Friday, May 02, 2008

Hot Candy Mess

Okay the new Madonna album Hard Candy finally came out on Tuesday. So far after a few listens I'm 50/50 on it. Better than I thought it would be, but still I think that this is one of her weaker albums. It's a little too slavishly faithful to the hip-hop-pop formula for my tastes. The tracks that comes off the best IMHO are the ones that stray the furthest from that formula.

There has been some comparisons between this album and Bedtime Stories, and I think that they are kind of off. While both employed up-to-the-minute "urban" producers, the two have very different vibes. BS has a smooth, laid-back vibe, while HC goes in the opposite direction with a more assertive, in-your-face, and "hard" feeling. Plus when Madonna did Bedtime Stories she pretty much could do whatever she wanted she could get US radio airplay. That's no longer the case given in the past few years the Hot 100 chart positions of singles like "Hung Up" and "American Life" were more fueled singles and download sales rather than airplay. With Hard Candy, Madonna clearly wants to have a US radio hit and she's more than willing--desperate even--to submerge her own identity in the shadow of the name hip-hop producers in order to get some airtime along with the Pussycat Dolls of the US airwaves.

Here's my impression of the tracks:

1. Candy Shop - It's an improvement on the leaked version that came out last year, but still it's a bit of a weak kick-off for the album, and the candy-as-sex theme has already used in pop/rap records in the past couple of years, such as 50 Cent's "Candy Shop," Mika's "Lollipop," and most recently,Lil Wayne's "Lollipop." Though I think that given the type of songs that get played on US pop radio these days, if this becomes a single, it will become mind-numbingly big on the US charts.

2. 4 Minutes - I've kind of warmed up to this, but I still think that it's a hot mess. This would have worked better if Madonna had done this as a solo record instead of a duet with Justin Timberlake/Timbaland. With all three singing lead it becomes a bit too much.

3. Give It 2 Me - Not a bad choice for the second single. This is Madge's version of "Maneater," only with a more synthy sound. Funny considering that this track actually was produced by Pharrell Williams, not by Timbaland who produced that Nelly Futardo single.

4. Heartbeat - would have made a better impression on me if there was less of that hippity-hoppity-clappity production.

5. Miles Away - This is probably my favorite song the album. It sounds like something from the American Life era, only it's filtered through Timbaland.

6. She's Not Me - With a joyous vibe that harks back to her debut album, this would have been great if it was edited down to four minutes. At 6+ minutes it a bit of a drag.

7. Incredible - Also could have been edited down to 3-4 minutes as well.

8. The Beat Goes On - The album version no longer sounds the knock-off of Justin's "Like I Love You" like the leaked version was last year, but still it's not all that interesting. Not worthy single material.

9. Dance 2night - Another duet with Timberlake. The track that uses the most hip-hop-pop cliches and ends up being the creative nadir of the album IMHO.

10. Spanish Lesson - Pharrell Williams gets all Evita. Nuf said.

11. Devil Wouldn't Recognize You - The devil should have edited this one down instead; it too drags at its 5+ minute length.

12. Voices - This track reminds me of that Paul Oakenfold remix of Mark Ronson/Daniel Merriweather's "Stop Me" with its moody synths over the drum loop. Still, this closer is one of the highlights of the album for me.

Madonna clearly wants to make Hard Candy her "ghetto pass" back to US pop radio. And she might end up getting that. Oh well at least she's getting some air time with "4 Minutes (To Get My Music Back Onto Clear Channel)", though it seems Top 40 radio's interest in that track has already peaked by now. As someone who loved her last album Confessions On A Dance Floor, I just wish that she didn't have to "sell out" her artistic instincts by conforming to what Clear Channel determines what is an acceptable pop song in the 2000's.

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Blogger The Divine Ms. Jimmi said...

Well, Madge is always ready to sell--sell out. I hate 4 Minutes.

11:28 PM  
Blogger hot-lunch said...

i didn't expect to like the album as much as i do. i wasn't looking forward to it, but after listening to it several times over, I must say that it is one of her most listenable albums in a long time. i don't skip any tracks like i do with Music or American Life. and even compared to Confessions, Hard Candy seems lighter, funner, even. That's just my impressions! I find the best way to listen to it is loud, with big booming headphones on.

9:11 PM  

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