BB: Why didn’t you work with people who are more established? Why take the risk of working with relatively new producers?
MADONNA: I’m all about finding stuff beneath the surface and bringing it out. I’m not at all interested in working with people who are a part of the establishment, or who are set in their ways. I’m a pioneer. I want to dig up new ground, and I don’t want to be safe. People aren’t always going to be into that, or want to spend money on that. But as an artist, that is the only thing that is going to make me happy. Shep and ‘Dre are still very raw. They’re young, and they’re hungry. That’s so exciting to work with.
BB: There seems to be a lot more angst than sex on this album.
MADONNA: I think a lot of people are on the pain tip with me — that I’m this sad and lonely person, and that I’m cold, and that there’s a lot of loneliness and sadness in my voice. That may be true. I think this album is very cynical. In the past, I’ve written a lot of songs of pure joy about living and laughing and loving and dancing. That’s all fine, but that’s not all there is to life. Who wants to hear songs that only say “I love you baby, you’re my dream come true”? I think my record is real female-in-the-world-today; like a woman of the ’90s, who is intelligent, has her own career, and has shit happening. [“Bye Bye Baby”] is about a relationship in which someone tries to fuck her over, and she says “I’m not having this.” And [“Where Life Begins”] says if you want to be involved with me, then you have to get into oral sex. This is real life.
BB: Do you think people are freaked out that a woman can take that kind of control over her sex life?
MADONNA: Totally! I don’t know one girl who I don’t have that conversation with. Guys are allowed to talk about it. I’m not trying be feminist, but it’s a female-in-charge kind of record. I talk about stuff you don’t normally get to talk about; like giving head, you’re breaking my heart … it’s not a pretty picture, it’s not perfect, but it’s life.
BB: And haven’t men been writing about oral sex for years?
MADONNA: Exactly! All of a sudden I write about it and it’s scandal. It’s like, “No, I will not fit into this box you’ve made for me.” That was the whole thing with my book. The outrage … I make fun of people’s outrage, too. First I talk about the subject, and then hidden underneath that is the reaction I know I’m going to get, and then I address that. People think I’m mind-fucking them.
BB: Some people seem so threatened by others who can take their day-to-day lives and reconcile it with their sexual fantasies.
MADONNA: They don’t want to see us as happy people. They want to paint pictures of us as being tragic and sad, or lonely and desperate. It’s hard to be different. And it’s hard to be famous and different — but I wouldn’t want it any other way. [Laughs] I didn’t go through all of this to end up like somebody else.
BB: Does it bother you that such outrage and media attention to the various things you do takes away from your music?
MADONNA: It does bother me. I wish people would … I hear people saying they’re outraged by the book, and then I find out that they’ve never read it. People don’t take the time to listen, understand, and read.
BB: At this point in your life, what motivates you to make music?
MADONNA: My work as an artist has nothing to do with fame and fortune. I’m a storyteller and I have things I want to say. I find people and humanity tremendously inspiring — whether I’m shocked and repulsed by it, or shedding tears of joy. The more famous I am, and the more life comes racing at me at incredible speed in all shapes and forms — especially with this book and watching people on “Sally Jessy Raphael” arguing over me — I have truly seen the scope of the stupidity of mankind, I’m dumbfounded. Then I think, “God, there’s so much that people don’t know.” It galvanizes me. People’s stupidity makes me want to regurgitate more information. I feel inspired to enlighten. I like to do that by telling stories through songs, videos, whatever. These are untraditional situations being played out in my songs. They’re about real people.
BB: How do you stay in touch with real people?
MADONNA: I won’t live in a mansion on a hill, cut off from the world. That’s not me or where my roots are. Yeah, it can be a pain in the ass sometimes. But I find a way to do it. I have to stay in touch with people and humanity. Otherwise, I’ll just die.