Friday, April 11, 2008

Madonna Hard Candy

Pete Paphides
London Times April 8, 2008
Seemingly eager to relieve herself from the pressure of being imitated at every turn, Madonna’s 11th studio album finds her deploying a coterie of producers – Timbaland, Danja, Pharrell Williams – who have, in varying combinations, already done the same thing with Nelly Furtado, Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani. Naturally, this being Madonna, she has already filed the riposte before you made the criticism. On She’s Not Me, she makes the point that however any other woman attempts to match her, they don’t have the advantage of being Madonna. So, what’s the song like? Well, it’s like roughly two thirds of Hard Candy – a sequenced avalanche of beats in the sonic centre ground that, in the olden days, used to be occupied by tunes. Far from being a problem, that’s how some of the most exciting pop music is assembled these days. Madonna’s instinct for a killer tune has pushed producers such as Stuart Price, Mirwais and William Orbit to career peaks. Given time here, Incredible and the Kanye West-assisted Beat Goes On will scrub up alongside some of her best – especially the latter’s nods to Detroit techno at its poppermost. Justin Timberlake cameos on the new single 4 Minutes and three other songs, including the immediately excellent Miles Away – a collision of acoustic downstrokes and feverishly jaunty rhythm that verges on reggae. When the songs work, it doesn’t much matter that Madonna is blazing a fourth-hand trail. After 25 years of reinvention, we can surely cut her slack in that department. But on Dance 2Night, She’s Not Me and Give It 2 Me, what surprises is how deferential Madonna is to her collaborators. Even the album’s showstopping ballad, The Devil Wouldn’t Recognise You succumbs to a default mode of vast beats.