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Sound Off – Madonna: Hard Candy

Posted by ThatsMyJamRadio on April 29, 2008

The latest albums making noise

U.S. radio can’t seem figure out a place for dance music among its hip-hop-flavored playlists. That didn’t stop Madonna’s last album, Confessions on a Dance Floor, from producing the top 10 hit, “Hung Up.” But when it was announced she was teaming up with Timbaland, Justin Timberlake and Pharrell for her 12th studio album, Hard Candy, one had to wonder if Madge was enlisting the heavyweights in order to get more airplay and ― more frighteningly ― if she was following trends rather than setting them.

The journey to find out is complex, but at least it’s fun. On the Pharrell-produced set opener, “Candy Shop,” an updated drumbeat guides the track that could have easily been a leftover from the Neptune’s “Hollaback Girl” session with Gwen Stefani. And no Madonna song would be complete without subtle suggestion, with this track’s “All-day suckers are not what we sell in this store/Chocolate kisses so good you’ll be begging for more/Don’t pretend you’re not hungry, there’s plenty to eat/ Come on into my store ’cause my sugar is sweet” fitting the bill.

The first single, “4 Minutes,” features Timberlake in a back-and-forth that’s definitely a party-starter, but isn’t quite as convincing as their vocal debate on “Voices,” in which J.T. questions, “Who is the master, who is the slave?” Plenty of other paradoxical statements follow in what is the most lyrically “deep” song on the compilation, but for those who like their pop of the mindless variety, “Dance 2 Night” satisfies in the vain of Timberlake’s “Sexy Ladies” and “Rock Your Body.”

Even one of the most famous women in the world experiences insecurity, as noted in “She’s Not Me,” a disco-esque ditty that takes lyrical notes from Pebbles’ “Backyard,” but is reminiscent of tracks from Madonna’s self-titled first album and it’s follow-up, Like A Virgin. That time period is revisited in “Beat Goes On,” which features an unusual yet welcome pairing with Kanye West.

There’s no mistaking who produced “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You,” the closest thing to a ballad on the album that perhaps serves as a continuation — lyrically and melodically — to Timberlake’s “What Goes Around (Comes Around).” “Spanish Lesson” is a fun hip-hop and Latin track that isn’t “La Isla Bonita” part two, but instead translates for listeners the meaning of potentially unfamiliar phrases such as yo te quiero, mucho gusto, callete and besame.

By no means is Hard Candy a completely urban record, as the list of collaborators might suggest. There are pop-y numbers that take listeners back to the “good old days” of Madonna’s body of work, while dabbling in rock, R&B, disco and dance. What is pervasive is this continuous drumbeat that few tracks in this collection seem able to escape, though they would flawlessly transition in a DJ set that included “Hollaback Girl” and Destiny’s Child’s “Lose My Breath.” Naturally, this keeps the entire disc quite upbeat.

What is unusual is how comfortable Madonna seems in letting Timberlake and Pharrell upstage her on a majority of this project ― a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since that Courtney Love incident at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. However, the effort here seems to showcase an ability to make contemporary music rather than innovate it, and it’s as easy to be convinced of Madonna’s rhythm-and-blues potential. (And those who need further convincing need only pick up a copy of her 1994 album, Bedtime Stories.)

Track List:
1. “Candy Shop”
2. “4 Minutes” with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland
3. “Give It 2 Me”
4. “Heartbeat”
5. “Miles Away”
6. “She’s Not Me”
7. “Incredible”
8. “Beat Goes On” with Kanye West
9. “Dance 2 Night” with Justin Timberlake
10. “Spanish Lesson”
11. “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You”
12. “Voices” with Justin Timberlake

One Response to “Sound Off – Madonna: Hard Candy”

  1. Great Review! Love this CD. I have been playing it non-stop since in was released.Fav Tracks: Candy Shop, 4Min, Heartbeat, Miles Away, She's Not Me, Incredible and Beat Goes On. Madonna really should attempt to record a true bonafide R&B album for her first Live Nation release in 2010. That would be hot!

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