Madonna's long-awaited final album for her longtime label Warner Brothers has arrived. Hard Candy features Madonna working with current radio favorites Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, and others. Is Madonna trying to guarantee herself a US radio hit this time around? Well, it's worked... so far. The album's lead single "4 Minutes," (purchase/download) which features Justin and Timbaland, is a huge hit around the globe including America! The second single "Give It 2 Me" is already gaining popularity as well. Now, let's talk about the album in its entirety.
"Candy Shop" (purchase/download) kicks off the candylicious set and is a funky number produced by the Neptunes (aka Pharrell). This song took a few listens before it "grabbed me." However, after seeing her perform this live in New York and London for the album promo tour, I have to say that now I am really digging this fun track.
"4 Minutes" follows in all its 4 minutes and 4 seconds glory. I guess they couldn't chop off 4 seconds to make the track length exactly 4 minutes? Ha! This track really needs no description. It's a hit. We knew it was going to be a hit before we heard it. The single has done amazingly well for a Madonna track based on her more recent previous efforts. The track may not grab hold of you tight at first listen, but after a few more those Timbaland horns, those beats, they pull you in and don't let go. It's just a fun, funky track that in the end you can't help but move to. The single features dance remixes by Peter Rauhofer, Tracy Young, Junkie XL, Bob Sinclar, and Rebirth.
The album's second single, "Give It 2 Me," follows. Another Pharrell track, which may surprise some due to its very upbeat, dancelike sound. This track I prefer even more than "4 Minutes" although it's obvious why "4 Minutes" was chosen for a lead single. "Give It 2 Me" is a wonderful, although typical, fun Madonna song to dance to. Another strong track. So far, in my opinion, we are 3 for 3.
"Heartbeat" (purchase/download)is next, again a Pharrell track and again, a strong track. I could hear this doing well at radio too. Although I'm skeptical about "Give It 2 Me's" radio success given it's dancey vibe, "Heartbeat" is something I can hear on the radio right now. It's fresh and new enough yet still captures that current funky Neptunes sound that can make a song a hit on the radio. 4 for 4.
Next up, "Miles Away," which brings us back to the production team of Timbaland, Justin, and Danja. This is the album's first downtempo number. At least based on the first four tracks. The lyrics are meaningful, and Madonna sounds great. I wouldn't be surprised if we see this end up as a single as well.
Although I'm a huge Madonna fan, there always seem to be a couple of songs on every album that I just don't particularly care for. "She's Not Me" is one of those. Not that I think it's a horrible track, I just can't seem to listen to it from start to finish. It loses me and I find myself ready to see what's next. Maybe it's the length. At over six minutes, the simplicity of the track isn't enough to carry it for that length. A shorter version would have made me happier.
"Incredible" follows and this is the second track on the album that I don't really like. What's happening here?? Up until track 6, I was so digging everything about this album. Hopefully things are about to turn around. "Incredible" is another track that's just a little bit too long... or maybe it could have been left off the album altogether. Now don't get me wrong, I know that there will be fans of this song, but I can't say that I am or will be one of them. I can't listen to all 6 minutes and 20 seconds of this one either.
Madonna and Kanye West? There's a match I never would have dreamed of, well, maybe until I heard about Madonna's upcoming album months ago and the producers she was working with, etc. The album's eighth track "Beat Goes On" is so catchy... I'm loving the album again! Pharrell is the producer on this one as well. And I must say, I much prefer the Pharrell tracks on this album than the Timbaland tracks which surprises me, as I expected it to be the other way around. Some will say this track borders on the line of cheesy, but it's almost "silly catchy" in a way. Kanye's rap is a welcome addition considering I was wondering how he was going to sound on such a fun bouncy track.
"Dance 2night" follows, produced by Timba and Justin. Another one of the album's more downtempo grooves. Justin is also featured on this track, although he's not given credit on the back of the album in the tracklisting as he is on "4 Minutes." This track isn't amazing, but it's good. And it sounds great. I don't see this being a hit single but it's a great album track.
"Spanish Lesson" (purchase/download) is another Pharrell track and what a guilty pleasure it is. I had read of mixed reviews on this one - some calling it horrible - some calling it pure cheese - but I have to admit, it IS cheesy, but it IS also fun. It makes me smile. And giggle. I can't help it.
At track 11 we've reached my favorite track on the album. At first listen you can tell that it's an obvious Timbaland and Justin track. Think "Cry Me A River" or "What Goes Around...Comes Around" but this is Madonna's 'version'... "Devil Wouldn't Recognize You." I love this song. LOVE it. Aside from "4 Minutes," this is my favorite of the Timba/Justin collaborations. This could be a hit.