point where nothing can shake me. Sometimes I'm there, sometimes I'm not."
The deeper vulnerability in Madonna's songs dovetails with one particularly surprising aspect of the album. It's the first to find this famously forward-thinking star looking back. In the title song she assesses her life and career, saying she "barely made it through."
In the song "Veni Vidi Vici," she alludes to all of her most famous hits and styles with a defiant pride.
"There's a lot of reminiscing on this album," Madonna says. "I've been doing what I've been doing for over three decades, so in many ways I feel like a survivor. I see that many of my peers, and friends, and people I collaborated with are no longer with us. That gave me pause. I said, 'Wow, I can't believe I made it this far.' That was a catalyst for me."
The realization led her into a very un-Madonna-like feeling: nostalgia. "There's a looking back here, a missing the beginning of my career when I was surrounded by other artists — not musical artists, but artist-artists — like Keith Haring and Basquiat and Warhol. It was a time when pop music was more naive and free. I was missing that feeling and that mixture of so many different worlds in New York."
She found herself pining as well for the pre-Internet age — small wonder since she recently found herself the victim of it when hackers stole, and leaked, unfinished tracks for the album. Madonna swoons when she speaks of a time when "there was no Instagram, no social network.
"If you wanted somebody to hear your music, you had to get on a subway train and go. There was no phone you could send an MP3 file on. It was fun to take your tape to a DJ in a booth and try to get him to play it. I miss those old days, those old shows in small clubs filled with people who didn't have any preconceived notions about me."
The looking back helped Madonna come to a new acceptance of both her age, and her legacy. It's me "taking stock, taking ownership," she says. "I felt like it was time to speak of those things."
She's ready to speak — or at least sing— about a love gone very wrong. "When I started writing the record, I had just broken up with somebody," she says.
While she declines to say who it was, it would seem to be Brahim Zaibat, one of her dancers, who's three decades her junior. They broke up at the end of 2013. Subsequently, Madonna dated, then broke up, with another man in his 20s, Timor Steffens.
Madonna insists she's not exclusively drawn to younger men. "It's just what happens," she says. "Most men my age are married with children. They're not datable. I'm a very adventurous person and I also have a crazy life. I'm a single mother. I have four children. I mean, you have to be pretty open-minded and adventurous to want to step into my world. People who are older, and more set in their ways, are probably not as adventurous as someone younger."
For different reasons, Madonna remains young in her musical tastes as well. While a few other mature artists may still open at the top of the charts — including Barbra Streisand, Tom Petty, and AC/DC — no other artist of her vintage, and prominence, has remained scrupulously modern.
Madonna says she works hard to keep the music constantly contemporary.
"I have a lot of friends who are DJs, and I love going out," she says. "I work with people who always say, 'Check out this video, check out these artists, this dancer.' Also, I have teenagers. They turn me on to a lot of music. They were a very big part of the choices I made this time, the sounds I gravitated towards."
When speaking of her children — particularly eldest daughter Lourdes — Madonna ponders her own past. By the time she was Lourdes' age, ready for college, she had left home in Detroit to make it in New York. "I never felt comfortable, or at home, or accepted in the world I grew up in," she says. "When I came to New York, I found my family, my tribe. That filled a void."
Asked what she would say today to her young, struggling East Village self, Madonna doesn't have to think hard:
"Fasten your seat belt, it's going to be a bumpy ride," she says, with a laugh. "And don't take anything personally. That's a big one. Then again, I wouldn't have listened to me anyway at that point."
She would be too busy plotting her career, getting ready to break all the taboos she could find. More than 30 years later, Madonna thinks she's still doing that. "I always feel like I'm breaking some taboo, or coming up against something," she sighs.
"People have always judged me, and given me s--t about one thing or another. Now they're giving me s--t about age."
"It's bull---t. And mostly I hear it from women," she says, looking crestfallen. "I feel I should be hearing support — like, 'Good for you.'"
Regardless, Madonna thinks history will bear her out on the age issue. "It's like everything else," she says. "I'm opening doors for women behind me who one day won't have to deal with this s--t that I deal with."
If anything, the critics that come her way, seem to only embolden her, much like — guess who? — Kanye.
Madonna believes she remains vital specifically by forging a career "that has never stopped being challenging. It's just that, now, I feel like I know more and I've seen more."
"I earned my stripes," she declares. "Bitch, I'm Madonna. And that's it."
Madonna, the OG queen of this pop shit, is dropping her 13th album, Rebel Heart, March 10, and though this latest release has been plagued by leaks and some promo backlash, the thirst for new Madonna is still strong. We already knew that the album's production credits featured Kanye West, who worked with Madonna on a handful of Rebel Heart songs, including "Illuminati." But last night in New York, in a conversation with Complex's Sean Evans, she revealed that the collaboration with West extended beyond Rebel Heart and that the two also wrote a song together that will appear on West's new album, So Help Me God.
According to Madonna, West was initially interested in going through all of the Rebel Heart tracks and offering feedback, as Rick Rubin did for Yeezus. But because of West's schedule, "He ended up only working on four songs, and then we wrote another song together, which is going to be on his record," she said.
In addition to a new song with West, Madonna also hinted that she and Drake's mutual Instagram appreciation has led to a real-life collaboration. "We're gonna work together," she said. "Yeah, baby, it's in the pipeline."
For more of Complex's talk with Madonna, check back Monday at 10 a.m. for the full interview.
Like the rest of us, it's highly unlikely that Madonna will look back at this winter with any warm memories.
First her 13th studio album, "Rebel Heart," leaked, forcing her to hastily release six teaser tracks just before the holidays.
Then a social media campaign received heavy criticism after she appropriated images of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. and altered them in the spirit of the album's cover (which features a close-up of the singer's face, bound in black cord).
Finally, there was the thud heard 'round the world when, performing at the BRIT Awards in London, she fell ass-backwarddown a flight of stairs. All this before the full album has even come out (the official release is Tuesday).
It's a run of events that has reignited the idea that the 56-year-old Madge is struggling to keep up with the modern pop world and desperately clinging to younger stars for a hint of relevance.
But in truth, young singers are still clamoring to work with the Material Girl — because in pop music, she's still a god.
"Rebel Heart" is far from her best work — yet take a look at the list of producers, songwriters and guest artists smattered across its 19 tracks: Diplo, Kanye West, Blood Diamonds, Ryan Tedder, Avicii, Nicki Minaj, Ariel Rechtshaid and more, all lined up to serve the Queen of Pop. It's an anointment that cannot be bought.
The same goes for her recent onstage collaborations. Following Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' Grammy performance/mass wedding ceremony in 2014, Macklemore told Ellen DeGeneres that guest star Madonna was so "gracious to come and share the stage," knowing full well it was she that was doing them the favor, not the other way around.
Also offering up her respect was Miley Cyrus, who, at the time of her "Bangerz" album and tour, was the biggest pop star in the world.
But, when Madonna guested on Miley's "MTV Unplugged" set last summer, the twerking-girl openly admitted to the network that her provocative act is directly descended from Madonna. "I grew up listening to Madonna, and a lot of what she represented for me is what I try to rep to girls now…not being afraid of your sexuality and really being who you want to be."
Madonna may not be in the Billboard Top 10 any longer, but to those acts who are, she's the mother hen.
If you still think Madonna is irrelevant, cast an eye toward some of her one-time contemporaries who have been farmed out to Las Vegas.
Britney Spears was once touted as the new Madonna — but she now churns out her old hits at Planet Hollywood.
Mariah Carey's last album "Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse" was a spectacular flop, and she, too, is likely to become a regular fixture in casino land.
If rumors are to be believed, J.Lo will be next on the desert-bound gravy train.
Meanwhile, this fall, Madonna will be playing to sold-out arenas all over North America and Europe on her Rebel Heart tour.
Not only does pop music still want Madonna, it positively needs her.
In several markets, the album Rebel Heart is available since yesterday.
The "hand in heart" image features as back cover for the Standard and Deluxe albums, while the Super Deluxe uses different artwork with Madonna tying a lace around her foot.
The booklet uses the images that we've come to know over the past few months. Oddly, there are no production credits, nor lyrics in the booklet.
Another strange fact is that the Maverick logo is back.
The album will be released worldwide on Monday.
In interviews, Madonna has already said that Ghosttown is one of her favourites of the album.
It was rumoured that the song would get a single release, and that rumour now seems confirmed with Madonna posting fan artwork with the comment:
Coming Soon.............lets hold on to each other❤️#rebelheart
It’s time to #AskMadonna on Instagram!
To celebrate the March 10th release of her album Rebel Heart, Madonna will host an exclusive Instagram Q&A!
Want to ask our Rebel Heart a question?
-Post a video to your Instagram asking Madonna a question before 6pm PST / 9pm EST on Monday, March 9th.
-Hashtag the video with #AskMadonna
Madonna will comment on your video answering your question starting around 6pm EST on Tuesday, March 10th.
Wait, there’s more! Madonna will film video answers to her favorite questions and post them to her Instagram & Facebook pages!
Be creative, be fun, be a true Rebel Heart and get ready for the unexpected. . .
When it comes to talking about sex and drugs with her kids, Madonna takes a very Madonna approach to it.
Access spoke to the pop icon as she promoted her upcoming album, "Rebel Heart," where the singer opened up about her approach to dealing with these coming of age topics with her four kids, Lourdes, 18, Rocco, 14, David, 8, and Mercy, 8.
"It's just a fact of life isn't it? Somehow, it's gonna happen sometime. It happened to you, so it's gonna happen to [Lourdes]," she said when asked about addressing sex with her children. "All you can do is [stress] safe sex. Have discussions about it and encourage her to be open with you about it and not judgmental."
Madonna hopes her kids seek her out for guidance.
"Because then they won't feel like they can come to you and talk to you," she continued. "Ask you for your advice and stuff."
The singer takes a similar open-minded approach when it comes to drugs.
"I'm not a fan of taking drugs, but I'm not gonna tell my daughter not to do things. I'm just telling her to be careful," she explained." [I tell her] never take a drink that you haven't seen somebody pour in front of you. Don't mix alcohol. Your basics, like be safe, do everything in moderation. That’s it. That's all I can do."
During her chat with Access , the singer also revealed her favorite tracks from "Rebel Heart."
She explained that the album's first single, "Living for Love," is one of hope.
"It's not about dwelling and living in bitterness or getting caught up in bitterness, but moving on, moving through it, learning from it and still being hopeful," she told Access .
So is Madonna currently in love?
"Um, no," she said with a laugh.
The singer, 56, also spoke to Access about women being unfairly judged about their age, specifically on social media.
"I feel like it's a form of discrimination that still has not been dealt with and it should be. I think it should be as verboten as making racist remarks or making homophobic remarks, judging somebody by their age," she told Access .
Adding, "It's sexist and it's ageist and it's bulls***."
"Rebel Heart" drops on March 10. Madonna kicks off her tour in Miami on August 29.
"We were both with our significant others at the time, of course," he said.
Madonna was on the date with Sean Penn, and Mike was with his ex-wife Robin Givens.
The movie? The Pee-wee Herman flick Big Top Pee-wee.
"That's the craziest double date I ever heard of," Kimmel joked.
Things got even weirder when Mike and Sean fell asleep during the flick.
"We're a big fan of Pee-wee, but we were slightly inebriated," he said.
Asked if Madonna managed to stay awake for the movie, he joked: "I have no idea. I slept through most of it."
"If I wasn't in good shape — tuck and roll," the singer, laughing, said during an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday night. "I attribute a lot of the fact that I came out all right because I'm in good shape."
The 56-year-old tumbled last week during a live performance after her dancers tugged at her flowing cape, dragging her down three steps. She got up after being yanked and continued her performance of "Living for Love."
Madonna said the cape had been tied too tightly at the neck and after the performance, she said she suffered whiplash.
On Thursday, she said she was doing OK.
Madonna said she's switched up her workout routines over the years to "keep things interesting, shock my body."
"I still do a lot of dance cardio. I started doing yoga again. I do interval training, metabolic interval training ... jumping ropes; something called body art," she said. "It has to change. You get bored doing the same thing over and over again."
She said her workout playlist includes hip-hop, house and dance music.
"Anywhere from 120-128 beats per minute is a like good tempo for me," she said.
Madonna added that her iPod currently is playing EDM producer Kidnap Kid and Diplo, who produced some of her new album "Rebel Heart," out next week. She's also been listening to electronic duo Disclosure and rapper Drake — acts she may collaborate with in the future.
"I almost worked with Disclosure, but it didn't work out because they were on tour while I was making my record," she said. "I don't know, maybe I'll collaborate with Drake."
In December -- as Madonna rushed out six songs from Rebel Heart after some truly ugly cyber-bullying -- she told Billboard she had recorded so much material that she had considered doing a double album. And indeed, there are at least two albums struggling to come into being amid these 19 tracks.
Oppositions are the animating tension of Rebel Heart: Biting breakup songs like "Heartbreak City" rub up against some of the most absurdly lubricious sex songs of her absurdly lubricious career, like the Kanye West-co-produced "Holy Water," where she compares her bodily fluids to the song's title, then proclaims, "Yeezus loves my pussy best." Declarations of invincibility like "Unapologetic Bitch" are undone by laments over the price of fame and the way that even hearts of steel can break. Her decades-long love affair with house continues alongside her decades-long love affair with singer-songwriter confessions. Religious devotion and earthly love are cross-wired in the Avicii-helmed power ballad "Messiah." And songs with spare, inventive beats battle for dominance against expertly realized maximalist pop.
There's one other tension of note: Her determination to outgrow the past and shed her skin (as she puts it on the title track) tangles with her own back catalog. Three different songs refer to old hits, with "Veni Vidi Vici" stringing together titles like a bad Oscar medley: "I opened up my heart, I learned the power of goodbye/I saw a ray of light, music saved my life." If anyone is entitled to honor herself with her own drag show, it's her. Still, these backward glances are odd, and perhaps tip the hand that Madonna albums are now launching pads for Madonna tours, where the old songs can come out and play (indeed, on March 2, she announced a 35-city global run).
Or maybe not. Madonna has never gotten the credit she deserves as a musician, or as an album artist. Her essential interests are unchanging -- dancefloor ecstasy, European balladry, 1960s pop classicism -- but her expression of them finds new articulations. Rebel Heart has 14 producers working in seven different teams and still it sounds exactly like a Madonna album. That includes oddball standouts like "Body Shop," courtesy of beatmakers DJ Dahi (Drake, Kendrick Lamar) and Blood Diamonds (Grimes), which is propelled by a spare, sitar-like guitar figure.
One of the strangest things about Rebel Heart is how subtle it seems by current standards. These songs unfold slowly, building through foreplay-like intros before hooks are displayed over a shifting series of textures, as if the tracks were being remixed while you're listening to them. In a short-attention-span world of hits that relentlessly spotlight mini-hook after mini-hook for club DJs to drop in a few bars at a time, they seem positively luxurious and downright intellectual.
There are times you hope for a little more dumb fun -- enter Diplo, who turns up on five tracks with his air horn and Caribbean beats and would be welcome on more -- and there's at least one moody ballad too many. But then an aqueous bassline bubbles up and a surge of trance-y pulses sweeps you along to Madonnaland, where introspection and abandon engage in erotic acts of self-actualization. After 32 years, it's still a great place to be.
This story will appear in the March 14 issue of Billboard.
Its release has been plagued by controversy over piracy, the term "artistic rape", claims of cultural appropriation and the vexing question of whether or not it's all right to laugh at a 56-year-old woman falling on her arse midway through a dance routine. But the most immediately striking thing about Madonna's 13th studio album is rather more prosaic: it's extremely long. The deluxe version features 19 tracks and lasts for the best part of an hour and a half. The super-deluxe version adds a second disc, featuring another raft of songs and remixes – anyone planning to listen in full is advised to first ensure their will is up to date in case they die of old age before they get to the end.
Rebel Heart is that long because it is essentially two separate albums. One is wistful and thick with reflections on failed love affairs and intimations of self-doubt. Most shockingly, it occasionally touches on the hitherto-unmentionable notion that Madonna's career might draw to a conclusion at some point: "In a world that's changing, I'm a stranger in a strange land," she sings over wafty electronics and a battery of percussion on the gorgeous Wash All Over Me, "if this is the end then let it come." The other offers dirty talk and defiant I'm-still-here snarls set to EDM-inspired productions, frequently the handiwork of Diplo.
There's obviously no reason why an album can't contain both. But on Rebel Heart, the two don't quite gel, perhaps because you get the sneaking feeling that the former might represent the music Madonna wants to make, while the latter is the music she feels obliged to make, in order to compete with whoever the big new female pop star is: listening to a track called S.E.X., you're struck by the sense of a woman dutifully going through the motions.
Certainly, the first category contains almost all of Rebel Heart's indispensable moments, and not just because they belong to the slim canon of Madonna songs on which the singer genuinely seems to be revealing her personal feelings and frailties: Ghosttown and Joan of Arc are cut from the same emotional cloth as Like a Prayer's Promise to Try or Ray of Light's Drowned World/Substitute for Love. As well as the most intriguing words, they've got the album's best melodies. For all the expressions of insecurity, they boast an effortlessness and a confidence that contrasts sharply with the sweat and strain that's audibly gone into what Miley Cyrus would call the bangerz. There's an ease and unaffectedness about the title track – a stark depiction of the cost of fame, clear-eyed and devoid of self pity – that's noticeably absent when Madonna starts carrying on like a rapper on Best Night, informing us that "it gon' be like this – we gon' be gangstas tonight" etc.
That said, the bangerz aren't all bad, by any means. Kanye West's co-productions carry the same thrillingly authentic twang of bug-eyed lunacy that graced Yeezus, not least Illuminati, a fizzing cacophony of fragmented vocal samples and synthesisers that don't so much throb as pound. Body Shop is great, a sweet Cherish-like melody over what sounds like a kutam. And, if nothing else, you have to admire the sheer brass cojones of a woman who tells interviewers she never deliberately tries to be provocative – "I wasn't sitting there in my laboratory of shit-stirring going, 'This is gonna fuck with people'" – while promoting an album that contains a song on which Madonna compares her vaginal mucus to holy water, and suggests that Jesus might have enjoyed giving her cunnilingus: "On your knees and genuflect, Jesus loves my pussy best."
Elsewhere, however, things go awry. Bitch I'm Madonna is a fantastic title in search of a song. In lieu of one, producer Diplo comes up with a kind of hybrid of EDM and happy hardcore and throws Nicki Minaj at her most hyperactive into the mix; the result genuinely sets your teeth on edge. There are moments when Madonna appears to be frantically chasing after other artists or trends. The hook of Inside Out is perilously close to that of Rihanna's Diamonds, while Devil Pray – a bit of anti-drug sermonising that offers the deeply improbable image of Madonna indulging in solvent abuse – is a pretty transparent attempt by Avicii to come up with something along the lines of his hit Wake Me Up. Veni Vidi Vici, meanwhile, starts out a fascinating memoir of Madonna's early days in New York, before disappointingly devolving into a plonking list of her hits: "I justified my love, I made you say a little prayer/ They had me crucified you know I had to take it there." Mercifully, this grinds to a halt before it can start exploring the less celebrated areas of her oeuvre: "I did Evita too and also Hanky Panky/ And in Sex there was a photograph of me having a wanky."
There's something bracing about Madonna's insistence that she belongs in exactly the same place she's been for more than 30 years – at the forefront of mainstream pop, asserting her supremacy over anyone who dares challenge her – and something impressive about her steadfast refusal to do the kind of things every other artist four decades into their career does: no unplugged shows with the singer sitting demurely on a stool and emoting to an acoustic guitar; no deviation into the Great American Songbook; no album that cravenly attempts to recreate the sound of her best-loved early work. You can understand why she sees that kind of thing as a one-way ticket to the knacker’s yard, why she’d rather prove she can still talk dirtier or come up with more outrageous braggadocio than any young pretender. But at least half of Rebel Heart proves it’s not as stark a choice as that. She can come up with songs that are both mature and reflective and that function as fantastic pop music, and they’re all the more potent because they sound like they’re being made entirely on her own terms.
KYLE ANDERSON It's been sort of a rough 21st century for Madonna. After the stellar premillennial one-two punch of Ray of Light and Music, it's felt like she has been following rather than innovating. Rebel Heart is stuffed with top-level talent—Diplo, Avicii, Kanye—but at the end of the day, they're not who we're here for. Adam, what are your expectations of a Madonna album in 2015?
ADAM MARKOVITZ Even for those of us who remember her imperial phase (c. 1985–2001), she's become a giant cultural question mark. Is Madonna a still-active pop star in a slow period? A nostalgia act who puts out new music? A living legend who won't go gently into that good four-nights-a-week Vegas residency? Rebel has an electro-rap track called "Bitch I'm Madonna"—but I honestly don't know what that means anymore. And by the sound of Rebel Heart, which has some nice melodies and thoughtful lyrics buried under a lot of badass posturing, Madonna doesn't either. Her best albums always had a clear goal, whether it was dancing or shocking or chakra-ing. This time it feels like she just wants to prove she isn't finished yet.
ANDERSON You're not wrong. Both sonically and philosophically, the album is all over the place. The opener, lead single "Living for Love," has a big sexy disco underbelly and just enough Diplo glitch to give it some edge. Then there's the rocksteady dub "Unapologetic Bitch," the post-Yeezus robo-grind "Illuminati," the electro-campfire sing-along "Joan of Arc." All that style whiplash can be vertigo-inducing. And yet despite the idea overload, I like way more here than I expected to. I would have assumed that a Mike Tyson rant, a barely intelligible Chance the Rapper verse, and seemingly six different hooks would make "Iconic" my most skipped track. Yet I kind of admire its chaos. Same goes for "Holy Water": I should be completely over the idea of Madonna juxtaposing Christian imagery with frank sexuality, which she has been doing for three decades. Maybe it's the bass gurgles that remind me of classic Massive Attack or the reference to "Vogue," but she sells it for me. I can't stand "Body Shop," though—an extended car/sex metaphor that sounds as if she just discovered literary devices.
MARKOVITZ "S.E.X." is pretty awful: "Oh my God/Soaking wet/Back and forth/Until we break the bed" is amateur-hour erotica from somebody who once released an album literally called Erotica. But I do like the weird touches. She name-checks Bieber and the Pope on "Illuminati" and then implies that her body fluids are a sacrament on "Holy Water." "Body Shop" has the most natural vocals on the album; Madonna sounds like an actual human woman instead of Siri singing Fifty Shades of Grey on low batteries. The funny, creative, outrageous Madonna we've known is still in here somewhere. It just takes a lot of patience to find her.
ANDERSON I have faith that she'll reveal herself with repeated listens. (Weirdly, for an album mostly designed to move people in a club, it's actually a pretty fascinating headphone trip.) This may be damning it with faint praise, but this is Madonna's best outing since 2000's Music, and that earns Rebel Heart a solid B.
MARKOVITZ I love that she's as frustrating and ambitious as ever—still difficult, complicated, and hard to pin down. But that's how I'd describe this album, too. If Like a Virgin is her A game, and something rocky but rewarding like Bedtime Stories is B level, then this gets a C+.
When Madonna's not living for love, she's living for Ellen (appearances).
The singer will be Ellen's musical guest for a full week, Live Nation announced today. She'll be on the program Monday March 16 through Friday March 20. (Rebel Heart, her latest, drops March 10 in the United States.)
In addition to the music, the two will be sure to discuss her just-announced massive world tour, which will kick off August 29 in Miami.
The countdown to some kind of viral-y video with Ellen DeGeneres falling over in a cape begins now.
Tonight Madonna appeared on Le Grand Journal on French TV channel Canal+, where she was interviewed about her new album and tour, and where she met Charlie Hebdo chief editor Luz.
The entire interview:
The floorplan for Madonna's show in Antwerp, Belgium reveals an extraordinary catwalk in the shape of a cross, with a (rebel) heart at the end on the longest runway.
However, at the moment there's no talk of a golden circle and all pre-sales info mentions only one category for standing places.
Tour Kicks Off In Miami August 29th in Support of “Rebel Heart” Album
Additional Concert Dates To Be Added In Australia And Asia
March 2nd, 2015 – The list of Madonna concert dates for her highly anticipated 35-city ‘Rebel Heart' Tour were officially announced today by Live Nation with the opening night scheduled for August 29th in Miami, Florida. Additional performances to follow include New York, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Vancouver, Montreal and several other cities including San Juan, Puerto Rico. Following the North American leg of the Rebel Heart Tour, Madonna will begin the UK/European series of dates on November 4th in Koln, Germany with stops in major cities including Barcelona, London, Paris and Glasgow amongst others. A complete list of tour dates follow this release. Tickets for The Rebel Heart Tour go on sale starting Monday, March 9th. Additional tour dates for Asia and Australia are expected to be announced soon. The Rebel Heart Tour is produced by Live Nation Global Touring.
“Madonna continues to be one of the most successful touring artists in history – her shows are legendary and we are thrilled to have her going back on tour,” Arthur Fogel, President - Global Touring and Chairman - Global Music.
The “Rebel Heart” Tour follows the March 9th release of Madonna's Rebel Heart album on Interscope Records (Germany and Japan March 6; Europe/UK March 9; North America March 10). Rave reviews for Madonna's 13th studio album include: The Sun (UK) “The Queen of Pop will reign again – Madonna is about to release her best album in l7 years and one of the greatest of her career.” NY Times: “They won't experience the celebrity of Madonna the fashion statement but the Madonna who has kept us listening for decades: Madonna the musician”.
Following Madonna's stunning performance on the Grammys®, three songs from Rebel Heart topped the Global iTunes Chart. The multi-Grammy® winner's s current single “Living For Love” is at No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Charts – her 44th time at the top spot. Madonna also recently performed on The Brits in London and is scheduled to appear and perform on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in the US for the entire week of March 16th. Other global TV performances include France's Le Grand Journal on March 2nd, Italy's ITV on Sunday March 8th, an interview on The Today Show on March 9th and 10th and a performance and interview on the Jonathan Ross ITV UK Special airing March 14th.
Along with extraordinary critical acclaim as an artist, songwriter and producer, Madonna's reputation as one of the most successful live performers of all time speaks for itself. The 2008/2009 Sticky & Sweet tour is the highest grossing tour of all time for a solo artist and the 2012 MDNA tour was the most successful tour of that year.
General Sales for Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour will go on sale starting Monday, March 9, 2015. Icon is Madonna's official fan club. Lifetime Legacy members of Icon will receive first access to tickets and VIP Packages starting March 3, 2015. Fans may purchase an “Icon Live Pass” today, which gives them access not only to ticket & VIP Package pre-sales, but also a free membership to Icon, the official Madonna fan club, access to a tour devoted forum and an exclusive tour gift. Fans who are already registered simply need to upgrade their account with the Icon Live Pass on Madonna.com.
NORTH AMERICA / PUERTO RICO:
Date City Venue
Aug. 29 Miami, FL American Airlines Arena On Sale Mar. 9
Sept. 2 Atlanta, GA Philips Arena On Sale Mar. 16
Sept. 5 San Juan, PR Coliseo de Puerto Rico On sale Mar. 21
Sept. 9 Montreal, QC Bell Centre On Sale Mar. 14
Sept. 12 Washington, DC Verizon Center On Sale Mar. 16
Sept. 16 New York, NY Madison Square Garden On Sale Mar. 9
Sept. 19 Brooklyn, NY Barclays Center On Sale Mar. 9
Sept. 24 Philadelphia, PA Wells Fargo Center On Sale Mar. 16
Sept. 26 Boston, MA TD Garden On Sale Mar. 16
Sept. 28 Chicago, IL United Center On Sale Mar. 9
Oct. 1 Detroit, MI Joe Louis Arena On Sale Mar. 23
Oct. 3 Atlantic City, NJ Boardwalk Hall On Sale Mar. 16
Oct. 5 Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre On Sale Mar. 9
Oct. 8 St. Paul, MN Xcel Energy Center On Sale Mar. 16
Oct. 11 Edmonton, AB Rexall Place On Sale Mar. 9
Oct. 14 Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena On Sale Mar. 9
Oct. 17 Portland, OR MODA Center On Sale Mar. 23
Oct. 19 San Jose, CA SAP Center at San Jose On Sale Mar. 9
Oct. 22 Glendale, AZ Gila River Arena On Sale Mar. 23
Oct. 24 Las Vegas, NV MGM Grand Garden Arena On Sale Mar. 16
Oct. 27 Los Angeles, CA Forum On Sale Mar. 16
EUROPE / UK:
Nov. 4 Koln, Germany Lanxess Arena On Sale Mar. 16
Nov. 7 Prague, CZ O2 Arena On Sale Mar. 16
Nov. 10 Berlin,Germany O2 World On Sale Mar. 16
Nov. 14 Stockholm, Sweden Tele 2 Arena On Sale Mar. 16
Nov.17 Herning, Denmark Jyske Bank Boxen On Sale Mar. 9
Nov. 21 Turin, Italy Pala Alpitour On Sale Mar. 16
Nov. 24 Barcelona, Spain Palau Sant Jordi On Sale Mar. 16
Nov. 28 Antwerp, Belgium Sportpaleis On Sale Mar. 9
Dec. 1 London, UK O2 Arena On Sale Mar. 16
Dec. 5 Amsterdam, Holland Ziggo Dome On Sale Mar. 9
Dec. 9 Paris, France Bercy On Sale Mar. 9
Dec. 14 Manchester, UK Manchester Arena On Sale Mar. 16
Dec. 16 Birmingham, UK Barclaycard Arena On Sale Mar. 16
Dec. 20 Glasgow, Scotland The SSE Hydro On Sale Mar. 16
It's the same world where pigs fly and figure skaters crowd the deepest recesses of hell.
Yet, somehow, that's the world occupying significant parts of Madonna's revelatory new album, "Rebel Heart."
More credibly than any previous work, Madonna's latest pulls back the curtain on her life, letting us see her hurt and yearning.
It also finds her licking her wounds over a breakup with a far less powerful boy toy — presumably the decades-her-junior dancer Brahim Zaibat, who she saw for three years, ending in 2013.
Maddy has said that she chose the album's title to express two sides of her character: the defiant warrior and the aching lover.
While a decent portion of harder, bitchier odes do turn up, the album as a whole presents the softest, most sincere portrait of the star we've ever had. In the process, "Rebel Heart" coheres, offering a swift rebuke to whoever prematurely dribbled out its tracks in a dizzying variety of leaks.
It also marks a clear move away from Madonna's last two works — "Hard Candy" and "MDNA." Both soared on energetic pop, creating two of the most enjoyable, catchiest albums of her career. "Rebel Heart" goes for something more substantial and — dare I say? — mature.
Along the way, the long, 19-song album offers its share of groaners, missteps and songs more indebted to trendy production than solid craft. But its best moments boast some of the most finely structured pop melodies of Madonna's 32-year career.
The slam-dunk opener, "Living for Love," stands with her great gospel-soul songs of the past: " Like a Prayer" and "Express Yourself." Of the ballads, " Ghosttown" rates with her best: "Live to Tell" and " Crazy for You."
The way the producers recorded Madonna both bolsters the melodies and lends her depth. They've honeyed her voice: Madonna hasn't sounded this rich since the sumptuous "Evita" soundtrack. In "Ghosttown," her deep tone has some of the autumnal ache of Karen Carpenter.
All this isn't to say Madonna doesn't chirp, sneer and bray in places. In "Holy Water," she's in late-period Joan Crawford mode, putting down all comers with an unseemly pride. Then, in "Bitch I'm Madonna," she nicks a slogan from someone far beneath her, referencing Ms. Spears' old "It's Britney, Bitch" line.
Madonna's harder side finds a focus in "Unapologetic Bitch," where she plays a spurned sugar mama. She revels in banishing an entitled young stud back to his impoverished past, a mirror, most likely, of the breakup with Zaibat.
The music in "Living for Love" implicitly references the past, but in other passages Madonna invokes it directly. The lyrics to "Veni Vidi Vici" offer a virtual career retrospective. The title track brings an even broader life assessment — looking back at her attempts to fit in as a youth, as well as her years of acting out with provocative gestures for their own sake. Never before has Madonna copped to the latter motivation in a song. In the end, she accepts the consequences, and embraces the bravery, of her character fully enough to create her own answer to "My Way."
The beauty of the song's melody helps ease its self-involvement. As a lyricist, Madonna has always had trouble making her personal songs universal.
On the other hand, her persona has such cultural resonance at this point, it has become part of all pop fans. Her name is a metaphor for strength and endurance. That makes her potent enough to admit where she's weak in "Joan Of Arc." Here, she says that each critique drives her to private tears. In "Wash All Over Me," she ponders either running from, or accepting the end of, her career.
It's hard to imagine Madonna expressing things like this before, let alone making them ring true. That's "Rebel Heart's" peak feature: It presents a 56-year-old woman who, in the best possible sense, sounds her age.
While the official tour announcement is less than 24 hours away, the first details about Madonna's upcoming world tour are coming in through different sources.
Madonna will supposedly open her tour on August 29th. The tour will run until February 2016, and will first go to North America, then to Europe, and possibly to Australia too.
The arena tour will have a stop at Paris Bercy on December 9th, and at the Sportpaleis in Antwerp, Belgium on November 28th.↑ Back to top of page