Strutting into Universal’s Manhattan headquarters on a bleak, frigid evening,Madonna looks like a naughty princess come to toss off some knowledge to the peons. It’s an image enhanced not only by her outfit — a form-fitting black blazer with arm poufs; a silver Chanel whistle, hanging low on a necklace; and aubergine-hued lace gloves topped with a diamond skull ring — but also the servant that trails in her wake, carrying an old-timey glass bottle with a black ribbon tied around the neck. It looks like a vessel from a cartoon — it might have smoke billowing out the top and the caption, “Drink to Grow Strong,” but it’s just good old tequila. “We’re playing a drinking game,” announces Madonna, plunking two shot glasses on a coffee table. “If you ask a stupid question, you have to drink a shot. But if you ask an amazing question, I have to drink a shot.” Pause for effect. “I’m the judge of stupid and good, though.”

Madonna never did take a shot, but we didn’t get drunk either. Instead, after unfolding herself on a white leather horseshoe-shaped couch, upon which the 56-year-old often stretched like a cat — the body, as always, is in tip-top shape, and her cool blue eyes never break their gaze — she engaged in a rapid-fire chat about sex, motherhood, religion and Rebel Heart (Live Nation/Interscope), her 13th studio album. A return to pop after 2012’s EDM-flavored MDNA (which has sold 539,000 copies, according to Nielsen Music), Rebel Heart features special guestsKanye West, Nicki Minaj, Nas and Mike Tyson, and producers like Diplo andAvicii. Its tracks are named after her lifelong obsessions, like “S.E.X.” and “Holy Water,” in which she whispers, “Yeezus loves my p—- best.” (Billboard tells her we misheard this as “Jesus loves my p—- best,” at which she dryly remarks, “Whole different context.”)

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