The JAM! Madonna interview

-- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:09 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- There's no big mystery why Madonna hooked up with such R&B-hip-hop stars as Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, producer Timbaland and his protege Nate "Danja" Hills for her new dance-pop album, Hard Candy, in stores Tuesday.

"Because I love their music and when I like something I go after it," said the 49-year-old Material Girl during a recent roundtable interview with reporters from around the world including Sun Media in a Canadian print exclusive.

"That's it -- not too intellectual," she said before elaborating. "I was just thinking about what I wanted to do next. I'd made a dance record -- my last album (2005's Confessions On A Dance Floor) -- which was mostly house music, and I was sitting around talking to (previous songwriting-producing collaborator) Stuart Price one day and he said, 'Well what do you want to do next?' I said, 'I want to make dance music as always.'

And he said, 'Well, what kind of music do you like right now?' And I said, 'Well, the only records I love are Justin's and Timbaland's.' And he said, 'Well, why don't you work with them?' So I did. It's a great sound, so why not?"

So if you think the famously chameleon-like Madge, now on her second marriage to British filmmaker Guy Ritchie and a mother of three (11-year-old daughter Lourdes, 7-year-old son Rocco and 2-year-old son David), has settled down since her early days of wanting to shock the public into thinking by pushing sexual, religious and social boundaries, think again.

On the album cover of Hard Candy, she takes on the persona of a female fighter.

"I'm still trying to make those hits," she said of her career, 25 years and sales of 200 million later.

"Everybody wants to make music that people want to listen to; that people want to hear on the radio. I've never, ever made a record where I didn't care whether people heard it or not...

"I think I probably wrote about simple, straightforward, let's-just-have-a-good-time kind of songs when I first started out. And then as I evolved and changed as a human being, my music has been a reflection of that.

"That doesn't mean I can't still write a song about just getting up and dancing and feeling good. But I think that my songs have more of a sense of irony in them or contradiction in them than they used to. And I'd like to think that they're more complex."

In the latest ELLE magazine, on which she graces the cover, The Queen of Pop describes Timberlake -- who inducted her into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame last month -- as "a gentleman," -- and Williams as "a smooth operator."

Timbaland? "A Cheshire Cat."

Madonna said her work ethic is still going strong and one of her younger collaborators was taken aback by it.

"I think it was a little bit of a surprise, not necessarily to Justin, but to Pharrell," she said.

"He just kept referring to me as a workhorse and he complained a little bit about my relentless inability to sit still for very long. But he got over it quickly.

"I have a great sense of curiosity about the world and I'm always trying to learn new things and put myself in the position where I'm working with people who know more than I do. So if I constantly put myself in a position where I'm learning something then I have something new to express."

Madonna, who claims turning 50 in August is just another reason to have a party, said writing with the two twentysomething men -- seven tunes with Williams and five with Timberlake, including the first single, Four Minutes -- basically came down to a lot of brainstorming.

"Everything that I wrote with either Justin or Pharrell was always us sitting around playing with ideas, concepts and phrases," she said.

"So a lot of times, one person would introduce the concept or a title and the other person would fill in the blanks and then vice-versa. I collaborate with people in lots of different ways. I either can come up with an entire idea with all the lyrics written or, often times, I hear music and just eight bars of music will inspire a lyric.

"Like when I heard the music from (another new song) Miles Away, I immediately started singing and the words came and I don't know where they came from, but I don't really question the creative process. It just happens the way it happens."

Despite recently having to fend off rumours of problems in her marriage to Ritchie, new songs such as Miles Away and Incredible are clearly relationship-in-trouble songs.

"I guess we're at our best when we're, Miles away," goes the lyrics in the melancholy Miles Away.

"Let's finish what we started," Madonna sings in Incredible.

Madonna said it's not difficult to express herself lyrically without giving away too much of her own privacy.

"I don't think it's hard," she said. "I think most people whether they write fiction, non-fiction, pop songs, screenplays or whatever, even if they're writing about somebody else completely, there's always going to be an element of that person in that story.

"And most of the things that I've done end up being somewhat autobiographical, a tiny bit autobiographical, or completely biographical. It's very hard for me to discern that when I'm writing.

"But I think that there's a clever way to tell a story and put your heart into it and your experiences without being obvious about the experiences. There's definitely a big part of me in the record."

There is also a sense of urgency on Hard Candy, particularly on the first single with the refrain: "We've got four minutes to save the world."

She insisted that has nothing to do with getting older.

"I don't think my age has anything to do with my sense of urgency," said Madonna, who performed at last year's London portion of the Live Earth global concert.

"I think the state of the world has to do with my sense of urgency and I think I've had this sense of urgency for quite a while. I just hadn't voiced it in my music. So I don't really think one has to do with the other.

"I do feel like we are living on borrowed time. And I think most people are coming to that understanding and it's impossible for that no to be reflected in pop culture."


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