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 her Armani 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 (the University 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?
A: 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.
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