otFrom New York Daily News - 5 out of 5 stars:
Imagine this: A new Madonna album comprised entirely of brisk, hard dance anthems, all boldly updating the blissful hits of her club-driven youth.
Now imagine that none of those songs (save the advance single) has anything to do with world politics, spiritual growth, starving African children or any lingering mother issues. Instead they present a wall-to-wall call to the dance floor, fired by ecstatic, innovative, and propulsive beats, paired to tunes that will make you swoon.
That's what Madonna's last album - 2005's 'Confession On The Dance Floor' - promised to be, but hardly was. We still had Kabbalah references, finger-wagging 'issue' songs and lots of cuts that weren't nearly as danceable or catchy as advertized.
Anyone disappointed by that album should take a lick of 'Hard Candy,' out Tuesday. It's everything 'Confessions' professed to be - and more: a disc that gorges on catchy choruses, nagging beats and insouciant vocals. It may be the best album of Madonna's career. Certainly it's the most consistent (not counting 'greatest hits' cheats).
Plenty of people will carp that Madonna had to haul in some of the heaviest hitters she has ever collaborated with to pull this off - including Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, and Pharrell. 'Hard Candy' represents only the third time in Madonna's long career when she has relied on top, proven talent as conspirators, rather than bringing in newbies she can nurture and/or control.
The last time she did this was her ultimate career low, in 1994, following the hideously reviewed 'Sex' book. She bounced back with 'Bedtime Stories,' produced by can't-miss guys like Babyface.
It's hard to say why Madonna felt she needed to bring in such headline-making help this time, unless it has to do with facing the Big Five-Oh - she hits it Aug. 16. Or the fact that 'Hard Candy' marks the end of her contract with the only label she has ever known (Warner Brothers). Either way, Madonna has given the company the richest possible parting gift.
Where to begin:
The first single - the smash '4 Minutes' - is probably the least engrossing track on the CD. It's the only one that goes for the political, rather than the personal, though it does so in such a vague way, you can barely tell. Of course, it's as much a Timberlake song as a Madonna turn but that's the only track where the star attraction threatens to piggyback on another person's turf.
That was the worry for 'Hard Candy.' Fans feared it would find Madonna vampirically sucking the blood of the latest urban gods to gain back her youth. But the point turns out to be moot. In fact, Pharrell and Timbaland have never sounded this frothy, and that clearly comes from Madonna's talent for zip.
Take 'Heartbeat.' Madonna co-wrote the cut with Pharrell, and although it benefits greatly from the hook of his trademark orgasmic moans, Maddy's vocal has an R&B sheen that cinches it.
The title track kicks off the CD and sets its exuberant tone. It's got tribal/urban beats, cunning lyrical innuendos, and a chorus with the R&B-jazz twist of a Kool and the Gang hit from the '70s.
In 'Miles Away' Madonna recycles a neat trick from the past: She uses abrupt guitar strums as an acoustic contrast to the synthetic clack of the beat. Vocally, she hasn't sounded as ravishing as she does here since 'Evita.'
'Incredible' has real bubble gum snap. 'Beat Goes On' makes sure it does.
I could go on raving about the tracks, but I won't. I want to go back and listen to them.
From New York Times:
When in doubt, take Madonna at face value. Since the beginning of her career she has telegraphed her intentions and labeled herself more efficiently than any observer. She has titled albums 'Music,' 'Erotica' and, in 2005, 'Confessions on a Dance Floor' for a collection that mingled personal and Biblical reflections with club grooves. Flaunting her ever-changing image, she named one tour 'Who's That Girl?,' another 'Re-Invention.'
She's just as blunt on her 11th studio album, 'Hard Candy' (Warner Brothers), due for release this week. There's no question that this album aims to please — and it does. 'See which flavor you like and I'll have it for you,' she promises as the album starts with 'Candy Shop,' and she follows through: 'Come on into my store/I got candy galore.'
To read the rest of the review visit www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/arts/music
Thanks to Frank, Scott and Serkan