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COVER STAR: MADONNA IN HER GENES…


MDNA, MADONNA’S 12TH STUDIO ALBUM, HAS GONE TO NUMBER ONE IN 18 COUNTRIES – INCLUDING THE US AND UK – AND HIT THE TOP TEN ACROSS THE WORLD. THE QUEEN OF POP TALKS TO LARRY FLICK ABOUT THE CREATION OF THE ALBUM, THE INSPIRATION BEHIND SOME OF THE SONGS, AND WHY SHE STILL HAS PLENTY TO SAY…


After nearly 30 years of making music, no one has come close to matching the impact of Madonna. Other artists may have come and gone, but none have sold anywhere near the 200 million albums she has sold. Already, her 12th number one album in the UK, MDNA, has sold 359,000 copies on its first week of release in the US, beating a previous record set by Elvis and giving her the biggest opening week sales since Music in 2000. Produced chiefly in collaboration with Italy’s Benny Bennasi, France’s Martin Solveig and Britain’s William Orbit, alongside others, the album’s range of material has garnered Madonna some of the best reviews of her career. Unsurprisingly, she’s in the process of creating and rehearsing a mammoth world tour to promote the record, including a date in London’s Hyde Park. Long-time fan Larry Flick talked to the star about her record and its creation…


LF: First of all, congratulations on this record! I have been following you from day one and this album may wind up being one of my favourites. M: Ooh, that’s good to hear! That’s really exciting, because I am a jaded old queen! [Laughs] OK. If you say so! Trust me, listening to these songs, I went from slouching in my chair to sitting up, very erect, going, “Oh my god!” The first thing I am wondering is: what did you want to say with this record? Where you were coming from? Well, I had just finished making a film [2011’s W.E], which used a very different creative capacity. It was a very fulfilling experience, but at the same time, it was extremely draining. You live mostly in your head as a director, and you have all kinds of ideas, which one does when writing songs or putting a show together, but you don’t get to physically act them out in any way. Writing or singing a song, or performing a song, is so visceral in comparison. Where I was coming from with this album mostly was: I felt like a caged animal. While I enjoyed the expression of filmmaking – and I am really proud of my film – I felt like I really wanted to get back to the basics of chugging my guitar and to the simplicity of


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raw emotions. Even when I was writing a song and playing on the guitar – or singing ‘I’m a Sinner’, for instance – it just felt so good. It felt so good to play a guitar and sing. I feel like I hadn’t done it years. Obviously, I had to get some things off my chest. So for me, where I was coming from was mostly like an animal getting let out of their cage, and wanting to express all kinds of emotions, not just one. All the stuff that life is made of. It must have really good to go back to – not so much a comfort zone, but a place of complete control – because I think there is this misconception about directing a film where film is a director’s medium. You’re utterly right, it’s a total collaboration.


“Everyone


says ‘Oh you’re a control freak and you like to be in control.’ The thing is, everything I do – even my song writing – I’m collaborating at all times.”


It’s a producer’s medium, if anything. You know, if an actor comes to the set and they’re not in a good mood, you spend all your time holding their hand, and try to coax a good performance out of them. Or your production designer goes down with a migraine... you have to decorate the set yourself. You’re actually out of control all day long, everyday, as long as the shoot goes. And so making music puts you right back in the zone where a person who likes to be in charge of her destiny feels good? You know, I hate to use the word “control” so much, because people bandy that word about with me when it comes to my creative life. Everyone says, “Oh you’re a control freak and you like to be in control.” Everything I do – even my songwriting – I’m collaborating at all times. I value input from


people, and I want it. I can’t work on my own. I am not Prince or like artists who can go in and play every instrument, record a track and not hear from people. I need to hear what people think all the time. I like to have my road dog, my sidekick. I like the simplicity of songwriting, because, in the end it’s simple. You have a melody. You have some words. And you sing. That, hopefully, is coming from your heart or a million different emotions. Let’s say it’s more direct. How did you decide on the folks you worked with on this record? They are very different. You have Benny [Benassi], the crazy Italian... ...who barely speaks a word of English! I would love to know how you communicated with him. Through his cousin! That’s a little crazy and a little frustrating, isn’t it? Yeah, it was at first. The first day, I wanted to rip my hair out. But when you are working with new people, you always have to find the common ground with them and then figure it out. I’ve worked with William Orbit before and something very magical happens when I work with William. I go to deep places. He is a tortured soul and he brings out the tortured soul in me. He is also extremely disorganised in his thinking. He is gonna hate me for saying this, but he is like a mad scientist. We will start working on the one song, and he will go “Oh my god! Oh my god! I’ve got the most amazing idea.” You’re thinking it’s the same song you’re working on, and so you say, “OK, I’m just gonna go to the bathroom, I’ll be right back.” You come back, and he’s working on a completely new song, which is also amazing. But you are like, “But dude, let’s go back to the other song.” It’s very easy to get carried away with him because he is passionate about what he does. He is very articulate, but he is a mad scientist. He comes with his challenges, but I work with him in a very specific way. What comes out of our collaborations is very unique.


Then with Martin Solveig, he is very much like me in that he is extremely organised, extremely methodical. We share the same love of foreign films – mostly French and Italian, and mostly from the ‘50s and ‘60s. All the songs we did together we used films for metaphors, as kind of springboards. We


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