Back in 2015, EW let Bravo’s Andy Cohen guest edit a full issue of Entertainment Weekly. As part of the issue, Cohen spoke to Madonna at length about her decades of concert tours (and why she won’t stop), her love of Beyoncé, and the dancers that she refers to as her “stage baes.” See the full interview below, online for the first time.
ANDY COHEN: Madonna! Hi! How are you?
MADONNA: I’m tired, not gonna lie.
You’re working your ass off, aren’t you?
I am. We work really late hours, and I got into the vicious cycle of working late and then sleeping late.
Where are you right now?
I’m in New York.
I mean, are you in your tub? In your bed?
Ha, no. I wish I was in my bed. If I got in my bed, though, I wouldn’t get out. I’m in my office.
And are you in sweats?
I’m in silk pajama shorts, if you must know. They were made for me by Dolce & Gabbana, I don’t know, eight years ago, so there’s a sort of tattered, vintage look about me.
Perfect, you’re giving me full Madonna now! I can’t wait for you to get back on tour—I love screaming your name at the top of my lungs. Am I going to see dancing nuns on stripper poles?
Did somebody tell you that?
I saw the trailer.
Oops, so I guess the cat’s out of the bag.
Was that your idea?
I mean, yeah. It was. I just like the juxtaposition. I’m very immersed in deconstructing the concept of sexuality and religion and how it’s not supposed to go together, but in my world it goes together.
That’s one of the reasons that I love you. I assume we’ll be hearing “Bitch, get off my pole” while the nuns are on the stripper poles.
Mmmm, you might. I don’t want to give away the details. I want people to be surprised.
How many hours a day are you rehearsing at this point?
Well, I consider meeting for video and fittings all part of the rehearsal process, so that’s, I don’t know, 10 to 12 hours a day.
What are you eating?
[Laughs] Anything I can get my hands on.
No, really, I have to keep eating so I have energy. I eat food, you know, normal food. Omelets for breakfast, healthy lunches, and things like that, but I’m also supplementing that with power shakes and those energy bars. I have a woman who follows me around. I call her the food police. “Are you eating? Did you drink enough water?” I’m like, “Bitch, get off my pole!”
By the way, can you cook?
Wow, we’re really jumping around.
I’m just curious!
No, it’s not one of my talents, I’m sorry to say. Everyone asks me that, including my 14-year-old son [Rocco], who is absolutely not satisfied with all of my accomplishments. He just wants me to cook for him. I’m like, “Okay, I’ll get to that. I promise you, when this tour’s over with, I’m gonna cook for you.”
I loved seeing Rocco on the last tour. Are we gonna see him doing anything on this one?
I think he’s probably gonna work behind the scenes. He’s not interested in performing on stage with me right now. There’s way cooler things. Your mom is not that cool when you’re 14.
So do you still have the Truth or Dare mother-hen thing going on with the dancers?
Of course. Yep. Every day. They’re my little babies.
Tell me how you balance hits and new material on your set list.
Well, it’s tricky. Of course, the thing I’m most excited about doing is my new stuff, because I haven’t done it yet and it’s fresh. But I realize that people want to hear my older stuff, so for me it’s always a tricky balance trying to keep some kind of continuity, not only with sound, sonically, but also thematically. Because when I first started writing music, I was a young girl, and I didn’t write about very deep things. And now I do. Although going from what I consider to be slightly superficial topics to more profound ways of thinking is also a challenge. That’s why a lot of times I have to take the songs and turn them inside out and make them more ironic than straightforward, so that they work for me.
You’ve been teasing your set list on Instagram.
Yeah, of course I have.
So will I hear “Dress You Up”?
“Who’s That Girl”?
Wow, you’re giving me good info!
Now stop right there!
Let me ask you this, do you read the comments under your Instagram posts?
Sometimes. Like whenever I’m on holiday.
What’s your reaction to them?
Sometimes people are really supportive and nice, but you can’t get attached to people saying nice things because then when people say mean things it will bother you. So you just have to take it all in stride, and I really don’t take any of it seriously. I can’t afford to. The most illuminating thing about reading comments on Instagram is how literal people are, and how people have no sense of humor and no sense of irony; [they] don’t read between the lines. It’s interesting.
Are you addicted to Instagram a little bit?
No, not really. I could live without it. But it’s an important part of my work now. I like to think of it as a kind of art gallery for my thoughts, my dreams, my wishes, my state of mind. Can’t ignore social media.
I love that you share old photos of you with your fans. You seem like someone who doesn’t like to look back, but I love it when you do.
I love to look back and see the great art and artists that I’ve had the privilege to collaborate with, whether it’s [Jean Paul] Gaultier or Keith Haring or Steven Meisel or Herb Ritts or whomever. I worked with the greatest and the best and the finest. It also feels like a time that will never happen again. Do you know what I mean? So it makes me feel really blessed.
It’s trite at this point to say that you reinvent yourself every few years. But I wonder, why is it important for you to keep creating new stuff?
Because as an artist I have something new to say every time I make a record. I think that that’s kind of a no-brainer. I’m not a “greatest hits” kind of girl. You could say it’s reinventing, but a real artist is continuously changing and evolving because the art is continuously changing and evolving. I mean, Picasso didn’t paint the same paintings over and over again.
What is the best and worst part of touring?
You’re like, “Yeah, just shut the f— up.”
No, no, I got it! I got it!
That’s the endless question I get: “Why do you keep doing it?”
You obviously don’t have to.
But to me, that’s a sexist thing to say. No one said to Picasso when he was 80, “Why are you painting?”
Why is that sexist, though?
Because he’s a man and nobody asked him that, okay? But because I’m a woman, people ask me. Does anyone ask Mick Jagger why he keeps going on tour?
Yeah, I actually think they do. What I’m getting at is, you could probably park it at Madison Square Garden and do a residency twice a month for the next 20 years.
I don’t think so.
No, people in New York are sick of me.
Are you f—ing kidding me? You’re the queen of New York.
No. I don’t know.
Do you have a favorite city to perform in?
Well, in America, my favorite city is New York, obviously. ‘Cause it’s my hometown.
Even though they’re over you?
You know the old saying: You’re a prophet everywhere but in your own country.
Is there a city where you’ve performed that you will not return to?
I don’t think I should go back to Moscow or St. Petersburg.
You stirred some s— there, but God bless you for doing it. Do you think they would have you back?
No. But that’s okay. Why would I even want to perform in a place where being gay is [criminalized]?
What’s your current favorite song on Rebel Heart?
Well, I love “Ghosttown.” I love “Bitch I’m Madonna,” and I love “Illuminati,” “Holy Water.” The darker, crazier, more controversial songs.
Have you seen any tours in the past year that have inspired you? On Instagram, you welcomed Taylor Swift to New York when she was here.
I didn’t get the chance to go see her show. I was kinda bummed. We were actually gonna do something together on stage, but I didn’t go to the show because I was rehearsing and I had to shoot a video the next day. Going to shows requires free time. Who’s the last person I saw?…
I remember you really heaped a lot of praise on Beyoncé’s last tour.
Oh! That’s probably the last big show I’ve seen, and that was really good.
What was good about it?
She’s a great performer and she puts on a show. She’s a professional, you know what I mean? She ticks all the boxes. She’s great live, and all the stuff around her, it’s complete entertainment. And she gives it her all, so I appreciate that.
By the way, what were you gonna do with Taylor Swift on stage?
I’m not gonna tell you, because we might still do it. You’re very nosy. You just want to know everything.
I really do!
I’m just gonna send my diary over to your house, okay? With a key. Open it up, read it, send it back to me, okay?
Please do. I want to know f—ing everything!
Skip over all the parts about who I have crushes on and things like that.
Oh my God. There’s no way I’m skipping that part. Well, now I want to know, do you have a crush on any of your dancers at this current moment in time?
I mean, I always do. You have to. I call them my “stage baes.”
But that’s it, it’s just on the stage.
You keep it on the stage. That would be messy, right?
Yeah, of course, and that actually makes it more electric, you know?
When was the last time you saw your 1991 doc Truth or Dare?
Jeez, I don’t know. Several years ago. I’ve seen bits and pieces from it. I sort of gag when I watch it, ’cause I’m like, “Oh my God, I can’t.” It’s hard to watch myself do anything. I can’t even stand to watch myself in concert, like my last tour.
I just don’t like to watch it. But I think maybe Truth or Dare, I could possibly revisit it right now.
Can you call me when you do that, please?
Let’s watch it together.
I want to film you watching Truth or Dare and release that.
Me just going, “I can’t believe I said that. Oh my God, I can’t believe I did that.” The arrogance…
Well, the arrogance was brilliant. The shade, the arrogance…
The shade was thrown! I’m afraid to watch it. I just think I was a horrible brat, that’s what I’m afraid of.
As a student of yours, it seems like you’re having more fun on stage recently. Am I right? Maybe it’s just that you smile more.
That could be it. I don’t know. I’m very invested in having a good time with this show. You know, not beating myself up if I make a mistake.
So…grill or no grill on stage?
It’s really hard to sing with a grill in your mouth. You end up lisping, and putting your teeth together is actually essential to singing well. So as much as I love a grill, it probably won’t be in my mouth when I’m singing.
I will be there both nights of Madison Square Garden. I cannot wait.
Thank you so much. Make yourself noticeable in the audience so I can bump and grind you.