Madonna interview with Romain Burrel for French magazine “Têtu” [Translated]
May 22, 2019 Interviews

Madonna interview with Romain Burrel for French magazine “Têtu” [Translated]

Madonna graces the cover of Têtu, the summer 2019 edition, which also includes the only interview Madonna gave to the French media.

Check out the full interview with Romain Burrel.
Translation by Madonnarama…

Têtu: Madame X is clearly your most political album since American Life what was your state of mind? Were you afraid? Were you angry? Have you had enough?
Madonna: A little bit of everything. I am afraid. I’m frightened by so many things that are going on in the world. As you are I’m sure. But I’m also optimistic. I feel like the future is full of possibilities. I hope I was able to channel my anger and my rage in order to create music full of joy. And I wish that these new songs will inspire people to react. As it’s what we have to do with our rage. We won’t change the world with fury. I feel every emotion you mentioned. To me, in many ways, this album is the continuation of American Life.

On “Killers Who Are Partying”, you sing “I’ll be Israel, if Israel is imprisoned. / I’ll be Islam, if Islam is attacked.” What should we understand? That you want become one with minorities?
What Mirwais and I try to say in this song, is that we don’t see the world in a fragmented way, but as a unity. And I am part of that. I see myself as part of the soul of the Universe. I don’t see the world through categories and labels. But society loves to categorise, put labels and separate people: the poor, the gays, the Africans… because it gives us a sense of security. What I say in this song is that I will be every label people try to put on us. I will be on the front line. I’ll take the punches, the shots. Because I am a citizen of the world and because my soul is connected to all other humans. So I am responsible for everyone I need to take care of them. If one person suffers, I suffer. To me, this song is an act and a declaration of solidarity.

Mirwais produced 6 songs on this album, including this one. How was the reunion?
We never fell out of touch. It was great working together again. ‘Killers Who Are Partying” is the first song worked on. It’s a political song but everything Mirwais and I do together, always ends up being political. Because it’s also his way of thinking. The guitar we hear during the intro of the song is a sample I recorded myself during a fado session. The sound of this guitar is exactly what I wanted. I really felt inspired by the melancholy and the feeling of this music, by the sound of Cesária Évora, by morna [music] and Cape Verde. The authenticity of the music I heard everywhere in Portugal touched me. I wanted to make this music my own and make it sound more modern. I asked Mirwais: “What do you think you can do with it Does it inspire you?” Of course, he really liked it.

In the song “Dark Ballet”, you sing “Our world is full of pain.” Are you not part of “our world” anymore?
I’m not saying that your world is not mine anymore. I just say that this world where people are ruled and dominated by the illusion of fame and luck… ruled, dominated and enslaved by social media… ruled and dominated by oppressors who discriminate people endlessly… this world, I refuse to be a part of it. This song, “Dark Ballet,” was inspired by Joan of Arc and her story. It’s like a point of connection. Madame X and Joan of Arc come together. I speak her words and her language and I say: “I am not afraid to die for what I believe in.” And it’s exactly what I feel.

A year ago, you commented on a photo your manager Guy Oseary posted regarding the 20-year anniversary of Ray of Light: “Remember when i made records with other artists from beginning to end and I was allowed to be a visionary?”. Have you been allowed to be a visionary this time?
I think you are taking things out of context… (Her publicist steps in: It’s unclear. Do you have another question?”, but Madonna continues) I don’t remember exactly what I wrote at the time. But I was surely was not criticising Guy Oseary. Nobody has ever not allowed me to do me anything. Yes, people criticise me, but nobody ever told me I couldn’t be a visionary. People often warn me however and say “Be careful!” (and she moves her finger like someone would when reprimanding a child).

Do you think this album will shake the music industry?
I wouldn’t use this word to describe my music. Provocative, conflicting, emotional, passionate: those are the words I would use. And I also hope “inspiring.”

In the intro of “I Rise”, we can hear a sample of Emma González’ speech, one of the survivors of the High School shooting in Parkland who became an icon and advocate for gun control. Do you feel you’ve inspired this generation?
I hope so. That’s what I am looking for. I see Emma as a spokeswoman and pioneer for her generation. I just keep doing what I have always done. I fight for women’s rights and humans in general. I fight for equality.

In “Medellín”, the first single of the album, you reminisce about your early days, when you were 17. What do you think of your career?
I think I’ve taken a lot of shit! (laughs). That’s for sure. I feel like I’ve broken multiple barriers for women who came after me. But I’m aware that our fight is far from being over. And to be honest, I feel like I’m still fighting for the same things today.

“Like a Prayer” was released 30 years ago and created a huge controversy. Are you trying to replicate a similar controversy today?
Honestly, when I wrote “Like a Prayer,” I didn’t think that the song would cause such controversy. It’s the video that shocked people: the fact that I kiss a black saint, that I dance in front of burning crosses… people saw it as a sacrilege. But I didn’t think for one second that things would be perceived like this. All of this was very controversial but it was not my first intention. This time, however, I mean to be subversive!

Provocation has always been a way for you to draw people’s attention to important matters like LGBT+ rights, racism, women… But today, it’s more the conservatives that use provocation, right?
Give me examples!

People like Trump or Marine Le Pen…
If you are a narrow-minded person and you use provocation, then that will be your message. Everything depends on the intention (laughs). I am not a narrow-minded person. I am not provocative so I can put people down and put up barriers or tell them “Stay seated.” I am at the opposite off that. Use provocation to destroy is not my intention.

Do you feel connected with your LGBT+ fans? Do you claim the status of the gay icon?
I think it’s weird to call myself an icon. I feel blessed to have a voice, and to be able to use it to help people who don’t have one and to fight for the rights of those who are not heard. I think the word ‘icon’ is a word that other people can give you. But I can’t claim it for myself. Do you think I’m an icon?

You are the definition of the word!
If Têtu thinks I am an icon, then I am an icon!

Is this album a tribute to your life in Portugal?
You listened to it. You tell me if you think it payed tribute to Portugal and to fado? Not only fado by the way. There are lots of other influences I took since I live there. But obviously this is where the album was born. Even if there are other influences, this album is cleary an expression of my time in Portugal. I have a house there and I go there often. My son still plays football at Benfica. But you know, I live on airplanes. The sky is my home (laughs). I hope my Portuguese is good. I had a good coach, Dino D’Santiago. He helped me a lot and introduced me to amazing musicians. He played a major part in the creation of this record.

We don’t know Dino D’Santiago well. Could you tell us more about your collaboration with him?
He was kind of an interface. He is from Cape Verde and most of the musicians from Cape Verde I worked with don’t speak English. He was in the studio with me when we were recording. He told them what I wanted. He helped me musically to give life to these songs because I had no other way to communicate with them. Well, in a way, I was able to thanks to the music. We wrote a song called “Funana” which will be a bonus track. I have another song called “Ciao Bella” which is not on the deluxe version of the album. The singer Kimi Djabaté, who’s from Guinée-Bissau, sings on this track. Once again, it’s Dino who introduced me to him. When he came to sing for this album, he didn’t speak a word of English, only Creole. Dino was the translator and really helped me. When I recorded “Killers Who Are Partying” and “Extreme Occident” which are definitely influenced by morna, I sent them the tracks. I really wanted his feedback. I wanted to know if he felt the songs were authentic. His approval was very important to me.

How do you choose the people you collaborate with, like Maluma for example?
It happens in a very organic way. All my collaborations are decided when meeting the people. We share a glass of champagne, we get along and we talk about the things we could accomplish together. To tell you the truth, there is nothing really deep about that. It’s very instinctive. I am a fan of every person I’ve collaborated with.

You’ve often collaborated with French people: Jean-Paul Gaultier, JR, Martin Solveig, Mirwais… What is your connection with you?
Yes! What’s this connection with the French? It’s like I can’t get rid of them (laughs). They are the authors of my biggest collaborations. Mondino, Gaultier, Mirwais… I think I love them because they are very… stubborn [stubborn means têtu in French, which is the name of the magazine.] They stand up to me. The people you mentioned are very intellectual people, extremely creative, very cultured. We share a beautiful synergy. (She slams her glass on the table and yells “Aqua por favor!” Everybody jumps. She then points to a photographer and yells “Who let the paparazzi in!? Who are you? Do I know you?” The photographer stops, terrorised. « It’s Ricardo, Madonna’s official photographer » her publicist clarifies. Everybody laughs.)

On the album, you sing in Portuguese and in Spanish. Is it a way to challenge the dominance of English in pop music?
That’s exactly it! I like the idea of world music. I hate compartmentalising. We don’t want to do it with people, why should we do it with music? I like to turn on to the radio in New York and listen to people sing in Spanish, take my car in Lisbon and listen to reggaeton or dancehall. It’s great. Stepping away from English is a challenge, but you know I like challenges.

Madame X is available in Box Set, CD, Vinyl and Cassette!
Get your copy HERE!

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