Madonna has found a new soul mate.
“Kanye is the new Madonna,” she tells the Daily News. “Kanye is the black Madonna.”
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.”
© New York Daily News