Her pregnancy, announced during the filming of Evita in Budapest in early 1996, changed all the rules.
“To find I was pregnant, and that a life was growing inside me, led to the sudden realisation that I felt I didn’t know very much at all. Questions started coming at me from out of everywhere, like: `What am I going to teach my daughter?’ ”
Madonna immersed herself in what she describes as “a spiritual journey”, which continues to this day. She practices yoga daily and is studying the Kabala, a mystical interpretation of the Old Testament. “Everything just happened. Suddenly I found myself going down this road and all these doors started to open.”
“My daughter was a catalyst for a lot of things. Questions, mainly. And a lot of the time I felt like I didn’t know anything. I didn’t have answers. Not a clue.”
“It was like a rebirth for me. I had so many revelations, and I wanted the record to reflect that.”
What was the most important revelation?
She assesses the question carefully. “The most important thing is that everything that happens to me is a blessing, even the things that I perceive as being bad and negative.”
“Everything that has happened to me, it’s all been an opportunity for me to transform myself.”
What was her substitute for love?
What made her aware that fame, as she says on her new album, was “a silly game”?
“The birth of my daughter.”
Why did she trade love for fame?
“Ambition. In my opinion, I have been struggling all my life.”
Madonna Louise Ciccone, born August 16, 1958, in Bay City, Michigan, is the most famous woman alive.
“She is a living icon,” Rolling Stone editor Barbara O’Dair once wrote, “not just for her contrivances and a life lived large, even less for her a music or other artistic achievements, but because Madonna as idea, example, archetype, exists simultaneously with the real woman. The gap-toothed galpal who inspired a nation of millions to wear their underwear on top of their clothes.”
“And she goes both ways: like a mirror from an era she postdated, she spends and we watch, as she reflects us in jagged, shiny pieces. Like a crystal ball that shows the future, she absorbs the world around her and refracts it, returning to a progressive revision in the process.”
Madonna’s artistic legacy includes 14 albums, about 30 or so top-10 hits, 15 movies (the bulk of which she starred in), a book of sexual fantasies and a record company, Maverick, which boasts a roster of highly successful acts including Alanis Morissette, the Prodigy and Meshell Ndegeocello.
“The idea that I wanted it all is a misconception,” Madonna says. “Who said I wanted that? I never said I wanted it all. Look, I came from a small town in the middle of nowhere without any particular education and no special training in anything.
“I needed to go out into the world. I needed to grow and have adventures and make something out of my life. I wanted the full experience of life, without limitations.”
Though the lyrical bent of Madonna’s new Ray of Light album acknowledges past achievements — in terms of accepting it as a means of moving forward — it is a particularly brutal yet reflective assessment of fame and cut-throat ambition.
Madonna confronts her demons head-on, riding atop deceptively lush and ambient soundscapes crafted by the British underground techno artist William Orbit, but the outcome is optimistic: she finds solace in the future.
Unlike its predecessor, Bedtime Stories, which came to rely too heavily on trendy producers of the day, Ray of Light is a return to instinct, emotion. Once again, in redefining her style, Madonna is leaps ahead of the competition.
Significantly, she delivers her new album in a hush, a calm that echoes the serenity and stillness of her new life.