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CD Review: Madonna 'Hard Candy'

Published: May 9, 2008
Warner Bros.

For the second time in a quarter-century, Madonna has abandoned her sharklike imperative to always move forward. But with "Hard Candy,” Madonna plays catch-up with mainstream pop charts. She essentially has remade Nelly Furtado's "Loose” and half of Justin Timberlake's "FutureSex/LoveSounds,” following fashion trends that are 2 years old. Is this where Madonna wants to be?

Never mind the off-putting come-ons such as "My sugar is raw, sticky and sweet” from the opener, "Candy Shop,” or the nausea-inducing cover art redolent of down-market porn: Those are the least of Madonna's problems. She banks everything on the catchy but vacant single, "4 Minutes,” in which Timbaland recycles the marching band trope that drove Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl.” With Timbaland and Timberlake in the foreground, Madge certainly doesn't own the song; she is a bit player on her own track.

The last time this happened, 1994's "Bedtime Stories,” Madonna fell back on contemporary R&B as a defensive move after overplaying her hand with "Erotica.” On "Hard Candy,” when she slags Madonnalikes such as Britney Spears and Furtado ("She's Not Me”), the argument falls flat because these days, Madonna's trying to be them. By letting her formidable personality disappear into the tasteless "Hard Candy,” Madonna sold herself out. It is the least essential disc of her career.

George Lang