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Patrick Leonard on what to expect from his new album of reimagined Madonna collaborations

A musical multi-hyphenate with a diverse resume that includes co-writing credits with everyone from Leonard Cohen to Jewel, Patrick Leonard’s greatest commercial success came writing songs (and frequently co-producing them) alongside a pop star who kind of, sort of made a splash in the ‘80s: Madonna.

First teaming up with the nascent icon for 1985's The Virgin Tour, their ongoing creative partnership eventually yielded 20-some songs, including three Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s ("Live to Tell," "Who's That Girl" and "Like a Prayer") and beloved classics like "La Isla Bonita," "Oh Father" and "Frozen."

And while Leonard, like Madge herself, isn't one to fixate on the past, he recently found himself returning to those songs thanks to an unlikely source: Instagram.

Joining the social media service at the behest of his kids, he was surprised at the enduring interest in his work with Madonna. That led to him playing a show at Joe's Pub in New York City in late 2017, and following the enthusiastic fan response to that concert, he began toying with the idea of recording reimagined versions of those classic hits.

Today, Leonard launched a Kickstarter for Bring the Circus Home, an album of new versions of many of the songs he co-wrote with Madonna; the tracklist isn't fully set, and fans are encouraged to weigh in on what they're hoping to hear. But it's not just Leonard returning to these songs: Many of the original studio personnel (Guy Pratt, Bruce Gaitsch and Michael Verdick) are teaming up with him to create new takes on these beloved classics. Kickstarter contributions range from $10 (which gets you a digital download) to $100 (nets you a vinyl edition) to $10,000 (at that level, you snag an in-person studio session with Leonard himself).

Ahead of the Kickstarter announcement, Leonard hopped on the phone with Billboard to discuss everything from his first meeting with Madonna to his hopes for this new project to why "Live to Tell" is like their own Beethoven's Fifth.

So with Bring the Circus Home, you're reteaming with a number of the original musicians on these songs. And what would you call them – reworked versions?

They're reimaginings, new versions; full electronic productions. I'm working with Guy Pratt, who played bass on the Like a Prayer album; Bruce Gaitsch who played on Ray of Light and True Blue; Bill Bottrell, who engineered and mixed Like a Prayer; and Michael Verdick, who mixed True Blue.

Have you seen those guys over the years?

There was the occasional thing. Bill and I worked with Leonard Cohen, before he passed, together, and Guy Pratt, I was always in touch with him. But it's the first time we've done this since we did it 30 years ago.

And what was the impetus for it?

It was a bit of a surprise, really. My friend John Lee put together a show at Joe's Pub in New York, directed at Madonna fans discovered via Instagram. I joined Instagram via a dare from my kids and discovered a whole world of Madonna fans. It opened my eyes to the loyalty people have to the music and those songs and subsequently, myself. From that, I thought of many ways of doing it. Right now we're engaged in the process and finding it's lovely to work with the material. It's really good material, and it's nice to have material the fans are familiar with for us to play with -- but to play with it in a way that feels new. It doesn't feel nostalgic at all to me. It's exciting to find a way to realize them in a way that's satisfying.

I'm surprised you didn’t realize the hunger for this material until you joined Instagram. These are such big hits, you really weren't aware?

No, not really. (Laughs) What I occurred to me, and I hadn't framed it this way, but the fans that were in their young teenage years when these records came out, those records were as important to them as records that came out in my teenage years. I don't why that hadn't occurred to me, but it hadn't.

I'm so pleased there's so many fans, I can't tell you. It's lovely to know when I finish this record, there's people who are excited to hear it. It's a luxurious position to be in. I don't have to write hits—I have 16 of them. It's an embarrassment of riches.

And it's material that's part of your life.

I realized at Joe's Pub, I'm not covering this music. It was apparent to me sitting at the piano playing "Live to Tell" that it's an authentic version of "Live to Tell." That hadn't occurred to me (before then).

Which songs are you working on – the hits mainly, or any deep cuts?

It bounces around. Madonna and I wrote 23 songs in total and 16 were hits; I'll choose from the 16, but songs that weren't necessarily hits but were really fun and cool to do, I'll play with them and see if they have a place. And I'm not necessarily doing full songs. Because I can do what I want – for a change – and I'm having fun experimenting. I'm seeing it as something that can be presented as a live show – from that standpoint, whatever music serves the moment I'll use.

You have complete control over this project. When you were working on these songs with Madonna, what was the studio situation? How much say did you ultimately have?

We collaborated well and I certainly have always held to the mutual respect we show each other. Like any collaboration, there are moments where somebody wants one thing and somebody wants another. But also, having been a studio pro as they say, it's ultimately the artist's record. That's where the final decision always rests and I would never push that envelope. But I don’t really remember too many things we disagreed on. We worked fast: I would start something in the studio, then we would work on it together, then by the end of the day or two at most, the song was done.

In past interviews you've said your tastes skew toward prog-rock – do you see any of that in these songs?

Revisiting these songs, as much as they were in the dance-pop market, I don't think I wrote any dance-pop songs. Look at "Live to Tell," "Oh Father," "Like a Prayer" -- these are not dance-pop songs, even though people dance to them. This record is a lot of years later, and I think in all fairness to progressive rock and its devotees, there hasn't been any new progressive rock that I've listened to or come across in 35 years. It's a root for me, but so was James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and Cole Porter, and Gershwin -- they were all part of my background. The prog-rock thing, yeah, I'd rather see Pink Floyd than Red Hot Chili Peppers. If I'm gearing it toward a show, I'm gearing it toward a thread and concept that tells an emotional story. I find that more interesting than a collection of ten songs unrelated.

And what of taking to the stage – will it be all instrumental, or might you have guest vocalists?

Maybe occasionally, but there will be vocals – not a lot – but there will be vocals, and I'll leave it at that. Some human, some not.

Is Madonna aware of this project?

I don't know, I think she might be. I haven't been secretive about it but I don't know. I intend on reaching out to her and inviting her to participate if she'd like to, even if just to observe. Whatever role she takes is fine with me. I'm fascinated with how fun it is to play with these songs. That's where I am right now.

"Skin" is one of my favorites of your co-writes that's not a hit. Might that make the album?

We recently unearthed all the demos for Ray of Light, and I was listening to them, and "Skin" -- the melody, chord changes, that weird little guitar part -- was all there. And I'm fairly certain that one will be part of this.

When you worked with her on Ray of Light, there had been a bit of a gap in between collaborations. And certainly the songs on that one are more contemplative. Did you notice anything different with her around that time?

I wouldn't say I noticed anything one way or the other. We worked on, I don't know, four or five records and took all those years in between, and then we did that, and then there was a project called Hello Suckers [unfinished] from a decade ago we worked on together. When you do that much collaborating, you just fall right back into it. Wherever you are, you are. The one thing I noticed when we were doing Ray of Light was her singing. She was in a slightly different place singing-wise because of Evita, and I think that influenced some of this stuff for her. There had been a lot of focus on singing for her, and it changed things -- but not better or worst, just different.

Were you surprised to hear from her after the gap?

Finding the demos, I found a folder with all of our faxes (from then). The premise was, "this worked really well before, let's try it again." It was just that, it was kind of innocent. If it goes well, we'll do it, and if it doesn't, fine.

"Frozen" is certainly in the "Live to Tell" vein. Do you ever think "let's try to recapture something about that hit?"

When you're writing something, in my career, the word hit never comes into it. You just can't say that word. It's a bad word to say. I remember she asked me if I could write something that was somewhere between The English Patient and Nine Inch Nails, and that's what "Frozen" was.

Revisiting these songs, does it seem like so much time has passed, or are they still fairly familiar to you?

Yeah it's been an interesting thing looking at these songs, I wouldn't have looked at them again… but to be able to play the music for the fans is the main motivation for this. It took me some time, months, to see the music as raw material. The initial reaction to the music was verse-chorus-bridge, and I'm now seeing it as a chef's kitchen. It's a treasure trove of moments, and to select the moments and look at them individually is fun. I'm getting a kick out of this. I've never gone back to material like this. Some of them, "Live to Tell," I wrote 33 years ago. That's a long time ago, man.

Do you remember writing it, or is the memory muddy?

I remember the moment of sitting at the piano and playing the chords. I remember getting up and playing that at the piano and going, "oh that's cool," and writing it down and developing it. At the time I was developing it for a film. The rest of it… I remember recording a demo a little bit, it was a very simple process, and I remember recording with Michael Verdick, and there was something about that one that was special and different than the other ones. Thematically it's like our Beethoven's Fifth – you hear those three notes and you got it. It identifies itself the quickest. I'm looking for intense drama (on this reworking); I really want it to be dramatic. The record is going to be pretty electronic. I'm playing around with those things, playing around with "Cherish" a bit, looking for a way to do that.

So you aren't set on how many songs will be on this, or which songs will be included?

The record is called Bring the Circus Home and I've written a song called "Bring the Circus Home" that will help tell the story and appear a few different times in little versions. I'm doing this as a vinyl-length record, which means 36 minutes. That's when I realized I don't need to do full songs. You don't need an instrumental version of "Live to Tell" with four verses. We'll bend and twist our way through this stuff. It's early in the process and it may change considerably. But with "Oh Father" the musical sequence (on the new version) is different from the record and I expect the same of all of them. Some I might do a narrative version, one of the soft ballads like "Something to Remember," I'll probably stay true to that, that's one of my favorites. A song like that, you can make big, but you shouldn't mess with it too much. It's melodic and lyrical, and that should stay.

Do you see some of them appearing in medley form?

Not like a medley, more like a narrative. Also one of the ways I'm seeing this is like a live performance. So there's the songs, but what I'm hoping to achieve, is when you come to see it live, that's the experience -- it's not just a bunch of different songs. In a live situation, things can be expanded upon, but conceptually it's still the same flow. So that's what I'm working on now, the flow. And playing around with intensity -- how intense can this be? It's fun. (laughs)

28 juni 2018 verschijnt Madonna – Het icoon van Lucy O’Brien

Van uitgeverij Luitingh-Sijthoff hebben wij het persbericht en de cover ontvangen van de vernieuwde editie van het boek Madonna - Het icoon:

Diepgravende biografie met nieuwe tekst en foto’s over het leven en werk van ’s werelds grootste popicoon

In Madonna – Het icoon wordt het geheim ontrafeld van Madonna, die al meer dan dertig jaar de grootste vrouwelijke popster ter wereld is. 16 augustus a.s. viert de popdiva haar zestigste verjaardag. De artiest Madonna komt uitgebreid aan bod via een gedetailleerde analyse van haar muziek, haar culturele betekenis en de manier waarop zij film, fotografie, visuele kunst, theater en dans gebruikt, maar ook de vrouw Madonna. Het boek bevat onthullende interviews met musici, haar producers en anderen die haar goed kennen. Bovendien onderzoekt O’Brien nauwgezet hoe en waarom Madonna zichzelf steeds opnieuw heeft uitgevonden. Madonna – Het icoon bevat onder meer twee full colour fotokaternen en een discografie.

Over de auteur

Lucy O’Brien is een van de oprichtsters van de feministische punkrockgroep The Catholic Girls; ze schrijft voor NME, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Independent, Q en Mojo. Ze vestigde haar reputatie als autoriteit op het gebied van vrouwelijke artiesten met haar biografie van Dusty Springfield, en met het boek She-Bop, over de geschiedenis van vrouwen in de rock- en popmuziek.

Titelinformatie

Madonna – Het icoon | Lucy O’Brien | paperback | 480 p. | € 17,50 | inclusief fotokaternen ISBN 978 90 245 8024 8 | Verschijningsdatum: 28 juni 2018/

Prijs, omvang en verschijningsdatum onder voorbehoud.

Bestellen?

Vinyl re-release 'The Immaculate Collection'

Deze week is de vinyl re-release van Madonna's allereerste verzamelalbum 'The Immaculate Collection' verschenen. Wil je deze aan je collectie toevoegen? Klik dan op onderstaande link om deze via bol.com te bestellen.

Highest-grossing solo touring artist Madonna teases new world tour!

Madonna has plans for a new world tour! Get your coins ready, ladies! Madonna is planning to promote her forthcoming album with a tour!

This may come as no surprise, but it's still extremely excited to get such an early confirmation.

How do we know this? M posted a photo on Instagram today (May 24) of her performing with the caption, "anything is possible."

madonna teases new world tour 2019 instagram

The queen of pop recently announced she's got a new song in the works titled "Beautiful Game." Fans got a taste of it when she performed it at the Met Gala earlier this month. Watch that here.

Get ready!

Madonna kondigt nieuwe muziek aan

Madonna brengt binnenkort nieuwe muziek uit. Wanneer de nummers uitkomen, is nog niet bekend.

Op Instagram heeft de zangeres donderdag een foto geplaatst waarop Beautiful Game staat. Op het Met Gala dit jaar liet ze al een voorproefje van dit nummer horen.

Of de zangeres een album of een single gaat lanceren, heeft ze nog niet laten weten. In juli 1983 kwam haar debuutalbum Madonna uit, met de hit Holiday erop. In 2015 bracht Madonna voor het laatst een album uit: Rebel Heart.

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Madonna Reigns at the Met Gala with a Surprise Performance

Madonna was the only one who could do this year’s Met Gala exhibit, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” justice—and she delivered with a surprise performance that was nothing short of divine. Never one to shy away from a religious reference, the material girl wowed earlier in the evening on the red carpet in a regal black Jean Paul Gaultier gown which she paired with a black net veil over her face that was held in place by jeweled crosses and rosaries. Her blonde hair was parted down the center and two braids flanked her face.

Post-dinner, the fashion icon made a dramatic wardrobe change. Appearing in a monastic cloak, she descended the stairs of the Great Hall and made her grand entrance on stage to the tolls of church bells. Fittingly, she opened her set with her “Like a Prayer” and segued into a bone-chilling version of “Hallelujah.” Walking through the crowd and then suddenly rising above guests, the goddess shutdown the gala, and for that, we bow down to the Queen of Pop—now and forever!

Met Gala, 7 mei 2018

Zoals bijna gebruikelijk is, was Madonna aanwezig op het jaarlijkse Met Gala. Dit jaar was het thema 'Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination'.

Niet alleen was Madonna te gast maar heeft ze ook een optreden geven van drie nummers! Madonna zong 'Like A Prayer', 'Hallelujah' en een nog onbekend nieuw nummer. Niemand minder dan Jean Paul Gaultier is de ontwerper van Madonna's spectaculaire outfit.

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Met Gala: Madonna planning to perform at Ball — Will she sing ‘Like A Prayer’ or ‘Hallelujah’?

Madonna is reportedly getting ready to perform some big hits at the upcoming Met Gala in New York City on May 7 and it’s sure to be a memorable moment. Find out the details of her performance here!

The 2018 Met Gala is almost here and Madonna, 59, one of the biggest music stars in history, is set to perform! The talented singer is reportedly getting ready to possibly sing covers of hit songs that aren’t her own at the huge event in NYC on May 7. “I’m hearing Madonna will perform at the Met Gala and possibly sing ‘Hallelujah’ and/or a Beatles tune, something along those lines,” a source close to Madonna told us.

The news of Madonna’s appearance is definitely exciting but it isn’t too surprising considering the songstress is known for performing and/or appearing at all kinds of lavish events, including the Met Gala, throughout her long career. Since the theme of this year’s gala is fashion and the catholic imagination, it would make sense if Madonna decided to sing her huge hit song “Like a Prayer” in addition to the other tunes she plans on belting out. We guess we’ll have to wait and see on this one.

While we anticipate Madonna’s part of the night, we can also look forward to plenty of familiar faces to show up at this year’s Met Gala. High-profile celebs such as Kim Kardashian, Bella Hadid and Sarah Jessica Parker are all confirmed to be getting ready to strut their stuff on the red carpet. As always, it will be fun to see what kind of wild wardrobe choices they decide to go with and who they decide to bring as a date. We’ll be on the lookout to narrow down some of our favorite looks and capture the unforgettable moments that make history when it comes to events such as this one!

Werken Diplo en Madonna samen?

Kanye West was weer eens terug op Twitter en daar liet hij weten fan te zijn van Donald Trump. Hij deelt ‘dragon energy’ (wat dat ook mag zijn) met de president en die uitspraak viel nogal op. Diplo liet op Twitter weten ook opzoek te zijn naar zijn ‘dragon energy’ en daar kwam een nogal verrassende reactie op.

Diplo en Madonna zijn met iets bezig

Niemand minder dan Madonna reageerde door te hem te vertellen dat hij die op 8 mei zal vinden. Wat ze hiermee bedoeld en wat er op 8 mei aankomt is een groot raadsel waar verder geen details over zijn, maar als het om een muzikale samenwerking gaat dan is het zeker iets om met veel enthousiasme naar uit te kijken.

Diplo Madonna

'Tupac maakte het uit met Madonna om zijn imago te redden'

Rapper Tupac Shakur heeft in 1995 een geheime relatie met Madonna beëindigd omdat de kans bestond dat die zijn geloofwaardigheid zou aantasten.

Dat blijkt uit een brief die binnenkort, tegen de wil van Madonna, wordt geveild. In Tupacs brief schrijft de rapper dat haar verhouding met hem, een zwarte man, Madonna's carrière zeker een boost zou geven, maar dat zijn imago schade zou lijden als bekend werd dat hij een relatie had met een blanke vrouw.

Veiling mag doorgaan

De twee hadden een geheime relatie, waarover Madonna pas kort geleden iets losliet. Tupac werd in 1996 vermoord.

Madonna had een rechtszaak aangespannen om de veiling van de brief, die in handen is van een voormalige vriendin van haar, tegen te houden. De rechter wees haar verzoek af.

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