Madonna Hard Candy

Madonna Hard Candy
Her career has always been dependent on what others could do for her but if there’s one thing Madonna has, it’s influence. Despite the fact that time and time again Madge jumps on a trend almost exactly two years after it breaks, it appears there was no problem getting the likes of Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Danja, the Neptunes and Kanye West to shape album number 11. A dream cast on paper, for sure, but Hard Candy is rife with half-assed attempts and cold leftovers delivered to the Queen of Pop on a golden platter. Uninspired first single "4 Minutes,” though featuring JT on the embarrassingly urgent hook, moves sloppily like something Nelly Furtado rejected for Loose. Along with Danja, Timba and Timber turn in four other duds best exemplified by the water drop torture that soaks album low "Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You.” Surprisingly, the album’s best tracks come from Pharrell and the Neptunes, who haven’t had a hit in how long? With the exception of Kanye’s desperate turn ("Beat Goes On”), Pharrell improves things as Madonna looks back to the original NYC club scene that birthed her on album highlight "She’s Not Me,” adds some orchestral bliss to "Voices” and tries to get relevant on "Give It 2 Me,” which is animated by a turbo-charged disco beat. I’m clutching at straws trying to point out some good in Hard Candy because Pharrell then turns right around and delivers "Spanish Lesson,” a nauseating shot at mixing in some Latin flavour that pisses all over the fond memories of her classic like-minded single "La Isla Bonita.” Madonna should be ashamed of Hard Candy; it’s as cutting edge as a butter knife and littered with the worst work of some of pop and hip-hop’s most innovative producers, which now feels like a questionable thing to say. But judging by her last decade making music, is this really much of a surprise? Up next: Madonna tries emo? I wouldn’t count her out. (Warner)