Hard Candy is Madonna at her most fun
Hard Candy (Warner)
It’s hard to think of a contemporary pop artist who comes with more baggage than Madonna. The cone bra, the burning cross, that egregious version of “American Pie”, and the marriage to hack film director Guy Ritchie are among the first things that come to this listener’s mind; others will think of that Sex book, Shanghai Surprise, and early singles like “Holiday” and “Burning Up”. Still others—well, one or two,—might recall her children’s book The English Roses, African orphans, and her charitable work in Malawi.
All of which is to say it’s nearly impossible to separate Hard Candy, the hardy entrepreneur’s latest confection, from all that’s come before. But, purely on the basis of the music, the album is the most fun Madonna product in ages. Packed full of groovy dance beats, disco inflections, infectious melodies, and silly-stoopid lyrics (in the title track she sings “My sugar is raw, sexy and sweet” in case you thought it was the refined, humdrum, sour kind), the disc marks the icon’s 50th year with a solid commitment to what she’s always done best—fun, frivolous dance tracks, recorded this time with the likes of Kanye West, Justin Timberlake, the Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams, and Timbaland. In fact, Hard Candy doesn’t get draggy and serious until five tracks in, with the unconvincing “Miles Away”, and later on, with “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You” (which comes complete with piano-and-rain-sounds interlude).
Hard Candy has a few other duds—“Dance 2night” is as generic as its title, while “Incredible” would benefit from a couple less minutes. But if you can barely remember a single track off Confessions on a Dance Floor or American Life without consulting a Madonna discography, Hard Candy might remind you of what you grudgingly admired about the flavourful superstar in the first place.