Madonna on hacks, music leaks, and attempts to regain control
January 9, 2015 2:59 PM   Subscribe

Madonna has had an interesting relationship with leaks, specifically in how she has responded to them. In 2003, when she was gearing up for American Life (YT), she also spread mostly silent MP3s with the short message "What the f**k do you think you're doing? to dissuade would-be downloaders. The message got spun into "remixes" and some got pressed to CD. Jump ahead to 2012, and Madonna's album MDNA (YT) leaked a week ahead of its release date, which seems pretty minor, compared to what happened this past December. 13 tracks and artwork identifying the album with a title of Iconic or Unapologetic B*tch were leaked, ahead of any formal album announcement. But that wasn't the end of it.

Madge's initial comments, which were quickly deleted, were inflammatory. She talked with The Guardian and clarified her comments and noting that the leaked tracks weren't new, but some of them are back from March 2014.

In an effort to give fans something official, Madonna released 6 tracks from the officially titled Rebel Heart album. She also talked to Billboard, where she discussed how her works still in-progress weren't stored on servers or transferred via Wi-Fi, but hand-delivered on hard drives.

Despite these precautions, 14 more tracks leaked online, and then another three tracks plus two acoustic demos leaking before the end of the month. The Wikipedia list of unreleased songs recorded by Madonna has the full tracklist and timeline, and Josep Vinaixa/Ultimate Music has a couple handy playlists with streams of all the official tracks and demos/leaks.

But if you're shying away from the audio and want to peak at some reviews and recaps of the songs, NY Daily Mag covered the six official tracks and a brief overview of the leaked tracks. If you want the detailed summary of the Rebel Heart album production to date, the Wikipedia page is exhaustive, and growing.
posted by filthy light thief (73 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Apparently, close work with Madonna does not inspire loyalty.
posted by clarknova at 3:05 PM on January 9, 2015 [27 favorites]


From the MTV story about the leaking of MDNA:
It goes without saying that you should go out and purchase MDNA when it drops next week.
Fuck you, MTV. It was a Madonna album released in 2012. If you have to take a moralistic stance, the proper one is "you shouldn't download the album because you should feel embarrassed to have this on your computer. There are limits to even morbid curiosity."
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:16 PM on January 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


I don't know if I'm being too cynical, but Madonna has shown herself to be just so damned good at getting herself talked about and generating publicity over the years that I have to wonder if she has a hand in the leaks. Hear the tracks Madonna doesn't want you to hear!
posted by Hoopo at 3:16 PM on January 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


So you're saying Madonna is the old Amanda Palmer?

I'm 44, so during my deformative years Madonna was the fuel that helped form what I thought was sexy. To this day I still find lacy puffy bracelets hot!
posted by cjorgensen at 3:22 PM on January 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Wikipedia: The fifth song, "Illuminati", was written in March–April 2014, after Madonna came to know that people alluded to her with the eponymous term. She researched about the real Illuminati and wrote the song, feeling gratuitous [sic] for the comparison. Lyrically it refers to the Illuminati conspiracy theory as well as black magic, witchcraft, Isis, the Egyptian pyramids, the Phoenix, the Age of Enlightenment, and the Eye of Providence, with the chorus singing, "It's like everybody in this party is shining like Illuminati".

Well then. This should be interesting.

In my circles most of the buzz has been around Sophie (of PC Music association) and Diplo co-producing "Bitch I'm Madonna." I'm not thrilled with the results, but it's interesting to see the PC Music camp go from underground internet listeners like me to the huge club mainstream so quickly.
posted by naju at 3:33 PM on January 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I was gonna say that her % is too good. Who has like everything they've ever done leak???

This is Madonna, the best outrage engine ever. I say it's her, and she's not being explicitly like Radiohead, but she just wants everyone talking, and however many albums wind up selling, so be it.
posted by nevercalm at 3:34 PM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Twenty years ago Madonna always seemed to be about 2 or 3 years behind Bjork.
posted by Nevin at 3:44 PM on January 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Hi! Everybody!"
posted by trip and a half at 4:47 PM on January 9, 2015


It's like downloading a piece of gristle.
posted by isopraxis at 4:55 PM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's like downloading a piece of gristle.

Wait, does it throb? My interest level will go up if you're implying the gristle throbs.
posted by shortfuse at 4:57 PM on January 9, 2015 [21 favorites]


Madonna is the wealthiest recording artist on the planet checking in at $800 million. http://money.cnn.com/2014/12/02/luxury/richest-recording-artists/

Madonna is incredibly savvy of course and famous for controlling her media image and presentation. She sees around corners where others see just a wall.

Look at the language here; "Real Rebels think for themselves! Real Rebels respect ART! Real Rebels are Rebels in their heart. #rebelheart," said Madonna in an Instagram post."

She's smart enough to know that torrenters are almost always going to torrent and buyers are almost going to buy. She is using the torrenters to advertise her product.

No way are these "leaks". They are "buzz".

Madonna's marketing acumen is unrivaled.
posted by vapidave at 5:03 PM on January 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


In most businesses I know, if you got caught or were even strongly suspected of leaking company confidential information* prior to its authorized release, you'd never work again. Hope the payoff was large enough, and with a big name like Madonna, it might be.

*assuming it wasn't part of the plan to have it "leaked" by someone.
posted by ctmf at 5:17 PM on January 9, 2015


Well, we'll see I guess.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:20 PM on January 9, 2015


"Real Rebels think for themselves! Real Rebels respect ART! Real Rebels are Rebels in their heart. #rebelheart,"

Real Rebels cups now available with every Combo Meal at Burger King! Collect all four!!!
posted by pyramid termite at 5:36 PM on January 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


Boo hoo. A multi-millionare had some of her work leaked before some arbitrary date. What a tragedy. Truly a serious artists' great works have now been sullied for ever and ever. I'm really affected by this thing that is in no way a marketing stunt. Boo hoo.
posted by Soi-hah at 5:40 PM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


There are some really interesting theories here that I had never even considered, so thanks for that. I love the idea of Madonna being the media mastermind behind, basically, everything.

But in the back of my mind... what if she isn't? What if somebody really deep in her camp is systematically stealing and revealing parts of her art that she is not yet prepared to release publicly? That gives me such a creepy vibe. It's like, the call is coming from inside your house.
posted by ezust at 5:45 PM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Madonna's marketing acumen is unrivaled.

Madonna's marketing acumen is indeed well known, but has she ever been revealed to be doing something similar to deliberately leaking her own material and then publicly and strongly decrying these leaks? I mean I find the idea fascinating, I'm just not inclined to believe she's behind the leaks on the basis of her business-savvy alone.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:01 PM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Protocols of the Elder Madge
posted by angerbot at 6:11 PM on January 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


i listened to the 6 official tracks - this is going to be huge - it's taking everything that's going on in contemporary pop music to another level

this could be an album that defines this decade's music
posted by pyramid termite at 6:19 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Madonna's Big Three albums (Like A Prayer, Ray Of Light, Confessions On A Dancefloor) are three of the best pop/dance albums ever made. That's a pretty good run for anyone, and it extends across three decades, and she's had plenty of other decent work in there (mostly prior to Confessions)...

She's undoubtedly one of the most savvy media manipulators of the modern age, and she has been going back to VERY early in her career. I won't speculate as to whether anyone involved in her organization is involved with these leaks, but it isn't something that would be beyond Madge and her Machine.

The worst thing she ever did was get into a fight with Patrick Leonard. The second worst thing she ever did was Shanghai Surprise. The third worst thing she ever did was her plastic surgery.

I really want her new album to be good. Really really want. But I fear she's lost her interest in making a personal artistic statement in favor of making a personal market success. The fact that Avicii is one of the major listed producers on her new album just tells me she's chasing behind the fact instead of setting new trends.

I hope I'm wrong, I hope it's good. I'm not holding my breath.
posted by hippybear at 6:20 PM on January 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


"But in the back of my mind... what if she isn't? What if somebody really deep in her camp is systematically stealing and revealing parts of her art that she is not yet prepared to release publicly? That gives me such a creepy vibe. It's like, the call is coming from inside your house."

Musta grounded Lourdes.
posted by klangklangston at 6:21 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've said it before, and I'll say it again (and again, and again)... IF YOU DON'T WANT ANYBODY TO COPY IT, DON'T RECORD IT.! Nowhere is it written that you are entitled to other people's money for doing what you want to do.

(Now, I may have misinterpreted this thread; I'm deep into some prophylactic tequila, so may be missing something.)
posted by carping demon at 6:23 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


i listened to the 6 official tracks - this is going to be huge - it's taking everything that's going on in contemporary pop music to another level

this could be an album that defines this decade's music


Oh wow. I haven't really listened to her in a while (since the american pie thing bleh) but this is actually good
posted by asockpuppet at 6:25 PM on January 9, 2015


has she ever been revealed to be doing something similar to deliberately leaking her own material and then publicly and strongly decrying these leaks?

Not that I'm aware of, but she has also never had to compete for publicity in a pop environment where songs in the Billboard top-10 explicitly refer to licking buttholes and music videos with women in thongs twerking are not even considered particularly controversial.

And look. Here I am talking about Madonna, someone I cant honestly say I've given a shit about in well over a decade, considering listening to her new songs. That sounds like vintage Madonna business savvy to me.
posted by Hoopo at 6:27 PM on January 9, 2015


i listened to the 6 official tracks - this is going to be huge - it's taking everything that's going on in contemporary pop music to another level

this could be an album that defines this decade's music


I mean, a couple of the tracks are pretty good, even great, but they're nothing she's not done for the last 10-15 years on autopilot.
posted by blucevalo at 6:32 PM on January 9, 2015


The second worst thing she ever did was Shanghai Surprise.

We could sit here all day talking about which of her movies is the worst, but Shanghai Surprise at least already came with the expectation that it was going to be cartoonishly ridiculous. My vote would be for The Next Best Thing, her attempt at a Serious Adult movie about Issues. And it was a rambling, patronizing mess saved only by Rupert Everett.

Desperately Seeking Susan is of course her best film, or at least it was when I was in middle school. I couldn't bring myself to watch it again and have the memory shattered, forcing me to throw out all 500 of these black Gummy bracelets.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:34 PM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Still not sure why these media geniuses would release pictures of MLK and Mandela done up like the album cover, though. Maybe it's a bluff. Or a double-bluff? Or a double-double-bluff? She knows that we know that she knows that we know that she released them...

OK, going to lie down now.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:43 PM on January 9, 2015


Pfft, her best movie was Dick Tracy. Duh. (And I was really pleasantly surprised by her turn in Evita).

Count me in with 'this is a savvy marketing campaign.' As with so many things, cui bono?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:47 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Shut up. Her best movie was A League of Their Own.
posted by asockpuppet at 6:49 PM on January 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


THERE'S NO CRYING IN POP MUSIC
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:51 PM on January 9, 2015 [13 favorites]


Holy shit, Addicted is a great song. This is going to destroy gay dancefloors. "Because we're only here to love / like there's no tomorrow"? Chills.

Madge is back, apparently.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:51 PM on January 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


And the remix potential for several of these (I'm just jumping around listening to bits, will listen properly tomorrow) is enormous.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:57 PM on January 9, 2015


Still not sure why these media geniuses would release pictures of MLK and Mandela done up like the album cover,

It's almost as bad as the time they fucked up and made everyone angry with that Like a Prayer video
posted by Hoopo at 7:01 PM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm listening to the prerelease and demo tracks now.

They are... entirely not bad. I hope the full album ends up being good. Nearly all Madonna albums have a half-dozen tracks on each that are entirely not bad. But for me, the sum has to equal at least the total of the parts....
posted by hippybear at 7:08 PM on January 9, 2015


this could be an album that defines this decade's music

Run The Jewels would like a word with you...
posted by Renoroc at 7:13 PM on January 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Desperately Seeking Susan is of course her best film, or at least it was when I was in middle school. I couldn't bring myself to watch it again and have the memory shattered, forcing me to throw out all 500 of these black Gummy bracelets.

Desperately Seeking Susan holds up, mainly because Rosanna Arquette is a goddamn national treasure.
posted by padraigin at 7:16 PM on January 9, 2015


Deleting posts is the new saying-something.
posted by rhizome at 7:21 PM on January 9, 2015


The demo for Addicted is better than any of the officially released pre-release tracks.

(Why do artists have to keep fucking with things until they are ruined? Grrrrrr.)
posted by hippybear at 7:27 PM on January 9, 2015


Run The Jewels would like a word with you...

that was interesting, but didn't really knock me out - which reminds me, i downloaded no 2 by email list and probably should get around to checking it out
posted by pyramid termite at 7:34 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


What is the benefit to the leaker in a situation like this? How would they make money off of it, if nothing is being sold? Is it just someone doing it for the lulz? Seems like a shitty reason to risk your job.
posted by desjardins at 8:15 PM on January 9, 2015


What is the benefit to the leaker in a situation like this?

Disgruntled employee? That's usually the first thing that comes to mind when I see movies that have FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION appear across the bottom of the screen every twenty minutes or so.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:27 PM on January 9, 2015


I'd love to read about Jim Hoft's take on this (on a site that points out the latest zany Hoft theory so you don't have to go to his site).
posted by juiceCake at 8:43 PM on January 9, 2015


that was interesting, but didn't really knock me out - which reminds me, i downloaded no 2 by email list and probably should get around to checking it out

2 is interesting too, if only to hear New York Rap-ass El-P do some southern style rhymimg. Also if you wondered if Zach De La Rocha has changed much in the last 20 years. spoiler: not really
posted by Hoopo at 9:04 PM on January 9, 2015


Madonna, she peaked in the 1980s. I think it was the 1990's or 2000's when she sold her soul to The Illuminati that she lost her talent and they had to use autotune like everyone else.

They even copied Madonna and named her Lady Gaga.

Madonna was basically a clone of Marilyn Monroe, Marilyn joined the Illuminati and could only get out of it via suicide after having a sexual affair with JFK and RFK. Back then people got by on talent instead of autotune. About 99% of modern music uses autotune or something else to make up for the lack of talent in the drug addled brains and bodies of the musicians.
posted by Orion Blastar at 9:08 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hey! Look at the time...
posted by aydeejones at 9:33 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, #2 is legit too. Makes the RATM dude relevant for the first time in a decade. Maybe Madonna should call him for a collab. (Does run into the amazing beat/middling lyrics a couple times, but Early, about Killer Mike getting arrested in front of his kid, is fucking brilliant and middling for RTJ is still pretty good.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:39 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


"What is the benefit to the leaker in a situation like this? How would they make money off of it, if nothing is being sold? Is it just someone doing it for the lulz? Seems like a shitty reason to risk your job."

From knowing a lot of people on the less glamorous side of the recording industry, it's generally somebody who has something cool and shares it with another, like, engineer or studio mate or boyfriend/girlfriend, then that person usually shares it with a slightly bigger community of music friends, and then it gets either uploaded to a private torrent/filesharing network or leaked to a blog. Leakers get professional and social recognition. I've never heard of any being bribed, but I also wouldn't put that past some fans.

And then there's the thing where folks like Sony get caught with their marketing firms "leaking" things on purpose at the same time their legal arms come down on people.
posted by klangklangston at 9:51 PM on January 9, 2015


vapidave: "Look at the language here; "Real Rebels think for themselves! Real Rebels respect ART! Real Rebels are Rebels in their heart. #rebelheart," said Madonna in an Instagram post.""

SYNERGY!
posted by symbioid at 10:25 PM on January 9, 2015


Madonna, she peaked in the 1980s.

Ray of Light. Your argument is invalid. Also Bedtime Stories, Erotica..

They even copied Madonna and named her Lady Gaga.

No, David Bowie and Madonna had a lovechild grown in a vat and named her Gaga.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:36 PM on January 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


"But I fear she's lost her interest in making a personal artistic statement in favor of making a personal market success."

Um...

Yeah, nevermind.
posted by el io at 11:04 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


They even copied Madonna and named her Lady Gaga.

I don't understand why people think Lady Gaga is trying to copy Madonna.

She's very plainly trying to copy Kylie Minogue.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:18 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Kylie could only dream of having Gaga's success in the US.

(Something I've never understood, really... She's GIGANTIC across the planet, but ONE hit in the US, in the late 80s.)
posted by hippybear at 11:54 PM on January 9, 2015


Kylie also had Can't Get You Outta My Head in the early 00s, was that not big in the USA? Huge here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:31 AM on January 10, 2015


I've watched a few of madonna's early vids recently on the tubes (what can I say, I like female pop groups/pop artists, and her stuff got popular when I was in HS). Some conclusions I've drawn:

* She's not a great dancer
* I really enjoy listening to "Like a Prayer"; alas, the video seems well-intentioned, but patronizing and white-knighty to me in 2015
* "Live to Tell" is a really good song
* "Papa Don't Preach" is super-catchy, but the lyrics make me die a little inside

If there is a modern heir to Madonna surely Beyoncé must be considered? Not musical style, of course, but a combination of beauty/charisma, genuine song-writing talent, intelligence, business acumen, having no qualms about sex as a subject and being seen as a sexual being (despite our cultural expectations of women and especially female pop stars), etc., etc.

Beyoncé is a better dancer/choreographer. Beyoncé seems obsessed with the quality of her output, something I'm not sure you can consistently say about Madonna. B, to me, affects an effortless charisma in public appearances/photos/slice of life stuff that M has never managed to find. Madonna also has seemed at times to want to be taken seriously as an Influential and Important Artist, and I don't really have that impression of Beyoncé. But we're also talking about different generations, and Beyoncé has been able to take advantage of many things Madonna would not have had access to. Then again, M has all the advantages her race offers her in our society.

In conclusion, youtube is a land of contrasts.
posted by maxwelton at 2:12 AM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


As long as you're in the 80s end of the Madonna pool, I'd also recommend Borderline and Open Your Heart. Great stuff.

I like that Ray of Light has been mentioned. Every rave kid I knew hated, hated, hated Madonna for her perceived slight of lifting THEIR music to breathe new life into her carreer. I thought it was pretty good personally, but the bile from my roommates just made me appreciate it a little more.

Also, please don't drag Bowie into any description of Gaga. Just ... no.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:35 AM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


it's taking everything that's going on in contemporary pop music to another level

It'll be bigger than Jolson!
posted by Trochanter at 5:57 AM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Ray of Light" is a great number. Maybe because to me it sounds more like Madonna guesting on a William Orbit track than something I would expect on a Madonna-branded album. It didn't make me a Madonna fan, but helped teach me that music I like can come from sources I wasn't expecting.
posted by ardgedee at 6:27 AM on January 10, 2015


Trochanter: It'll be bigger than Jolson!

Madonna is really Eddie Cantor?
posted by dr_dank at 8:06 AM on January 10, 2015


i listened to the 6 official tracks - this is going to be huge - it's taking everything that's going on in contemporary pop music to another level

this could be an album that defines this decade's music


Nah, that would be FKA Twigs.
posted by Nevin at 8:44 AM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


i've always been partial to La Isla Bonita
posted by bitteroldman at 9:09 AM on January 10, 2015


I just came here to say I recently enjoyed a clip of Johnny Rotten talking about that fake English accent Madonna affected for a while.
posted by ostranenie at 9:48 AM on January 10, 2015


IMO Liza Minnelli + Marilyn Manson + Britney/Madonna VMAs kiss = Lady Gaga
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:37 AM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


"It's like everybody in this party is shining like Illuminati."

This is producing the same feelings in me that arose when Lady Gaga released the publicity artwork for "Judas," which briefly gave me high hopes it was going to be something dark and weird ...and then it turned out to be "I'm just a holy fool, oh baby it's so cruel."

So, feelings of earned deflation, I guess.
posted by psoas at 11:22 AM on January 10, 2015


To be sure, Lady Gaga's image is the most unusual thing about her work.
posted by rhizome at 11:58 AM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


It IS her work.
posted by Trochanter at 12:02 PM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think I've heard anything by Madonna since 1992. The death of broadcasting and a monolithic pop culture is AWESOME.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:13 PM on January 10, 2015


It IS her work.

I know what you're saying, but you know, there's the whole music part, too.
posted by rhizome at 12:16 PM on January 10, 2015


Yeah you really can't bag on Gaga for her musical chops--look up some of her live with only a piano performances and you'll see. (I'd suggest either the Vevo launch event where she did Speechless, or when she did Edge of Glory on Howard Stern). So for me she actually edges Madonna there. But Madge has been able to stay relevant in a much bigger way by doing this constant reinvention-that-isn't, dressing new skins on the same basic formula. Gaga didn't realize how that works, I think, and now she's basically gone.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:36 PM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know what you're saying, but you know, there's the whole music part, too.

Much more of a fan of her music than her image. The visuals add some nice character and all, but I'm not watching her image when the music plays in my car, or on the radio, or on my phone...
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:37 PM on January 10, 2015


Madonna: let me tell you what rebels do.
posted by bile and syntax at 3:16 PM on January 10, 2015


Twenty years ago Madonna always seemed to be about 2 or 3 years behind Bjork.
posted by Nevin at 5:44 PM on January 9 [4 favorites +] [!]


20 years ago Madonna was recording a song written by Bjork, so, sure.
posted by mikeh at 3:31 PM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeech, I hate that some people think that stealing time and energy is okay because after all it is recorded....but isn't that all we have to trade for money...our time and energy.
posted by OhSusannah at 8:53 PM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


desjardins: What is the benefit to the leaker in a situation like this?

Ego/ internet cred. There are groups of people who trade music, and race each-other to be the first to get something, though really early leaks usually happen via reviewers/ early play sources, or even at pressing plants. This sounds like it could have been a hack, due to the rough demo nature of these tracks, unless they've been sent around between various different parties to be reviewed for revisions and reworkings, in which case, it could be an issue of too many people having access to the material. Share a link with a friend, who passes it to a friend, that type of thing. That person isn't disgruntled, just excited to share something super 'leet (as in elite, in hacker/'net nerd jargon).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:28 AM on January 12, 2015


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