In the more than ten years since she appeared on SPIN’s first cover Madonna has grown boy-toy to mature balladeer without sacrificing her passion, her sensuality, or her integrity. In perhaps her most revealing interview yet, the world’s most famous woman opens her heart to Bob Guccione, Jr.
In November, Madonna released Something to Remember, a greatest-hits collection of her ballads, 11 previously released, and three new recordings: a remake of Marvin Gaye’s classic “I Want You,” and two Madonna compositions, “You’ll See” and “One More Chance”
Since the mic 80s, Madonna has occupied a fascinating place in our culture: that of sexual barometer / searchlight / conscience. It’s a role she invented out of a swirl of personal insecurities, monumental ambition, and enigmatic charisma.
MTV fueled her, on the times cultivated her, as if she were not an actual person, but a chain of organic reactions to the moment. Controversy nourished her career, escalated her ascension, and more talent than she is normally credited with soon made her the biggest star in the world. Except for inevitable backclash–which in her case began with the publication of her Sex book–and the public’s fickleness toward her past couple of albums she has more or less reclaimed her throne.
Madonna is what the press love to call a surviour. But that’s too simplistic, it implies that her induring popularity is due to resistance and tenacity alone. Madonna has prevailed bacause we want her to prevail. Our initail ifatuation and torrid love affair has grown into a decade-long marriage, in which we’ve been thrilled and dissapointed, often to extremes, but we’ve settled together. Something to Remember is a beautiful record – the three new cuts give it the life so desperatelly missing from most greatest-hits packages, and it’s the perfect midpont for a … well, no marriage is perfect.
Madonna and I have not always seen eye-to-eye – I wrote two editorials for Spin criticizing Truth or Dare and Sex – but before this interview we have never met. Two years ago, when I heard that she was upset by my critiques, i suggested to her people (and boy does she have a lot of people) that I should interview her, and we should utilize the tention of adversity, of different views. Good idea, Bob, they said – don’t call us, we’ll call you.
But this past fall, Madonna’s publicist called and said the singer would like to do that interview after all, and I flew to London.
Our discussion took place over two days : first in her hotel suite, high atop one of London’s few legitimatelly tall buildings, then the next day at the studio where she was recording the soundtrack for Evita. She is due to start schooting the movie version in january in Argentina, much to the chagrin of Argentine president Carlos Menen, who recently felt obliged to express his outrage over pop music’s lead diva playing Argentinean history’s lead diva, Eva Peron. We met clandenstinely at the studio – Andrew Lloyd Webber insisted on the recording session being closed, so I posed as her friend and sat in the waiting room.
Spin: Are you dissapointed that Time Warner jettisoned Interscope? Shouldn’t a company whose main product is artistic expression stand up for its artists?
Madonna: [Sighs] I’ve had several discussions with [Warner Music Group CEO] Michael Fuchs and said, look, I’m not a big fan of music that’s degrading to women or that promotes violence. I am offended by these things too. I’m offended by a movie like Showgirls. I still don’t think that the way to remedy the situation is to go around telling everybody what they can and can’t do.
I think Time Warner, or any of these big. corporate conglomerate entities, should encourage work that is morally uplifting. that counteracts all [the negative sluff]. I think when you’re fed a steady diet of crap, you come to expect it after a while. But art is not really a very important part of our culture any more. I was talking to k.d. lang about it last night. I don’t want to get into slagging off other artists, but we were talking about her record versus someone like Mariah Carey’s — and I think she’s a very talented singer — but we have to realize that the same country that acquitted O.J. is the same country that makes a complete piece of shit movie No.1, that buys Marian Carey records. It’s this homogeneity. But it’s got nothing to do with art.
We are living in generally uninspired times. Why?
Fear of change We are becoming too technologically advanced and unconsciously frightening people. Nobody wants to be a schoolteacher anymore, and education is at an all-time low. Schools are not places whore people learn, they’re just pens that people got baby-sat in and teachers get shot at.