New respect for life
Yoga isn’t the only change in Madonna’s life.
“There have been other things as well. The birth of my daughter has been a huge influence. It’s quite different to look at life through the eyes of your child, and suddenly you have a whole new respect for life and you kind of get your innocence back,” says Madonna, who laughs that little Lourdes has lately been doing typical kid things like “stuffing dolls and toys into the VCR.”
Another major change came from making “Evita,” in which Madonna starred as Argentinian icon Eva Peron. Many skeptics criticized her for even trying.
“I went through a real metamorphosis when I did that movie,” she notes. “People were constantly attacking me and misunderstanding me and using me as their whipping girl in the press. I’d become this target, and I was feeling really sorry for myself. And suddenly, when I started playing [Eva] in the movie, I could get outside of myself and I realized that I wasn’t a victim at all. To a certain extent, I had invited a lot of things. I hadn’t really taken responsibility for my role in the whole thing. So I let go of a lot of bitterness.
“I thought of all the people who were upset at me for playing Evita and why they would have been upset and how their feelings were all intertwined with what she actually did in their country. And I suddenly saw how people could get confused. And then I had more compassion for everybody. It helped me have a whole new outlook.
“You have to work through the layers. That’s what the whole creative process is. If where you’re at is anger and rage, then that’s what comes out of you. That’s what informs everything you do. It might provoke people and get them to have discussions, and it might turn a few people’s heads, but I don’t know if it inspires anyone.”
While Madonna now talks openly about her search for enlightenment, she adds that she’s not about to get sucked into any destructive cults. “I don’t want to be a member of any group or anything. I’d like to go on my own spiritual journey,” she says. “When you start calling someone a guru, and everybody flocks to them and worships them, they are only going to fall, because they are human beings. They’re not divine avatars.”
Madonna’s search even led her to sing in Sanskrit on one song on “Ray of Light.” She took a crash course in Sanskrit – four hours a day for a week – and found it fascinating. “The thing is, you don’t speak it, you chant it. And I like that musical quality of it. I have a very good ear for languages anyway, so I really liked it.”
Musically, the new album is Madonna’s latest foray into the world of electronica, which started on her last album, “Bedtime Stories,” when she worked with producer Nellie Hooper. The new record has a few pulsing dance tracks sure to be embraced by her original pop-disco fans, but also haunting, ambient soundscapes created by co-producer William Orbit, a techno pioneer.
“I have always admired his work and have given him lots of records to remix, but I had never met him until now,” says Madonna. “I knew that he kind of worked like a hermit in his studio in London, that he never really has produced anything but his own records and that he never really collaborated with anyone before.”
An executive at Madonna’s label, Maverick Records, recommended Orbit, who then sent a sketchbook of musical ideas, which Madonna loved. “He is very open and very flexible, and he’s spiritual in his own way,” she says. “And he was very supportive of everything that I wanted to do. Every lyric, every idea, he was right there with me, never doubting, kind of carrying me on in a way.”
Madonna is thrilled with the sales of “Ray of Light” so far (“I’m surprised, because some people told me they didn’t think it was commercial”), but she has no plans to tour behind it. She likely won’t tour until next year, because she first wants to make a couple of movies she’s been dying to do. One is “50 Violins,” based on a true story of a New Yorker who teaches violin to children in inner-city schools. The other is the musical “Chicago,” in which she’ll star with Goldie Hawn.
“I’ve got a lot on my plate right now,” she says. “But I’m not complaining. It’s a good problem to have.”
© Boston Globe