Release Date: Apr 29, 2008
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Rock, Dance, Pop
When news spread that Madonna was reaching out to Timbaland and Justin Timberlake to produce her final album with Warner Brothers, the hype machine went into overdrive. But the first single from Hard Candy, the marching-band electro track “4 Minutes,” left some a little cold. The album, however, is a whole other story. Hard Candy finds Madonna in full dance mode over beats produced by Timbaland and Pharrell.
You’ve seen the video for ”4 Minutes,” Madonna’s flirty duet with Justin Timberlake. Perhaps you’ve heard that roughly half of her new album, Hard Candy, was produced by the Neptunes, with the remainder entrusted to the team of Timbaland, Nate ”Danja” Hills, and Timberlake. Maybe you know that Kanye West pops up on one song (”Beat Goes On”).
This is Madonna’s last album for Warner before leaving the label system for a deal with concert promoters Live Nation, and she’s decided to blow the last of the label’s cash on the top American producers of the day instead of the up-and-comers with whom she’s often collaborated. As her last album did well everywhere but the U.S., it also seems like a calculated decision to bring Timbaland and Pharrell Williams on board to co-write and produce. This is a very consistent album, the only real dud being the closer, Voices.
This is a smart play, as this is the audience that has always consisted of Madonna loyalists, and it's also is a savvy way to negotiate the explosion of niches in 2008, but there are problems in her execution. Madonna relies on the Neptunes and the pair of Timbaland and Justin Timberlake for most of her modern makeover -- a good idea in theory as they are some of the biggest hitmakers of the decade, but the productions they've constructed here sound a couple years old at best and at worst feel like they're dressing Madonna in Nelly Furtado's promiscuous hand-me-downs. Sometimes this can result in reasonably appealing grooves -- "Candy Shop" captures Pharrell Williams' flair for slim, sleek grooves, "Dance 2night" conjures Timberlake's Off the Wall obsession nicely, and the icy heartbreak of "Miles Away" is a worthy successor to "What Goes Around Comes Around" -- but this also points out the album's main flaw: the track comes before the song.