Hard Candy

Madonna\'s Candy Shop previewWhen I’m not writing Johnny Mackintosh books, I sometimes get to work on Music and Entertainment programmes for ITV. Tonight, Emily and Stacy from Warner Records hosted a preview of Madonna’s new album and video, conveniently located on my street.

The location was as fabulous as you would expect, a giant loft apartment festooned with ubercool 1950s Japanese robots. The album is titled Hard Candy, apparently “a juxtaposition of tough and sweetness”, so the decoration was massive lollipops, while the ubiquitous trays of jelly beans were washed down with champagne. Everywhere, Madge’s face stared out from magazine covers. Madonna Hard Candy preview magazines

A tie-in with Justin Timberlake and production by The Neptunes gives the album the strong beats you’d expect. It’s doubtless a sign that Madge is still keeping up with the times, but on first listen the “hard” of the heavy background detracted from the “candy” buried within some of the songs. The full tracklist is

  1. Candy Shop
  2. 4 Minutes (ft 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 (ft Kanye West)
  9. Dance Tonight
  10. Spanish Lessons
  11. Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You
  12. Voices

4 Minutes is the new single. When she sings, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” you wonder if Madonna’s flesh-coloured underwear was one of them. It’s not often I feel sorry for Guy Ritchie, but watching his missus wearing that gave me a couple of moments when I did. Overall, though, the video works well and I definitely wanted the giant countdown timer that’s standing in the background. We see Madge at her blonde best. She may look better as a brunette, but then she isn’t Madonna. In a few years she’ll have gone the way of Cher but, for now, the platinum locks still look the part and, when they’re set off against tight black leather leggings, the grandmother of pop can even still be called sexy.

Madonna Hard Candy preview showing giant candy

Taking the rest of the album in order… title track Candy Shop and Give it 2 Me were largely the sandwich for the excellent 4 Minutes filling. Hidden within Heartbeat, the “You know I feel it in my heartbeat” riff held echoes of earlier times, particularly Material Girl, but it’s buried beneath the bass. Miles Away is wistful, but dragged on miles too long. She’s Not Me truly shows off Madge’s dance roots and heads into electronica, with some unmistakably OMD-style chords in the background. Again, in Incredible there’s a beautifully melodic song tapping softly against the bass, politely asking to be let out. By the time we hear (the Kanye West accompanied) Beat Goes On, we know for sure that it does and wish there was just a little respite from it. Dance 2night is a straight throwback to Madonna’s earlier Erotica (and no bad thing for that). Then, we’re shocked out of our dance trance by the flamenco guitars that open Spanish Lesson, but the moment is short-lived. Hard Candy ends on a double high of Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You, before the orchestrally enhanced Voices that rounds it all off in style.

Her eleventh Warner studio album, the whole thing is constructed and flows well. More importantly, it has some potentially great Madonna-style songs. As you’ll have guessed by now, I longed for someone to come along and remix the thing, taking the hardness off so we can taste the candy properly – but I always did have a sweet tooth. Maybe it’s me stuck in a the 80s and 90s sweetshop while its Madge getting down with the kids on the street…
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~ by keithmansfield on April 7, 2008.

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