Madonna spoke with Billboard’s Keith Caulfield backstage at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards on Wednesday (May 1), chatting about preparing for her performance with Maluma, why she wanted to team up with Swae Lee on “Crave,” the process of creating her new album Madame X, and from where she drew the inspiration for its title.
To prepare for their BBMAs performance of their collaborative song “Medellin,” Madonna tells Billboard that she started rehearsing many months ago to nail down the technology, the green screen personas, and the actual performance with Maluma.
She also opens up about how she joined forces with Swae Lee on the song “Crave,” explaining that it was one of the first songs she had written when she first started on her new record, but she put it on the backburner when she began working with other musicians in Lisbon.
Upon listening to it again, she realized she needed to recruit a collaborator. “I thought I need to sing with a man on this song cause it’s a song about desire and longing,” she says. “I liked the tone of his voice, so I asked him to be on it with me.”
“I think he’s really talented,” she adds of Swae Lee. “I think he’s a very good writer, I think he’s a great singer, and he’s so cute…He has good energy.”
Speaking of narrowing down the tracks on the album, Madonna confesses that she had no idea how many songs she would end up with. “The record was born in Lisbon,” she says. “Originally, I’d worked with a lot of Portuguese musicians, and sang several songs in Portuguese, and then it kind of expanded to different countries, to Brazil, to Colombia, and then interspersed working with Mirwais, the French producer, so the song kind of, it’s really a global album.”
When asked if the record is a concept album, seeing as she takes on different personas, such as equestrian rider and teacher, she downplayed it.
“I do all those things,” she notes. “Believe it or not, I do clean my house, so I consider myself a housekeeper. And I ride horses and I love it. And I can teach you how to do the cha cha if you want. So it’s saying that I am all these things.”
Madonna also reveals how she decided upon the title, Madame X, explaining that it was a name given to her when she was 19 years old and first moved to New York City.
“A woman who I looked up to and admired [Martha Graham] gave me that name, because she said she couldn’t recognize all my different personas because I kept changing the way I looked,” Madonna recalls. “That was in the beginning of my career when I didn’t think about who I should be or what I should be. I was experimenting. And so I felt like I had come full circle and gave the record that name, cause I’m in the same frame of mind.”
You can watch the full video interview with Madonna above.