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Madonna Interview : Esquire Magazine

MAILER: Does anyone ever speak of music videos as bearing the same relation to feature films as poetry does to novels?

MADONNA: NO, I never heard that.

MAILER: While watching “Like a Virgin,” I was thinking that the more you look at it, the richer it’s going to get. Poetry is also montage. One evocative phrase is set next to another. If you read a poem enough times, it opens – slowly, if it’s a difficult one, but finally it opens. And then every time you read it, a little more comes in. Same with good music videos.

MADONNA: That’s interesting. Never thought of that.

The music videos she had made over the last ten years had employed the services of countless directors and cameramen, but just about all of them and particularly the best – known ones — “Like a Virgin,” “Like a Prayer,” “Justify My Love,” “Borderline,” “Material Girl,” “Papa Don’t Preach,” “True Blue,” “Bad Girl,” “Rain,” “Erotica” — had belonged to Madonna. There had been an organizing principle, a discernment in the style, a characteristic irony, a sensuous sorrow, a wicked rebuttal of expectation, a hoydenish intimacy — one can go on with such a list; appreciations bear resemblance to the plucking of flower petals — but the summary fact was that watching Madonna on music video was to encounter a high intelligence in an artist. There could be no question. She not only made the best music videos of them all, but they transcended personality. She was the premier artist of music video, and it might be the only new popular art form in American life.

If one wished to measure her stature, it was interesting to compare her work with the videos of Michael Jackson. His productions were virtuoso — they depended on his person — a product of his physical gifts, his speed, his agility, his voice, his astonishing looks, whereas Madonna had transcended her own limitations to create visualizations in sound equal to fine poems; one could measure their worth by the resonance they offered. Her best videos would prove richer on each viewing; one could not perhaps say as much about Michael Jackson.

MAILER: I want to leave you with an idea. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are a great artist. [Madonna gasps slightly.] It’s on record now.


MAILER: That’s going to be the theme of this piece, that what we have among us is our greatest living female artist.

MADONNA: Thank you.

Most people, no matter how brilliant, are vessels. Once you come to the end of what is interesting in them, you can touch the side of the jar. There will be nothing afterward but repetition of what you have learned already. It might take a night, a year, or half a lifetime, but once you can reach the side of the vessel, a good part of the larger feeling is gone. And the clue to discovering that a masterwork of personality is naught but one more vessel is that you can never win an argument with a glass jar. A vessel is a vessel. Beyond is the void.

So it was agreeable talking to Madonna. She had not settled yet on any of her boundaries. Perhaps she never would.

MAILER: Did anyone ever say that you have a resemblance to Princess Diana?

MADONNA: Get out of here! No one has ever said that. That’s hysterical…. I guess I could do worse.

MAILER: A lot worse.

MADONNA: Poor Princess Diana.

© Esquire Magazine