TODAY | April 18, 2012
MATT LAUER, co-host: We're back now at 7:42. Madonna is one of the biggest pop stars of all time and no stranger to making headlines. But recently it was her daughter, 15-year-old Lourdes , who got some attention when she was photographed smoking a cigarette. NBC 's Harry Smith sat down with Madonna for an exclusive interview and talked about the challenges of parenting in the spotlight and her future in music. And Harry joins us this morning. Harry , how are you?
HARRY SMITH reporting: Good to be here, Matt. The last time most of us saw Madonna was at the Super Bowl . In fact, more people watched her extravaganza during the halftime show than actually watched the game itself, proving that, like her or not, America still can't turn away. For 30 years now, Madonna has been seeking and getting our attention. Like her or not, the Super Bowl proved we cannot ignore her. Nor, apparently, do we want to. So when her new album was released last month, once again she got our attention. It debuted at number one.
MADONNA: It's hard to be number one. It's hard to sell records. It's -- you know, it's a lot of competition and I was extremely elated.
SMITH: But in the second week, it plunged down the charts, leaving some to wonder if the mistress of reinvention had lost her touch. Turns out it's not so easy maintaining her place at the center of the pop universe and being a single mom with four kids. Is it hard being you?
MADONNA: I imagine it must be. Yes. It is. It must be hard because I complain all the time.
SMITH: I'm serious.
MADONNA: That's a strange question to ask me. Is it hard being you?
SMITH: Only on certain days.
MADONNA: Yeah, I mean, I think it's hard. We all have our challenges. To be a single mother of four and to work as much as I do and live my life in a kind of metaphorical fishbowl, it's pretty challenging. Yeah. But so far I've survived with sanity and humor intact.
SMITH: Are there two Madonnas ? Is there the...
MADONNA: There's probably about 25. But to my children there's mostly the one that comes home and says, 'Have you done your homework?' and 'Why are you wearing that?' and 'Why did you say that?' and 'What are you eating that for?'
SMITH: Her oldest daughter, Lourdes , is now 15. The two of them have their own clothing line and she sang backup on one of the songs on the new album. But at this moment, Lourdes is in Madge 's doghouse. There was a picture the other day of her in the paper with a cigarette.
SMITH: And I thought, 'How did Madonna react to that?'
MADONNA: She wasn't very happy.
SMITH: Are you a tough mom?
MADONNA: Yeah, I think I am. But honestly, I don't think I'm as tough as I -- as I should be. I think I need to be maybe tougher. It's hard , though. It's hard . It's -- every day is a negotiation. But cigarette smoking I'm not very fond of, for anyone.
MADONNA: I don't approve of anyone smoking cigarettes, most of all my daughter.
SMITH: But there's a video of you with a -- with a cigarette in your mouth.
MADONNA: Yes. That's -- I don't smoke. That's just an accessory, Harry . There's a difference. She smoked that cigarette before I did that video. Just want to point that out. So she didn't get that from me, OK?
SMITH: Unless you wonder if she's about to morph into the "Material Mom," fear not, Madonna is not done. Do you have stuff left to prove?
MADONNA: I don't know about prove, but I certainly have stuff left to say. And I think that's really why I'm doing it. I still feel like expressing myself that way and I'll keep doing it as long as I do.
SMITH: This is the Madonna you don't see all that often: very relaxed, comfortable, funny even.
LAUER: And you -- by the way, I just want to mention, you told me you shot that very late at night.
LAUER: So perhaps her guard down even further than it normally would be.
SMITH: And she'd been rehearsing all day. So that's probably the perfect time .
LAUER: Good tactic, Mr. Smith. Harry , thank you very much . You can see more of Harry 's conversation with Madonna . That's tonight on "Rock Center" with Brian Williams , 9, 8 Central time right here on NBC . Up next, the names included in a new list of the most influential people in the world, that courtesy of Time magazine . Plus, we'll meet some of the American athletes hoping to strike gold in London when the Olympics kick off in 100 days. But first, these messages.