NEW YORK (AP) — Madonna had to pull a Kanye West on Kanye West to get the rapper-producer to focus in the studio.
West co-produced a number of tracks on Madonna's new album, "Rebel Heart," and the pop icon said she had to reel in the outspoken performer at times.
"Just think about his personality, which is engaging," she said with a smile during a recent interview. "He's highly intelligent and very aware about what's going on in the world, easily distracted, sometimes it was hard to get him to focus because he's like Mr. Multi-tasker and he's got a lot of moving parts."
"Sometimes I had to stand in front of the door like this, 'You're not going anywhere! We have to finish this song right now,'" she added, folding her arms.
Madonna's sternness worked: her 13th album, "Rebel Heart," released Tuesday, is one of her most critically acclaimed efforts in years. Time magazine's review praised it as her "most consistent album in a decade. The Los Angeles Times said it "lands solidly and with great grace on its feet," and USA Today gave it 3.5 out of four stars.
The album didn't come without hiccups: It was leaked last year and Madonna had to quickly release nine of the 19 tracks (aspiring singer Adi Lederman was placed under house arrest in Israel on suspicion of hacking into Madonna's computer). A fall last month at the Brit Awards also took the focus off her music, though Madonna says she's doing fine. And the singer faced criticism when she posted Instagram photos of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela that were altered to look like her own image on her new album.
The 56-year-old said too many celebrities immediately apologize after being criticized on social media.
"I think that people probably apologize more than they have to," she said. "I think that people should stick to their guns and if you have any opinion about something, stick to it. Maybe you have to explain it further, not apologize for it, but elaborate on it."
She further offers her thoughts on "Unapologetic Bitch," a self-explanatory track on "Rebel Heart" that she said "was very cathartic, easy, fun" to create.
Madonna said she started recording the album 18 months ago and called the writing process "calming."
"When I started working with producers, that's when stuff started heating up. That's when things got exciting, unpredictable, late nights, lots of coming and going," she said.
Those producers range from West to Avicii to Diplo, who worked on the first single, the dance tune "Living for Love." Other collaborators include Ryan Tedder, Mike Dean, Toby Gad and Nicki Minaj.
"A lot of times I was working with people I never met before. I would meet them for the first time and basically sit down and go, 'OK, let's write a song,'" she recalled. "A lot of interesting things came out of it; a lot of stuff I never used, and a lot of stuff I did. It was a good lesson for me in letting go."
West worked on tracks including "Holy Water," ''Wash All Over Me," ''Auto-tune Baby" and "Illuminati," which Madonna said she wrote "because I wanted to dispel the myth of what Illuminati means because people don't really understand the origin of the word."
"It's misused, misappropriated and misunderstood, so I tried to get that across in the song. Not sure anyone's paying attention to the lyrics just yet, but they will, certainly when I do it live," she said, who name-drops Justin Bieber, Jay Z and Lady Gaga on the song. "If people say, 'Oh I'm a member of the Illuminati and they think they're insulting me, I'm actually flattered by it because the real Illuminati were incredible thinkers, inventors, artists, philosophers, scientists."
"Like who doesn't want to be put in that group, right?" she asked. "It has nothing to do with how many Mercedes-Benz you have or how much money you have or power."