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Madonna on Her
New Album, Helping Malawi, and Turning 50

Madonna on Her
New Album, Helping Malawi, and Turning 50

Timbaland and the Neptunes are so dominant as producers, they can sometimes upstage the artist they're working with ... unless that artist is Madonna.

Timbaland and the Neptunes are so dominant as producers, they can sometimes upstage the artist they're working with ... unless that artist is Madonna.

On her new album, Hard Candy, Madonna made sure that she wasn't a guest star on her own album.

''I thought of it as a true and equal collaboration. ... I like to think that when you listen to the record, you don't just go, 'Oh, that is a Timbaland record,' or 'That's Pharrell [of the Neptunes].' That you hear it and you go, 'There is something new and different about it.' ''

Finding something new and different is the approach that's kept Madonna on top for most of her 25-year recording career -- and made her a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.

The 49-year-old pop queen is once again dominating music airwaves, but she's also making her mark far away from the celebrity spotlight in Malawi. The impoverished African nation, where she found David, the young child she is in the process of adopting, is the subject of her new documentary, I Am Because We Are, and her charitable efforts.

Madonna sat down with the Associated Press recently and chatted about her new musical path, life in Malawi, and raising kids in the eye of the paparazzi, among other things.

AP: You recently signed a deal with Live Nation, and Hard Candy is your last on Warner Bros. Records. What do you hope to accomplish with the deal?

Madonna: Number one, coming up with new interesting ways of releasing music. Finding new ways to get music to people, that is one thing. Two is being an equal partner on my records which I have never been before. I have always been signed to a label and I get a percentage of what I earn, and now it is 50/50, which is great, and three is all the great shows I plan on doing.

AP: Would you ever do a pay-for-play with your music similar to Radiohead?

Madonna: No ... I don't know. I am not sure I like the idea of saying pay whatever you want for it. I think it is good to be specific. ... Put a value on it.

AP: Your film, I Am Because We Are, is about Malawi, a country that has been ravished by AIDS and poverty. Is it difficult to find hope in such depressing circumstances?

Madonna: I did find hope there because in spite of all of the hardships that people have to endure there, as I say in the film, I saw so much happiness there. I saw that people with so little had so much appreciation for life and so much joy. It gave me a real sense of appreciation for what I have, and it made me -- it put things in perspective for me. ... We have so much, and we can often get caught up in our little stupid problems. The kids have nothing to play with. They get plastic bags and bunch them together in what looks like a ball with twine, and that is their soccer ball. They are happy. It is fine. You get a real sense of appreciation there.

AP: Do you think the documentary will help to silence some of your critics?

Madonna: It helps explain a lot of the story and the mystery to people. People will have a better perspective. It is always good to know the whole story before you jump to conclusions. The movie isn't just about the adoption, but I hope it will fill in some blanks for people.

AP: What is the hardest thing you had to endure while making this documentary?

Madonna: I think the hardest thing is watching parents lose their children. I think that is a pain that is unendurable, to bury your children. It is supposed to be the other way around.

AP: Would you adopt again from Malawi?

Madonna: I would like to. They are still trying to finesse the laws and make it so it is not such a long waiting period, which would be good. I would prefer that.

AP: How are you going to balance your projects in Malawi with promoting this album?

Madonna: Not that I have very much free time, but I have a lot of ongoing projects in Malawi. I am building a girls' school and orphan care center. I am refurbishing an orphanage. I have lots of kids to look after on scholarship funds, so I have relationships with people and I want to go back and check in on everybody.

AP: How do you deal with the paparazzi always taking pictures of your children?

Madonna: I don't like it when they get in their face. It is scary and frightening especially if you are not used to it and you are a kid. I think Lola is a little bit more familiar with it now. My son [Rocco] is still seriously irritated by it.

AP: You, Prince, and Michael Jackson turn 50 this year. Will you be throwing a big joint party?

Madonna: If there is, I am not throwing it. I am tired of throwing parties!

AP: Maybe you all could do a Rolling Stone cover together.

Madonna: Really? [Smiles] I don't know. Ask them. I am a little bit tired of being the one who always has to ask everything. You are going to have to go to them. (AP)

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Matthew Van Atta