“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 occurred 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 per-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.”