Last spring, Justin Timberlake, Timbaland and Nate “Danja” Hills jetted to London to help craft a new sound for Madonna, who was beginning work on her eleventh studio album. “She wanted up-tempo, dance, club music, and for everything to have a hip-hop underlining,” says Danja, who co-produced four tracks on the still-untitled album, out April 29th. “It’s a different sound for her.”
The first single, “Four Minutes to Save the World,” pairs menacing marching-band horns with glitchy synth drums – and features Madonna and Timberlake trading verses about an impending apocalypse, a la Prince’s “1999.” A special-effects-laden video for the song, directed by French duo Jonas and François (who created the live-action animation clip for Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.”), is due out in March. In it, Madonna and Timberlake star as superheroes dancing and trying to avert global disaster.
Madonna asked Timbaland and Danja to lay the foundation for the new album – her first since 2005’s Confessions on a Dance. floor – after being impressed with the work they did on Timberlake’s 2006 disc FutureSex/LoveSounds. “She loved Justin’s album,” says Danja. In the studio, the producers would bounce beats off each other while Madonna and Timberlake, who co-wrote several cuts on the album, worked on lyrics and melodies. “She would come in, sit in her chair in the corner and just vibe with us,” says Danja. “We just banged out a beat, and she would go with something she was feeling and start writing.”
Pharrell Williams also produced several tracks for the album, including “Give It to Me” and the seductive “Candy Store.” “Give It to Me,” an epic track built for the clubs and the runner-up for first single, has a thumping house beat and techno synth stabs that climax with a freaked-out break over which Madonna chants, “Get stupid.” “It was cool,” says Danja – who is also working on new albums for Mariah Carey, Missy Elliott and Usher – of the sessions. “She was very down-to-earth, very cool person, very easy.”
This story is from the March 6th, 2008 issue of Rolling Stone.