Interviewer: Did you see the Frida Kahlo show at Tate Modern?
Madonna: Yes. Two of my paintings were in it. I’m waiting for them to come back.
Interviewer: But they don’t say “Property of Madonna” in the way that some of the Edward Hopper paintings had “Property of Steve Martin” underneath?
Madonna: Perhaps they should say “Property of a Pop Star”. I think they just say “Private Collection”. I did go to the show – kind of depressing.
Interviewer: Presumably there will be a tour next year?
Madonna: Probably the Confessions Tour or Confess Your Sins Tour.
Stuart Price: In a live performance you realise within 30 seconds whether something’s working or not. In a studio you can disappear into this intellectual, er…
Stuart Price: Wank, yes. You can think you’re making something really meaningful but in a live arena it just won”t translate. So when we were working on stuff here I would play the tracks when I was DJing and nobody would know what it was and you could see how things were actually working from the reaction.
Madonna: That was one thing we did on this record that I haven”t had the luxury of doing before. Because Stuart DJs all over the world we tried it all out – dub versions so they wouldn”t know it was me or there would only be a strain of my vocal in the background. I even made him film things for me on his telephone so I could see the crowd reaction.
Stuart Price: It just looks like Sodom and Gomorrah. If the reaction wasn”t instant we”d go back and change the tracks.
Madonna: If only I could do everything like that – anonymously.
Interviewer: What do you want the new album to achieve?
Madonna: I just want people to hear it and go “Oh my God”. I want it to lift people up and get them dancing round their house, driving round in their car until the record’s finished. It’s really simple. I just want to make people happy.
A few weeks after we spoke, with her bones healed, she emerged from beneath a glitterball to sing “Hung Up” at the MTV Europe awards in Lisbon. The dance routine left her a little breathless, but she was clearly having a good time. Later in the show she gave Bob Geldof an award for his humanitarian work, and her presentation speech was as genuine as these things can be; Geldof had found a way to make a difference beyond music, something Madonna wished to do herself.
But for the time being, there was a disco album to promote, and when the MTV show was over she turned her attention to an intimate gig in Mornington Crescent, north London. Koko, formerly the Camden Palace, was the venue for Madonna’s first appearance in the capital in 1983, and on her return on Tuesday night she performed as though there might still be things to prove. “It is so fucking good to be back,” she said, not long before she started headbanging.
It was a great little show. Her clothes were mauve, the glitterball spun, Stuart Price and the other musicians looked like a Seventies covers band in their white suits. She started by singing “Hung Up”, her new number one, and followed that with three other songs from the album, which at that point in the week was outselling its nearest competitor three-to-one. She introduced “I Love New York” with the explanation that it was where she learnt to survive. Ultimately, Madonna said, “it’s all about survival.”
The queen of pop: then & now
© The Observer Magazine