Madonna's sweet success continues
Madonna has arguably been reigning as the Queen of Pop for the last two decades but, with her new album 'Hard Candy', she has taken an undeniable risk.
Despite changing the music industry when she teamed up with producer William Orbit on her 1998 record 'Ray of Light', Madonna now seems to be listening to the music currently in the industry and adapting her sound to fit in.
Moving away from the sound that shot her to fame, she has teamed up with producers Pharrell Williams and Timbaland and singer Justin Timberlake on the new record.
But has the risk paid off?
It seems it has with '4 Minutes', the single featuring the soulful voice of Justin, hitting the top spot in 21 countries including the UK, Australia and Canada.
The former boy band member also pushed her to experiment with her sound.
"It's an R'n'B/pop/dance record, but it's still Madonna. A couple of times I pushed her in a direction where it took a minute before we saw eye to eye," he confessed. "Her approach was, 'Well, I just haven't done that' and I was like, 'Yeah, that's why you should do it'."
It's not only '4 Minutes' that Justin had a hand in - he also co-wrote 'Miles Away', 'Dance 2night', 'Devil Wouldn't Recognize You' and 'Voices'.
"I really enjoy writing with Justin", Madonna said. "We had psychoanalytic sessions whenever we wrote songs first. We'd sit down and we'd start talking about situations. And then we'd start talking about issues or problems or relationships with people. That was the only way, because you know, writing together with somebody is very intimate. I haven't worked with a lot of songwriters where I'm instantly connected and start riffing and playing with the rhythm of the words. He's as interested in the rhythm of the words as the meaning of the words."
Pharrell Williams was largely responsible for a lot of the album, co-writing seven of the 12 tracks, but Madonna said she was unsure about working with the producer.
"When I was on tour, Pharrell approached me and said he wanted to work with me on some music and I had been a huge fan of his for a long time. I had also heard the work he had done and thought it was good," she said.
"But I don't normally work with artists who are performers - they were difficult and I wasn't."
The 49-year-old singer also revealed it was only because of Pharrell's lucky Mickey Mouse slippers that the album actually got made.
"Pharrell had these lucky charms, including the Mickey Mouse slippers," she laughed. "He said he couldn't work without them!"
However, while some fans may be disappointed by the new sound - which couldn't be different from the innocent beats of 'Holiday' or the emotion of 'Like a Virgin' - '4 Minutes' undoubtedly has the same catchiness as Madonna's other tracks.
"I just wanted to write sings that people couldn't get out of their heads and hopefully I accomplished that," she said.
Madonna also receives a lot of attention from both the press and her fans because of her family life.
Married to 'Snatch' director Guy Ritchie, the singer made headlines in2006 when she adopted David Banda, who was then one, from Malawi.
She was accused of using her fame to speed up the official adoption process, but has always denied the claims and insists David would have died if she hadn't acted when she did.
"He wouldn't have lived if I hadn't taken him," she sighed. "It's not even a possibility."
But as much as her marriage causes her aggravation in terms of having to deny divorce rumours almost daily, Madonna says Guy and her children, David, Lourdes and Rocco act as her biggest critics.
"When I was making the album I used to play it to Guy and the kids on our long drives to our house in the country. They would all give their views on the music," she said.
"Guy isn't worried about being critical about my stuff. He's always the first one to groan and say, 'I don't like that'. But I like that about him. He always has an opinion. Even if it's the opposite of mine."
And Madonna - who is a tireless AIDS activist - is already passing on her passion for charity campaigning to her 11-year-old daughter Lourdes, who recently accompanied her to Malawi.
"Lourdes spent several weeks working in the orphanages, particularly one with newborn children, and most of them were HIV-positive," she said. "She so came into her own and was so responsible and stayed for eight hours every day and worked tirelessly. I thought, why am I babying her so much?
"She's capable of so much more. We don't let kids do anything. We think, 'Oh, they're kids - they can't take care of other kids, they can't do this and they can't do that.' And after you go to Africa, you drop all that silliness."
Despite causing controversy with her sexy outfits and raunchy on-stage performances, Madonna says regardless of turning 50 in August, she has no intention of slowing down on her upcoming 'Sticky and Sweet' tour - which starts in Cardiff, Wales, on August 26 and ends in Miami on November 26.
"I'm not going to be defined by my age," she said. "Why should any woman? I'm not going to slow down, get off this ride, stay home and get fat. I feel great and if anything, I'm probably speeding up.
"There's so much more in my life to deal with. I've got work to do, children to raise, a husband to please and a world to save. I have a total sense of urgency about it. I don't feel I've done everything I do feel I want more, more, more!"
It seems Madonna's reign is far from over.
By Sarah Bull
© BANG Media International