Thursday, April 24

ALBUM REVIEW: "Hard Candy"

Unlike listening to Björk, which is a layered experience, requiring multiple listens to enjoy and understand the music, listening to Madonna has always been an immediately emotional, gut reaction experience: I either love it, or I can live without it.

My initial response to Madonna's 11th studio album, Hard Candy was to move the majority of the tracks to my USB back-up drive, where I store digital tracks I don't want to lose, but won't be listening to any time soon.

As a whole, this album reminds me of earlier work like Bedtime Stories and Erotica. There are plenty of gems, for the die-hard Madonna fans, but few radio-friendly tunes. More an exploration of layers, textures and lyrical wit than a traditional pop album, Hard Candy exposes Madonna at her weakest: strip away the ABBA samples, clever hooks and controversial videos, and there isn't much art at the center of her work.

Hard Candy, like Bedtime Stories and Erotica, are thematic departures, where Madonna depends on technology and slick production to carry the theme(s) and original thoughts (of which there are very few). Unlike Ray of Light, where she used the medium to explore a deeper, more personal level of artistic expression, Candy stays teaspoon-deep...

Which is not to say Hard Candy isn't a tasty little gem. But like any treat, it is better to partake of Madonna's sweets in small doses. Standout tracks (aside from the infectious 4 Minutes), include:

Devil Wouldn't Recognize You - A mid-tempo, break(ish) romp with an easy melody, Madonna stays in her vocal comfort zone for this one, but manages to show a little depth and range with the lyrics and arrangement

Miles Away - This one would have been more at home on Music, with its disco cowboy groove, but serves to brighten up this otherwise dull album with its solid, sing-a-long chorus

Heartbeat - Probably my favorite track on the album (after 4 Minutes, but a close second, and that may change, with repeated listening), this one has the type of solid pop hooks we've all come to love from Madonna

Voices - A Justin Timberlake track, but still manages to be enjoyable. It seems to bridge the mood and sound of her last album (Confessions On A Dance Floor) with the new one. I could have done without JT's vocals on this one, but something needed to break up the monotony of the vocals on this album, so why not?

Overall: Only but the whole album if you're a die-hard fan. (The iTunes Deluxe package of this album offers a bonus track if you pre-order, I wasn't able to get my hands on this one.) If you're an on-again, off-again Madge fan, wait until the album comes out next week, go on to iTunes, and sample each track before downloading. While Hard Candy is unlikely to dethrone Mariah Carey's new E=MC2, it is an album worth checking out.

No comments: