So much of your music over these past four decades has been about putting out positive messages, whether personal or societal. Given today’s state of the nation, are you discouraged?
No. I’m anxious. I’m angry. I’m certainly concerned, but when I hear new artists finding their voices, just as I found mine, I’m optimistic. Young artists are exhibiting more courage than ever. Music is more alive than ever. And more relevant. We women artists -- and women in general -- are saying we will not be controlled, manipulated or abused. We’re determined not to fall back to those days of emotional and even physical enslavement. It’s a blessing to be alive today and join in the fight for equality among all human beings.
You mentioned younger artists. Which ones impress you the most?
Daniel Caesar is proving that romantic R&B is alive and well. Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole are proving that brilliantly original storytelling is one of hip-hop’s great gifts to world culture. SZA is proving that young women still possess extraordinary vocal skills and style.
I also have a special place in my heart for Bruno Mars. Bruno was really the first music my son responded to. During and after his birth, I comforted myself with Brazilian jazz, music that always relaxes me. Then when the baby began crawling, Bruno was breaking out big and on the radio all the time. That delighted both of us. Bruno is a throwback to the days when the greatest artists could do it all: write, sing, dance, produce.
So here you are, a single mom of 52, about to run into the studio, make new music, learn new dance moves and then embark on a grueling tour. What is the source of your drive?
The drive is in my DNA. I couldn’t lose it if I wanted to, and I don’t. Motivation is something I treasure. Besides, for all its difficulties, this is the life I love. I’m surrounded with a team of dancers, singers and musicians I love. I’m supported by fans that have stuck by me through thick and thin. They mean the world to me. Now more than ever, performing, whether in the studio or onstage, brings me a satisfaction I find nowhere else.
Like millions of other women, I’ve struggled with low self-esteem my whole life. I’m doing better in that regard. My inclination toward harsh self-criticism and even self-negation has dramatically eased up. I believe in all the different methods of help -- smart psychology, vigorous exercise and sincere spirituality.
God is the greatest healer of all and the most potent force in the universe. In my world, though, God is so often expressed through music, and it’s music that beats back the negative forces. It’s music that drowns out those voices that say I’m not enough. It’s music, and its divine source, that gifts me with the knowledge that harmony is still possible.
And while we’re talking about positivity, let me also say that my son, even in his short 17 months on the planet, has showed me that love, no matter how deeply you believe you have experienced that emotion, can always go deeper. Love is limitless. And for someone like me, raised in show business where self-concern is always a priority, how fortunate I am now to be concerned, first and foremost, with the welfare of someone else. Day after day and night after night, holding my baby in my arms, I am at peace. I am blessed. I feel bliss. In those moments, all is right with the world.