Half hour with… Madonna
Currently on a world tour, the Queen of Pop opens up about her enduring reputation as a rebel and why she is thankful to have grown up anything other than a Material Girl.
Having been a chart-topper for more than 30 years, music legend Madonna is continuing to do what she does best — ruffle feathers.
The singer, actress and film-maker’s Rebel Heart tour, which kicked off in Montreal in September and arrives in the UK next month, drew criticism from America’s Catholic League after she was seen performing the track Holy Water while pole dancing dressed in a skimpy nun’s costume. But as the pop provocateur, mum to four children — Lourdes, 19, Rocco, 15, and nine-year-olds Mercy and David — explains, being a rebel is in her DNA…
Rebel Heart is your tenth world tour. Do you feel like you’re redefining what a rebel is?
Yeah, but let’s face it, I’ve been doing that my entire career. I’ve been waving that flag all along. My (1991) film Truth or Dare openly depicts homosexual relationships — people didn’t do that before. To me, it’s just a normal part of life.
What is the defining theme of your show?
Romance, love, living for love, being a rebel heart… They’re all kind of intertwined. It’s about rising above, believing in your dreams, overcoming heartbreak, things like that — you know, the simple things in life.
Because you’re just a simple girl at heart…
Deep down inside I am, yes. But I tackle pretty complex themes, I guess, in my work.
Provocation seems second nature to you…
It comes naturally. It’s in my DNA to challenge the norms, to question things, to turn them inside out, to say: “But what if?” It’s not because I don’t respect people’s ideas and beliefs — I have ultimate respect for them. But people need to have their ideas and beliefs challenged, if only to make them stronger about what they believe in. I want to make people ask: “Why am I doing this? Why do I believe in this? Why does this define me?”
Even though they may just want to hear some favourite tunes?
Well, I think it’s important that people ask these questions, of themselves as well as each other. That’s the purpose of art.
Choreography is always an important part of your shows. Is it as important as the music?
I started out as a dancer, so dancing is important to me. I try to find the most unique and original dancers to work with and then tell a story that’s going to inspire and change people’s lives. And that works together with the music. It’s a big goal but that’s what we have to have — big goals.
You’re 57 and it’s clearly a strenuous show. How do you keep yourself in shape for doing it?
I have a very disciplined life. I don’t do a lot of socialising. My life revolves around my show and my four children and trying to live a very healthy lifestyle. The only thing I’m lacking now is sleep.
Does putting a show together get harder?
Yes it does. It’s hard to choose. Sometimes I have to let go of things I love because they don’t sound right or go with the theme. Or I go: “Oh, I did that the last three shows. Even though I love that song let’s do something new.”
You have been criticised in the past for not including enough big hits in your shows…
I tend to like my more abstract, less commercial songs, but I realise that I have to have songs that people are familiar with and want to sing along to. So I have to balance it out and not just do a creative show that’s going to please me. I have to be quite brutal sometimes. It’s kind of like editing a movie in a way because there are scenes that you love but they just don’t help tell the story and you have to let them go.
You had an emotional homecoming at your Detroit show last month after causing upset by calling the area “provincial” earlier in the year. Bygones are bygones?
I appreciate my provincial upbringing — it’s my people, y’know. To me it’s really important that I come from the Midwest. My father and the people that I was surrounded with had a very strong work ethic and a very practical approach to work. There weren’t a lot of frills. The fact that I came from a small town in the Midwest has a lot to do with the kind of open notebook that I had to start my journey, creatively. I don’t think I would be as creative as I am if I had grown up surrounded by everything at my fingertips.
Rebel Heart is touring until 17 March. For venues, dates and tickets, visit madonna.com