Madonna, Queen of Pop® and Portuguese Soccer Mom, has officially had it.
As we’ve known for at least a month now, the emoji-abusing pop icon is working on new music again, resulting in what, presumably, will be her fourteenth studio album – the follow-up to 2015’s leak-plagued Rebel Heart.
What we didn’t know, until Sunday (February 25), is that she’s displeased with the modern, not-so-X-Static Process of songwriting camps – which, apparently, she’s being unwillingly sent to.
On Friday (February 23), Guy Oseary feted the 20th anniversary of her 1998 Kabbalah Mom Opus, Ray Of Light, with a throwback MTV video of himself and Madge discussing the recording process for the then-new album.
“20 year anniversary of 👑 @madonna RAY OF LIGHT album.. One of the greatest albums of all time.. It was the first @Madonna album I worked on.. You can see from this video the kind of relationship we had then.. NOTHING has changed.. If you filmed us today, it would be the same dynamic.. Love this woman. Love this album. One day she will hopefully do a tour for this album.. It deserves to be performed from start to finish.. ❤️💛💚 respect to @williamorbit for his brilliant work on this album.. 👏👏 .. Also two groundbreaking videos #Frozen by Chris Cunningham and #rayoflight by my dear friend @jonasakerlund .. those were really fun times,” he wrote. An appropriately nostalgic note, complete with a tease of an idea that will likely never come to fruition. (A Ray Of Light Tour in the future? Please. Don’t do this to us, Guy.)
As opposed to chiming in with a thumbs up emoji of recognition or something else similarly unbothered, Madonna responded to Guy’s post with a blunt rant in front of the world.
“Can you help me now please!! 😂” she commented.
“Remember when i made records with other artists from beginning to end and I was allowed to be a visionary and not to go to song writing camps where No one can sit still for more than 15 minutes…….. 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 coming soon.”
Naturally, in Madonna-on-Instagram form, this only leaves more questions than answers: who’s she mad at? Who’s preventing her from recording start-to-finish with an artist? Which artist, for that matter? And who’s been sending her, unwillingly, to song writing camps? Also, which songwriters can’t still in front of MADONNA?
She might be dragging Guy, publicly. Or Interscope Records, through which she has at least one more album to release with her current contract. Most likely, however, she’s just fed up with the state of songwriting today in general.
Songwriting camps aren’t a new concept, and she’s used tracks cut from those kinds of sessions for at least a few years: William Orbit, for instance, revealed on a Twitter rant in early 2011 that he had co-written a song with Klas Ahlund for Britney‘s Femme Fatale during a writing camp at Teresa LaBarbera‘s place. A year later, an Orbit-Ahlund co-write called “Some Girls” popped up on MDNA.
Some are suggesting that M’s rant is specifically meant as shade directed at Beyonce or Rihanna, who’ve relied on the process to create their records, like Anti and Lemonade. But that just feels like a wannabe stan war: plenty of other artists rely on the process. Julia Michaels‘ solo hit, “Issues,” was born of a Benny Blanco–Stargate writing camp, and several artists including Charli XCX cut the track until Julia ultimately decided to keep it for herself. So, no, this probably isn’t a very specific attack.
Instead, M-Dolla is likely feeling nostalgic for a time before the practice of putting twenty different writing credits on the same track was so common.
Up until 2008’s Hard Candy, when the kitchen was really starting to get crowded, M generally kept her collaborator list intimate. Barring a few outside collaborations sprinkled in between, one or two names generally helped to shape her record’s sound in the past: Stuart Price. Mirwais. Orbit. Shep Pettibone. Patrick Leonard.
By the time Rebel Heart rolled around, Madge went almost to the opposite extreme: the writing and production list is like a Who’s Who of Music Publishing. Just look at Australian songwriter Joelistics, who got 1.5% of his songwriting cut years later for crafting the middle eight melody on “Veni Vidi Vici” after the song was passed through several hands. That album remains great, but perhaps the impersonality left her feeling cold. (Frozen, if you will.)
This also isn’t the first time she’s broached the subject.
“People do produce records in their hotel rooms, in airports while they’re waiting for planes, in between gigs,” she explained during a Rebel Heart promotional interview (above). “They’re done in a very fragmented way. That was hard for me to adapt to.”
“I think a lot of those producers are used to working with people that way. And I would just say ‘Well, I’m not gonna work this way. I’m waiting until you come back into the city, and you’re in the room with me, and we’re going to finish the track. We’re going to, like, look into each other’s eyes and finish this song,'” she said. “That’s how it goes now.”
If Madonna isn’t happy crafting songs in the way many pop stars do today (she’s never liked to do it like anybody else, to be fair), then this is her opportunity to take the reigns, regain creative control – assuming she’s made a compromise to begin with – and craft the album exactly the way she wants to. (In this case, it might mean physically tying someone down for a few days, which…I wouldn’t put past her.)
“Monday Manifesto……………Love Yourself ♥️. Comfort is Poison and Genius is Born of Limitations. 🥊 #resistance,” Madonna captioned a selfie one day later, followed by another post: “I know, I know, I’m standing up for myself. I am such a bitch.”
She’s Madonna, for God’s sake. No one’s going to stop her now.
Photo credit: Terry Richardson for Harper’s Bazaar