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Madonna Interview : Billboard

Madonna - Billboard / November 15 2005

Madonna will not let a few cracked ribs and broken bones spoil her party. Weeks after falling from her horse on the grounds of her English estate, Madonna is in the mood to dance. Not surprisingly, she wants the world to know.

After the serious tone of her last album, 2003’s “Amerian Life,” Madonna wanted this collection to be happy and buoyant. “It was like, honey, I want to dance,” she tells Billboard during a face-to-face interview in her New York hotel suite. “I wanted to lift myself and others up with this record.”

The new album, “Confessions on a Dance Floor,’ is due Nov. 15 from Warner Bros. (one day earlier internationally). A special edition. which includes a picture book and bonus track, arrives in December.

“I wanted a record with no ballads: Madonna says,” wanted there to be no breaks, with one song segueing into the next — just like in a disco.”

The 12-tratk album was inspired by the many remixes her songs have received over the years. “Whenever I make records, I often like the remixes better than the original versions.” she says. “So, I thought, screw that. I’m going to start from that perspective.”

For her 10th studio album, Madonna collaborated primarily with producer Stuart Price, who was part of her touring band for the Re-Invention and Drowned World treks.

Together they took Madonna’s music back to the place where she first made her mark in the early ’80s: the clubs. But they did so in a way that while wickedly retro, pushes the beats and rhythms into the future.

“Our intention was to give a nod and a wink to people like Giorgio Moroder and the Bee Gees.” Madonna says. “Stuart and I didn’t want to remake the past, but make it into something new.”

The album was recorded in Price’s London flat. “I’d come by in the morning and Stuart would answer the door in his stocking feet — as he’d been up all night,” Madonna says with a smile. “I’d bring him a cup of coffee and say. ‘Stuart, your house is a mess, there’s no food in the cupboard.’ Then I’d call someone from my house to bring food over for him. And then we’d work all day.”

Pausing for a moment, she laughs and says, “Were very much die odd couple.”

Whatever the approach, Warner Bros. Records chairman/CEO Tom Whalley likes the fact that Madonna returned to her roots for the album. “It is a tribute to dancing and having fun, which is very needed right now,” he says.

Apparently. Lead single ‘Hung Up’ is off to an explosive start. The energetic, ABBA-sampling track first appeared in September. in a TV spot for Motorola’s iTunes compatible ROKR mobile phone. Createdby BBDO New York, the ad features Madonna and other artists jammed into a phone booth.

On Oct. 17, the song made its worldwide premiere during a live, 10 minute radio Interview between Ryan Seacrest and Madonna. The interview was made available to stations around the world. Three days later, Madonna appeared on *Late Show With David Letterman.”

Then, with a major case of Saturday night fever, Madonna made surprise appearances Oct. 22 at two New York clubs: the Roxy and Luke & Leroy (for its weekly MisShapes party).

“Hung Up” also has been made available worldwide as a master ringtone with various mobile providers.

In this issue, “Hung Up” moves 38-29 on the Pop 100 Airplay chart and 30-21 on the Adult Top 40 chart.

Elsewhere, the track reaches the summit of the Hot Dance Airplay chart and climbs to No. 5 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart. It resides at No. 21 and No. 17 on The Billboard Hot 100 and the Pop 100, respectively.

In Europe, “Hung Up” remains at No. 1 on the Euro Digital Tracks tally for the second consecutive week.

Tracy Austin. PD of mainstream top 40 KRBE Houston, calls “Hung Up” a great bridge record between a hip-hop track and a Green Day song.

But Austin adds that if the cut was by another artist – one without a proven track record, say — the station might have approached it less enthusiastically.

On the rhythmic top 40 front, WBBM Chicago music director Erik Bradley says the format needs a song like “Hung Up.” He says “hip-hop music has been in a doldrums state” of late. WBBM listeners are now referring to the track as “Madonna’s big comeback,” Bradley adds.

On No 7 and Nov. 9, the catchy song will be featured in episodes of “CSI: Miami” and “CSI: NY,” respectively.

“We are off to a better than good start,” Warner Bros. executive VP Diarmuid Quinn says. “Because her last album [“American Life”] didn’t do quite as well as we had hoped, we really weren’t sure what the reception would be this time around.”

The interest in the new album underscores Madonna’s place in pop culture. “With her last album, many naysayers were questioning her relevancy,” Whalley says. “This new album puts all that to rest.”

The marketing of “Confessions” began in July, when Warner Bros. execs as well as Madonna’s management team of Guy Oseary and Angela Becker began playing tracks for radio and club DJs, retailers and other tastemakers around the world.

“We couldn’t wait to present this album to the world,” Warner Bros. senior VP of international marketing Steve Margo says. Thus began branding opportunities and partnerships with MTV Networks, Motorola, Apple Computer’s iTunes and mobile carriers like Orange in the United Kingdom.

“The goal is familiarity – and partnering with the right brands helps accomplish this,” Quinn says.

Madonna - Billboard / November 15 2005

None of this is lost on Madonna, who is considering a “Confessions” tour for next summer. “I’m a businesswoman. The music industry has changed,” she says. “There’s a lot of competition, and the market is glutted with new releases — and new ‘thises and thats.’ You must join forces with other brands and corporations. You’re an idiot if you don’t.”

One new alliance for Madonna is a reladonship with Apple that for the first time allows her songs to be sold through the iTunes Music Store (Billboard. Sept. 17).

According to Madonna, it came down to dollars and cents. It’s all about royalties — how much they’re getting and how much we’re getting,” she says. “It was just a crap deal. Then. It’s safe to say it’s better now.”

Obviously, the timing was well-rchestrated. “She is a savvy artist who is well aware of the changed marketplace,” Margo says. “She picked the window when it would have the most impact.”

If Madonna’s new fondness for Tunes is part ofa larger Apple initinive, as has been rumored — a branded video iPod or a branded pink Nano, perhaps — no one is talking.

The singer/songwriter does like the idea of a Madonna-branded pink Nano, though. “That would be cool,” she says. “I like that.”

Another key partner in the marketing of “Confessions” is MTV Networks. On Nov.8, and begin exclusively previewing the album.

“It’s like we’ve been connected at the hip since day one,” Madonna says of their decades-long relationship.

In addition to starting out at around the same time, MTV and Madonna have evolved over the years. Reinvention is vital to their success stories.

“When it comes to making and marketing her music, and connecting to her audience, Madonna is fearless,” MTV Networks Music/Logo Group president Van Toffler says. That helps to explain her multifaceted arrangement with MTV.

Madonna’s first MTV appearance in support of the album occured on Oct. 17 on “TRL.” The next day, followed by MTV cameras and as part of mtvU’s “Stand In” series, she surprised film and music students at Hunter College in New York where she was a “stand-in” professor.

Later that week, her new documentary, “I’m Going to Tell You a Secret” (helmed by director Jonas Akerlund), debuted on MTV, with subsequent airings on VH1 and Logo (a DVD release is expected next year). 0n Oct. 27, the Johan Renck-lensed video for “Hung Up” had its world premiere on MTV and its numerous platforms.

On Nov. 3, Madonna performed at the 12th annual MTV Europe Music Awards in Lisbon, Portugal. It was the first live TV perforomance of “Hung Up.”

Other non-MTV-related international TV appearances include “Wetten Dass” in Germany, “Star Academy” in France and a couple of U.K. shows. In Japan, “Hung Up” will be heard in the TV series “Drama Complex.”

Not surprisingly, the media frenzy swirling around “Confessions — coupled with Madonna “sightings” and radio play for “Hung Up” — is muting excitement at retail.

Alex Luke, director of label relations and music programming at iTunes says the new album became “one of our biggest pre-orders in a matter of days.”

The situation is similar at traditional retail. Tower Records executive VP of retail Kevin Cassidy confirms that people have been inquiring about the album for weeks. “For us, it will be in the top four of the fourth quarter.”

At Virgin Megastores, “it’s all about Madonna right now,” divisional merchandise manager for music Jerry Suarez says. “The last record suffered because she got so political,” he says. “Less guns. Less tanks. More disco balls. More ABBA. We’re good.”

In signature fashion, Madonna has not escaped controversy with “Confessions.” Album track “Isaac” has drawn the ire of some rabbis and religious scholars who claimed the song is about 16th-century Jewish mystic/Kaballah scholar Yitzhak Luria.

Madonna only sighs. “You do appreciate the absurdity of a group of rabbis in Israel claiming that I’m being blasphemous about someone when they haven’t even heard the record, right?” she wonders aloud.

“It’s interesting how their minds work, the naughty rabbis,” she adds, with a twinkle in her eyes.

According to Madonna, “Isaac” — which is about letting go of and tackling your fears — is named after Yitzhak Sinwani, the track’s featured vocalist who sings in Yemenite. Madonna, who needed a title for the song, decided to simply go with the English translation of Sinwani’s Hebrew first name.

“Isaac” is but one of many “confessions” found on the album. Elsewhere, Madonna sings of success and fame (“Let It Will Be”), taking risks (“Jump”) and city life (“I Love New York”).

But Madonna — being the consummate entertainer — saves the most insightful confessions for last. Tracks like “How High,” “Push” and “Like It or Not” unveil an artist at the crossroads of past, present and future.

“Confessions closes on a deeply personal note with Madonna singing, “This is who I am. You can like it or not.”

In this way, the album follows the musical arc of a club DJ’s nightly set, which becomes more intense as the evening progresses.

Consider it Madonna’s way of reeling in the listener. “I was only hinting early on, but then I tell it like it is,” she says of the album’s song order. “It’s like, now that I have your attention. I have a few things to tell you.”

© Billboard