Sunday, May 4, 2008

Madonna, "Hard Candy"

Madonna makes producers, producers don't make Madonna. The diva plucked William Orbit, Mirwais and Stuart Price from electronic music obscurity, meshing her own pop sensibility with their sonic specialty. But for "Hard Candy," Madge hooked up with name-brand guys like the Neptunes and Timbaland, and even brought on Justin Timberlake as a writing partner.

What results is, expectedly, of-the-moment and radio-ready. "4 Minutes," with Timberlake, is already a top three Billboard Hot 100 hit, and harmonious ballad "Miles Away" might be some of her best work yet. But it feels familiar. "Miles" is a close cousin to Timbaland's "Apologize," "Spanish Lesson" is a dead ringer for N*E*R*D's "She Likes to Move," and "Devil Wouldn't Recognize You" instantly recalls Timberlake's "Cry Me a River." That's par for pop acts when they collaborate with producers who are bigger stars than they are. But for a vanguard artist like Madonna, it feels like a bit of a concession.

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