From The Hollywood Reporter:
The pop queen’s longtime manager and brand new label head reflect on the road taken straight to the top of the charts and answer a nagging question: three decades in, is Madonna still selling scandal?
When Madonna’s 12th album, MDNA, debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 today with Nielsen SoundScan-certified sales of 359,000, she’ll not only have the biggest first week of the year, but will instantly reinstate her place at the top of the pop heap.
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That’s right. In this digital age of naysayers, haters, critics and cynics, Madonna now has three decades of relevance under her belt. With MDNA, she trails only Barbra Streisand for the most chart-toppers ever by a female artist (Babs has nine, Madge is one shy) — an extraordinary musical and cultural feat. Still, some will inevitably credit controversy for MDNA’s out-the-gate success.
Have your pick of which one from recent months — the album title, which is a letter away from MDMA, the common name for the drug ecstasy; the Super Bowl halftime performance during which guest M.I.A. gave some 150 million people the finger; a permanent ban by Piers Morgan and subsequent Twitter spat between the talk show host and Madonna’s manager Guy Oseary; or a surprise appearance at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival in March, where Madonna took the stage alongside Avicii and instantly riled up a crowd of 100,000 by asking if anyone had seen “Molly,” the street name for ecstasy, a comment that prompted superstar DJ Deadmau5 to take her to task publicly. All have kept Madonna’s name in the headlines just as new music hit the market.
“All those things didn’t start with us,” Oseary tells The Hollywood Reporter, shrugging off any insinuation that scandal is a step in the rollout plan. “It’s just part of the gig.” Indeed, Oseary and his client of 22 years can explain away each one — the title has multiple meanings and came about like this, according to Oseary: “[Madonna] told me one day, ‘Here’s what I’m calling my album.’ And I went, ‘Cool.’ She had a vision.” As for M.I.A.? She acted on her own accord; Piers Morgan’s people continue to reach out for a booking despite the ban; and Madonna was referring to a song by producer and DJ Cedric Gervais called “Have You Seen Molly,” not the staple drug of all-night dance parties. What may be harder to wrap the head around is the continued omnipotence of the ’80s-bred pop star, who’s already topped the iTunes charts in 35 countries with MDNA presales alone.
Truth be told, Madonna did little in the way of traditional promotion for the album, her first for Interscope after some 30 years at Warner Bros. She skipped the club shows, the late-night lead guest slot and the Diane Sawyer interview. Her only broadcast sitdown was with Jimmy Fallon on Facebook. She premiered her single at the Super Bowl and her video on American Idol (Interscope is the show’s music partner) rather than MTV or Vevo. If there’s a plan, says Oseary, it was for the music to speak for itself, and thanks to the popularity of EDM (electronic dance music), it seems the former Danceteria regular is having her day yet again — and at 53 years old.
“Anyone who can have a career as long and as healthy, strong and consistent as Madonna’s, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime artist,” says Interscope Geffen A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine. “It’s incredible what she’s done. You can have an act earn money like her, but you can’t have a career like that.”
Curiously, though her touring sets have featured many of her greatest hits, sometimes going deep into the catalog, like her first No. 1 dance smash, 1983’s “Burning Up,” Oseary says both he and Madonna rarely look back themselves. The decades spent at Warner Bros.? They hardly gave it a second thought when “friend” Iovine came into the picture. “I have a lot of faith in him,” says the 39-year-old Israel-born Oseary. “I didn’t shop a deal. I didn’t go meet with every label and play the field. I was pretty confident with [Universal Music Group chairman and CEO] Lucian [Grainge] and Jimmy as partners.” (Iovine returns the admiration, telling THR, “Guy is honest, straight-headed and talented — a great combination.”) Besides, adds Oseary, “One of the things that I’ve learned working with Madonna is you just move forward. It’s really rare that she ever brings up the past.”
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