As an artist routinely defined by a fierce, singular vision, the list of collaborations in Madonna’s career, albeit long and varied, remains surprising. They range from flirtatious couplings – think Britney, Ricky and Nicki – to the more flamboyantly provocative (stand up, Lil’ Wayne and M.I.A.), but rarely have they been as considered and dramatic as the three-track pairing (Angels Crying In My Bed, I Met An Angel and Lick The Light Out) on Christine And The Queens’ 2023 album, PARANOÏA, ANGELS, TRUE LOVE.
How did Madonna and Christine And The Queens collaborate?
Conceived as the second act in a trilogy inspired by Tony Kushner’s seminal 90s play Angels In America, PARANOÏA, ANGELS, TRUE LOVE features the “Queen Of Pop” in a spoken role as a character called Big Eye. The collaboration came about because Chris, who uses he/him, was searching for, as he told the BBC, “the most emblematic female voice we have in the pop landscape”. The album’s co-producer. Mike Dean, who had worked with Madonna on five tracks from her 2015 album Rebel Heart, agreed she would be perfect.
“I explained the whole concept and I was like, ‘Do you want to be an actress in this weird musical? To be exactly also the great actress you are?’” Chris recalled. “And she said, ‘Yes!’ I think because she was enticed by the insanity of the whole thing.
“She’s embodying the character of Big Eye, a very ambivalent ‘being of light’,” Chris continued. “We don’t really know if it’s AI, a true angel, or maybe my mum. Or if it’s maybe me. She has this voice that encloses all of the others and she’s piercing through in the record to just give the wisdom we need.”
Has Madonna written songs for other artists?
Madonna as a cultural ray of light is, obviously, not such an out-there proposition. She is famous for moving on from producer to producer, but she has also frequently allowed other artists to get close to her fame and feed off its heat. At the height of her platinum-pop era, she co-produced and co-wrote the first hit for Nick Kamen, the European smash Each Time You Break My Heart, and later did the same for model/singer Nick Scotti, on the Shep Pettibone collaboration Get Over.
Who else has Madonna collaborated with?
By the end of the 90s and into the next millennium, the formula had shifted somewhat, and Madonna could arguably be seen as benefitting from the star wattage of younger, up-and-coming stars, with collaborations on the Ricky Martin track Be Careful With My Heart (Cuidado Con Mi Corazón), the 2003 hit duet with Britney Spears, Me Against The Music, and the “Queen Of Pop”’s continuation of her record-breaking run of No.1 singles, the Justin Timberlake and Timbaland pairing, 4 Minutes.
There’s no denying the sheer gravitational pull of an artist as powerful and individual as Madonna. Perhaps that’s why the Like A Prayer album collaboration with Prince[https://www.thisisdig.com/artist/prince], Love Song, sometimes goes overlooked – neither creative supernova quite offers the space for the other to find their orbit. On the unlikely pairing of Dick Tracy co-star Warren Beatty and Madonna on Now I’m Following You, from the I’m Breathless soundtrack album, there’s little at stake, bar an opportunity to skit along on a catchy album cut so it hangs together just fine.
What are Madonna’s most famous collaborations?
When Madonna is defiantly in charge – the highly provocative Sex book could hardly be anyone else’s artistic statement – the collaborators become props in her ambitious but risky tableau. Surely Vanilla Ice, Naomi Campbell, Big Daddy Kane and Isabella Rossellini had little idea about the fuss they were about to cause in 1992, when they were photographed for that book. And, so, Madonna’s mid-90s collaborators became decidedly less controversial. Babyface’s work on the magnificent Take A Bow, and Björk’s Bedtime Story (both from the Bedtime Stories album), were part of an orchestrated plan to dial down the fuss and reset Madonna’s glorious reinvention in two safer directions, for Evita (acting) and 1998’s Ray Of Light (music). In 2000, she blended both in the pairing with Rupert Everett on the movie The Next Best Thing and her UK No.1 cover of Don McLean’s American Pie (later included as a bonus track on the American Life album).
In the 21st century, Madonna’s creative focus has largely returned to music, and a handful of collaborations really define the best Madonna songs of the era. M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj helped launch 2012’s MDNA album on Gimme All Your Luvin’ (with M.I.A. adding a whiff of controversy for flipping the bird during Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show), while Missy Elliott worked with Madonna on 2003’s Into The Hollywood Groove remix of Madonna’s 1985 hit Into The Groove, and The Blessed Madonna Remix of Levitating, with Dua Lipa. Annie Lennox was able to ask for assistance on the anthemic 2007 single Sing.
An ambitious vision, still in demand
Recent years have seen Madonna venture further from her traditional pop formula and collaborate with Lil’ Wayne on Revolver, for the Celebration collection, and Swae Lee on Madame X’s underrated Crave. From that same album, lead single Medillín was a duet with Colombian singer Maluma and also should have been a far bigger hit.
Of course, the “Queen Of Pop” is business-aware enough to know that, in the age of streaming, routine chart takeovers may be a thing of the past. But demand for her help in elevating projects shows little sign of slowing. Christine And The Queens has created an album with an ambitious vision, blending whisps of hooky pop with a more chilling core that has echoes of Madonna’s own narrative of the AIDS era, the Erotica album – a work that has enjoyed something a renaissance in recent years. Chris describes PARANOÏA, ANGELS, TRUE LOVE as “a prayer towards the self”. Now, Madonna knows a thing or two about the power of prayer…
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