Madonna’s giving tons of interviews for the promotion of her new album Rebel Heart. One of these was with Instagram on the 10th floor of Sotheby’s auction house in New York City….
They describe her as “the 56-year-old pop goddess, sporting a black and gray dress, fingerless gloves and a shiny gold grill attached to the front of her teeth.”
The Rebel Heart cover is a stark black-and-white image, with one of the world’s most famous faces in the center, tied up in a black cord. Madonna – porcelain skin, lipstick, blonde hair strewn about – ready to face the world as she always has: authentically and with no apologies.
In January, that cord caused an uproar, when she began posting images of it wrapped around civil rights leaders, such as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. Many deemed it culturally insensitive — nothing more than a ploy to promote her new album, Rebel Heart. She later apologized while also clarifying her position, one she echoes two months later…
There are a lot of layers to the meaning of the black [cord]. On one hand you could say it’s an artist tied up in a bow, in a package. Another aspect is, it’s the restriction, or, say, the resistance that all artists — real artists — have to go through and fight for. You’re always fighting for something when you’re an artist, to have your voice heard in a certain way without people tampering with it, censoring it, editing it. And it’s getting harder and harder to have a pure voice.
For three decades, Madonna has paved the way on the acceptance of counterculture. But at a time when humanity has made great strides on gay rights, ageism and sexism, we still live in an era that, to her, seems to be moving backward as well; where artists are no longer allowed to speak as freely or be the provocateurs they once were. Not that that stops Madonna herself from being one. She speaks her mind and knows how to handle resulting controversies better than any pop star in history. Though there was one recent incident she wasn’t prepared for.
At the end of 2014, a man allegedly broke into her computer and turned it into a sieve, leaking a year-and-half’s worth of songwriting from Rebel Heart – which hadn’t even been announced yet – to the public, along with private, unreleased photos even the artist herself hadn’t seen. Madonna went ahead and finished six tracks, releasing them just before Christmas. That makes the release of this record a bit more anxiety-filled than her previous 12 studio efforts.
A few days before the record’s official release, she states…
I am in a kind of mild state of panic. It’s a little bit nerve-racking – more than usual – simply because there were so many leaks. Leaks of the demos, leaks of the masters – it was kind of like having my clothes ripped off of me on the street whether I like it or not. It was a violation – a serious violation in many ways.
Initially, Madonna’s new album, Rebel Heart, was supposed to be split into two discs: one with a more personal, introspective side, and one that featured party anthems. Instead, it’s a 19-song mishmash of both themes, from the bass-thumping “Bitch I’m Madonna” to the media critique and martyrdom of “Joan of Arc.” The latter is the one getting much of the attention, specifically the track’s opening line: “Each time they take a photograph / I lose a part I can’t get back / I want to hide / This is the part where I detach.”
Another song, the titular “Rebel Heart,” deals with her egotism: “I’ve spent some time as a narcissist … Outgrown my past and I’ve shed my skin / Letting it go and I’ll start again, start again.”
About this lyric…
I think I was pretty self-obsessed until I had children. I think most artists are. Being a mother brings up so many different emotions. But I don’t think it stopped me from saying what I want to say or doing what I want to do.
Clearly not. Madonna is still going to be Madonna. She’s still going to speak her mind and be bizarre and unique, like using a sock puppet to promote her upcoming world tour.
According to her, she met the sock in Bucharest…
She approached me. She just showed up in my hotel room.
She’s also going to sing songs about oral sex and love and narcissism, and call herself a freedom fighter. Most importantly, she says, she’s still going to pray before her albums come out. This time, those prayers are making sure the rest of the Rebel Heart release and world tour go smoothly. As she says…
Fingers crossed. Legs crossed. Toes crossed. Socks crossed. Grills on.