The Queen of Pop, Madonna, has been able to reinvent herself time and time again. From “Like a Virgin” (1984) to “Erotica,” from “Ray of Light,” (1992) to “Confessions on a Dance Floor,”(2005) with each album this pop icon has been able to bring new sounds to fans and revamp her image. However, her latest release “Hard Candy,” is nothing near Queen material.
The new album, which moves in a more urban direction hit stores last month. According to Billboard magazine, it had disappointing sales, with 200,000 sold in its first week, which is nothing compared to her previous sales during a first week. Looks like the nearly 50-year-old “Material Girl” has maybe, finally lost her touch.
This time around Madonna enlisted the help of hip-hop’s finest to produce and accompany her on vocals for this album. Timbaland and Pharrell Williams lead the pack.
Timbaland’s best- known works have been with artists like Nelly Furtado and the always sexy Justin Timberlake, who also joins Madonna on three tracks. Williams also worked with Justin Timberlake on his first solo album “Justified” (2002), and is part of the duo NERD.
Williams handled most of the production duties on “Hard Candy,” which is strange since Timbaland has had much more success in creating the so- called make it or break it song for an album, take for example, “Sexyback” (2006).
Williams, on the other hand has a problem with recreating songs that sound like ones he has done in the past. This is very evident with the first single off this album, “4 Minutes,” featuring Justin Timberlake. The marching band rhythms and the overly repeated chorus resemble Gwen Stefani’s 2005 “Hollaback Girl,” which Williams also produced. Williams also does this in the flamenco sounding guitar song “Spanish Lesson” which sounds like Williams first works with Justin Timberlake’s song, “Like I Love You” (2002).
With tracks like, “Heartbeat” and “Miles Away,” the disengagement in Madonna’s voice is unmistakable. The words are so evenly spaced out and emphasized that it sounds as if she is reading them out loud to a classroom full of students, rather then singing them to a crowd with feeling and passion.
“Miles Away” is like one of those annoying songs that you just can’t get out of your head, but it is not because of its catchy lyrics or because it’s a great song, it’s because of the monotone way she delivers it. “Heartbeat” is a complete snooze, but strangely reminiscent of her once big hit “Into the Groove” but sung so detached you might as well be in some boring lecture hall.
As expected, the best tracks on “Hard Candy” are the ones in which Madonna sounds engaged and enjoying herself. The track entitled “Beat Goes On” which is a collaboration with Kanye West (“Gold Digger,” 2005) brings back that ’80s funk that the music nowadays lacks, as well as the track “Dance 2 Night” featuring Timberlake. The vocals in this song sound like an old Bee Gees (“Stayin’ Alive,” 1977) track. Another track, “She’s Not Me” is a self-defense track with a chic-disco touch with a modern pop twist, one of the albums more emotional and compelling pieces.
Although there are a few good tracks on the album, it looks like it is time for the Queen to step down from the throne. Times are changing, and though she is able to constantly reinvent herself, maybe it is just time to stop.
“Hard Candy” will be Madonna’s 11th and final studio album with Warner Bros. Records. A compilation album is set to be released later this year or in early 2009.
“Hard Candy” is available nationwide.
I give this album a rating of 3 stars out of 4.