Madonna's last album, 2006's Confessions on a Dancefloor, had a distinctively European electronic feel that generated strong worldwide sales, but seemed to somewhat alienate American audiences. Armed with collaborators at the current forefront of American pop, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and Pharrell Williams, Madonna takes direct aim at American audiences and radio. The result is an expansive dance-centric collection that likely ranks among the very best of her 11 studio albums.
12 Tracks Filled With Artistic Tension
As an artist, Madonna reliably retains a significant amount of control over the production process. However, it is when she seems challenged most by the powers of confident studio collaborators that artistic sparks seem to fly. Producer William Orbit coaxed Madonna into an electronica masterpiece on Ray of Light. French producer and songwriter Mirwais brought a European electronic approach to Madonna's pop-rock instincts and created the smash hit "Music." Throughout the 12 tracks of Hard Candy, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and Pharrell Williams are all powerfully in evidence, but the recordings remain distinctively Madonna in sound and feel.
Madonna Plays Hard
Madonna made her name in the early '80s playing somewhat frothy dance music. However, she has maintained her status as one of the world's top pop stars by continuing to push boundaries and challenge listeners in her music. Hard Candy is no exception. "Candy Shop" kicks off the set with an intense, percussion heavy atmosphere that consistently weans the attention away from sugary sexual innuendo. "Miles Away" nods to the acoustic-edged mix Timbaland and Justin Timberlake wove for "What Goes Around...Comes Around", while incorporating the most intensely personal lyrics of the album, "You always have the biggest heart when we're 6,000 miles apart." "Voices" weaves an equally wistful and ominous sound with questions about romantic turmoil including "Who is the master and who is the slave?"
Top Tracks on 'Hard Candy'
- "4 Minutes"
- "Give It 2 Me"
- "Miles Away"
Madonna Is Here to Stay
With only 12 songs, there is not a wasted track here. Madonna has one of the most instantly familiar voices in all of pop music. This album very effectively uses that familiarity alongside the latest contemporary beats to deliver music which rides nearly perfectly along the blade of moderate novelty. Fans will find themselves in an exhilarating listening zone throughout Hard Candy.
It is by now a cliche to wonder each time Madonna delivers a new release if this will be the one where her popularity shows a distinct fade. Rest assured that Hard Candy is not that album. The first single, "4 Minutes," is resting comfortably in the pop top five and is likely to be followed by more hits to come.
Released by Warner Bros. April 2008.