It’s All About The “Music”
With her new album, “Music,” slated for release Sept. 19 and its title-song single and video launching this week, artist/executive Madonna prepares for her latest assault on the global marketplace, as well as the imminent birth of her second child. In a conversation with HITS’ own material boy, Marc “Jackson” Pollack, the pop queen discusses her new album, video clip, single, the “butt energy in video” and how she balances recording and running her Maverick Records label.
How much input did you have in the concept, animation and locations of the “Music” video?
The concept was mine in terms of doing a takeoff on the whole [range of] stereotypes that are portrayed in R&B and rap videos. We were just having fun with role reversals, essentially, because you never see girls doing what guys do in videos. You go out and you ride with your friends, with your road dawgs, and it’s just a night out on the town – and this song, in particular, is such a party song. It’s a great dance song as well, but I’m very pregnant, and I was five-and-a-half months into the pregnancy when we shot it. I was really limited in what I could do, so I had to think of a concept that would incorporate me being almost a voyeur rather than the central force in the video. So I figured if I played this kind of mack-daddy/pimp character, where things just came to me, happened to me and happened around me while I was watching it all happen, I could kill two birds with one stone. It’s really just a typical night out on the town with my girlfriends.
Part of the video takes place in a strip club; are you trying to bring that experience into the mainstream?
You cannot get away from the butt energy in video, whether it be Snoop Dogg, “The Thong Song” or anything else. If you are spoofing something, you have to go all the way. Not only that, but girls go to strip clubs all the time and nobody has ever truly portrayed that. It’s always about the guys partaking in the strip-club activity.
The album itself seems like a natural progression from “Ray Of Light.” Was that the direction that you thought about before going into the process of writing songs and making a new record?
I always want to move forward, so I hope that I am doing that [now]. I don’t want to repeat myself, ever, and in the process of when I began working with William [Orbit], I remember that I started off saying, “Let’s not do the same thing we already did.” The “Ray Of Light” album was a very dense and layered foray into electronic music, and I wanted the new record to be stripped-down – something minimal, yet harder and edgier. I wanted to strip off the effects on my vocals and make everything have a much rawer sound. While I wanted those changes, I still wanted to [incorporate the] electronic pop aspects of “Ray Of Light.” As I started working with William, I really wasn’t sure if I was going to do the whole record with him. I knew I wanted to experiment and collaborate with other people so I found Mirwais during the writing process with William. There were lots of people [involved] in this record. I was just sort of hopping around experimenting with people and seeing who was going to come up with the sensibility of where I was at.
The new album seems to be a blending of musical styles – a step away from a strictly defined medium.
I think, more than anything, if I’ve tapped into a specific genre, that sound has had an effect on what I am doing. Over the past year or so, I was into all this stuff coming out of France – you know, Daft Punk, Rinocerose and Air. I like finding genres that are underground and try to make them more popular. I’m not by any means saying that my music is pure. I’m always going to be a hodgepodge of lots of different influences, and I think music today, especially pop music, is just that.
It seems to be the kind of thing that today’s fans are very interested in – a homogenized mixture.
You’re right. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not to call it that, because “homogenized” is a scary word; it’s the last thing you want to describe art as being. We’re just so inundated with [lesser music] right now. I like different styles; I like being able to say, “Now I want to hear Latin music – Now I want to hear some hardcore rap.” I like the different junctions, but [in a way] it’s scary that everything is kind of mushing together.
I think the MTVs of the world and the younger fan demographic have a lot to do with that.
It also reeks so much of artists just wanting to be the most popular. The way to be the most popular is to sort of cover everything and every interest, which is great for selling records and great in the small picture, but I don’t think it’s good for an artist who wants to sustain a long career. Not too many people seem to really give a shit about artists sustaining long careers anymore. I feel like music has really become so innocuous.
There was a time when you looked forward to the fourth, fifth, sixth release from a career artist. These days, it’s surprising for a newcomer to even have a third release.
Most artists can’t even get their records played unless [they] are 18 years old. There are so many fantastic artists out there not getting heard, especially a lot of bands that I love in Europe. Everyone is frustrated because it’s so hard to get your record played on radio and to sell records.
Unless, of course, you fit into the youth explosion. The whole kiddie-pop thing doesn’t seem to be going away.
No. I watched a documentary on The Sex Pistols the other day called “The Filth and the Fury,” and I just hope somebody comes along like Johnny Rotten or Sid Vicious and tears the belly out of [teenpop] – you know what I mean? Somebody’s gotta get punk-rock on their asses. There is nothing rebellious about today’s sounds, and [music] needs to be rebellious.
Let’s get back to the new album. What’s the game plan for its rollout?
I’m having the baby in a month. About a month after the album comes out, I’m going to do a couple of club dates and perform in places like the Roxy in New York. Then I’ll go to England and do a couple of club dates there and go around Europe and just do small shows. We’ll see how the record does and judge what the response is. Then I’ll start thinking about doing a proper tour – you know, now that I’ve done my procreating thing.
Who helped you A&R the record? Anyone at Maverick?
Well, Guy [Oseary], always. He’s a huge influence on me in terms of people that I work with, and he’s always throwing ideas at me and demos that people send him, saying, “Check this out.” He turned me onto Mirwais, and he turned me onto William [Orbit] when I worked on “Ray Of Light.” He’s always championed me that way and A&R’d me that way. He’s always fantastic to me and goes through the whole project with me, listens to everything – but we don’t always agree. He and my manager, Caresse [Henry] both really held my hand through the whole project.
Compared to the other albums in your body of work, where do you stack this one?
This is my favorite. I hate to sound predictable, but I just love the way it sounds, and lyrically it is far superior to anything I’ve done. But you be the judge of it.
I’m impressed by the depth of the album as well.
I now have something to say. God knows I didn’t when I started out.
It seems that you’re very happy with the way your career is going and with your manager, Caresse. You recently renegotiated your contract with Warner Bros. Records, and there was a chance of that getting sticky, but all seems well.
As you know, in every area of life you’re going to get the best job from somebody who’s got something to prove, and I’m very happy with the work Caresse has done and the new deal that we signed. She’s doing a really good job – I’m very proud of her.
What about the impending deals that your parent company, Warner Bros., is involved in with AOL? Do you think that that will have any effect on Maverick or on you?
Yeah! More money, and hopefully we’ll get a larger cash flow. Hello! I mean, we are operating a record company with one arm tied behind our back. Hopefully, it’s going to mean something great for us. We’ve made an enormous amount of money for Warner Bros. in spite of the fact that we’ve lost money on our own. That’s just the way the deal is constructed. They’re the major winners in our situation. But I would hope that with this whole merging scenario, it’s going to mean that we’ll have more of a cash flow to fool around with, because we need it. I mean, we want to go on to the next phase. You have to think big, and you have to be able to have enough money to make mistakes. We always want to sign artists that we love and think are really cool, but we have a business too.
The Deftones have made a huge splash. You have to be psyched about their sales.
God, yeah! We’re so happy. We’ve been championing them for quite a long time, and it’s great that they’re finally getting the attention they deserve.
On a day-to-day basis, how much of a role do you play in the operation of Maverick? Do you take an interest in running the company, or is it your key hires like Guy and Ronnie Dashev who do that and report to you?
It’s a combination of everything. A lot of stuff comes my way, and I bring it to Guy. The business side of it is really more Ronnie Dashev and Guy. It sort of moves around. I wouldn’t say anybody just does one job. When I was away in London working on my album and really engrossed in what I was doing, it was much harder for me to pay attention to the day-to-day stuff. So it comes and goes in spurts for me. I’m aware of everything that’s going on, and thank God for the Internet and Fed Ex – I hear everything that’s going on. But it isn’t until I can actually get back to L.A. that I can get involved in the day-to-day stuff again. That was the arrangement that Guy and I had when we started. I’m a recording artist too, and I don’t want to abandon my own career.
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