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I never bought a Madonna album until yesterday when I purchase Hard Candy. "She's Not Me," "Beat Goes On", and "Heartbeat" are the stand out tracks for me. I've been listening to the album for about 2 weeks, and as a whole, this album leaps and bounds better than Confessions on a Dancefloor, which only had two goods tracks ("Hung Up" and "Get Together"). I kind of wish that Pharrell Williams was the sole producer to give the album a bit more continuity -- but I think Madonna felt compelled to work with Timba-Lake in order to get some radio friendly hits off her final album for Sire/Warner Bros. before heading to Live Nation. If this record tanked she her $100 million contract with Live Nation maybe in jeopardy.


Ever notice how much people still feel compelled to ruminate on Madonna's...uh...lack of talent, feminist/gay iconography, business acumen, wierd accents, career longevity, annointed designers, relationship habits, libido (and so on, and so on, and so on)? I think she basically sucks at everything - except being a star.

Bears are Fat

Rich, I am very disappointed to you see you reproducing hackneyed pop journalistic sentiment about Madonna here, as in: "'Just shut up and be a pop singer!' I’ve wanted to shout. Stop undermining your inherent fun!" Wow. For this level of Madonna discourse I might as well be reading USA Today, in a shorter and snappier review that would take less of my time. Sorry Rich, but you don't show much insight here at all as to what Madonna is presently doing, or what she has been doing, for the last 10 years. Which is a shock, because I normally turn to you for fresh thinking. Further example: the notion that Madonna is turning to others for new sounds in an unintereseting or instrumental way. Am I the only one noticing that this album 'cites' none other than Madonna herself throughout? Normally this sort of meta- citationality really turns you on Rich, but you seem to have missed it here. Obviously, Pharell and Timabland et al are paying homage to the great R&B Madonna of 1983, which is also why her vocals are up front and squeeky the way they are. Duh.

(And message to Mariah Carey: Madonna was recording rap songs (Hello, Sidewalk Talk!) when you were crimping your hair in junior high... So whatever, you don't own that genre, and it's not 'very interesting' that Madonna should pursue it...)

That said, this album is vastly superior to Confessions, which was only memorable because of ABBA (but HC is still nowhere near as inventive or interesting as American Life, which Rich and everyone else loves to hate, but which nevertheless remains M's mangum opus).

Anyway. HC is a great album. Real fun.

bazooka joe

BAF...Madonna didn't even do the rap on Sidewalk Talk...she just sang parts of the bridge and chorus. I still think Madonna peaked w/ Erotica. She's become such a brand, such a brand that she's so generic.

Bears are Fat

Bazookajoe: You're kidding! Madonna didn't do that rap?? Of course she didn't, I never said she did. I am just pointing out the weird irony of someone like Mariah Carey acting like she is the credible artist in a hip-hop/R&B vibe, when it was Madonna who cut her teeth with songs like that (the rap was by Jellybean Benitez in case you are curious) and with producers like Nile Rogers, while Mariah got her pop chops by singing insipid ballads scripted by Walter Afanasieff.

But we don't need to make this thread about Mariah, whom I actually really adore (especially Butterfly, especially songs like Breakdown and Fourth of July).

I merely point out Sidewalk Talk as a way of putting this album into the context of a broader career. HC is a punctuation mark on Warner Bros really, the period at the end of a long and meandering sentence that started with the album Madonna.

Mr. Burns

Your hang-ups with madonna are just weird. You gripe at her for things you applaud others for doing. You go out of your way to point out how behind the curve she's been, how bad her voice is, how she's not fun enough. Is it your inner lamb talking?

I almost always agree with your views on music which is why I find it so disappointing that you consistently misinterpret and generally misuderstand Madonna.


Honestly, the album has grown on me the more I listened to it. I hated most of it at first, but after repeated listening, I've started enjoying quite a few tracks. My favorite is Beat Goes On simply because it's such a fun song. What I find interesting here (and other places the album is being discussed) is that people discuss her ad nauseum and dis her at the same time. If she wasn't putting out a product people enjoyed, she would have fallen by the wayside ages ago. Rich, for the record, I agree with your assessment.


Hey Rich, I say I love you and fuck the haters, this is a spot-on review... OF COURSE people dissect Madonna ad nauseum!!!! It's a part of the fun of a brand new Madonna release, and you know damn well she's begging for it, or why else would she do things like film "Body Of Evidence", shoot the "Sex" book, make Bjork collaborations, remake Marvin Gaye songs, have a kid she calls "Lola", spend zillions on a video where her mouth is her eyes (and vice-versa), befriend Rupert Everett, soak up the cockney, produce unreleasable and "controversial" versions of "What It Feels Like For A Girl" and "American Life" that can never be played on MTV, pitch buying Malawiian babies for American Idol and talk about poking Justin Timberlake in the ass?

It's what she does, and it's what we do, and we love it, or else her album would drop and sink like a stone (like I fear Janet's "Discipline" is going to do if they don't start promoting it a little more).

...and if we're going to delve into Madonna's roles in musical history, she was also singing backup on the Patrick Hernandez disco hit "Born To Be Alive"... but that doesn't make her a "disco" pioneer any more than her involvement with "Sidewalk Talk" makes her a "rap" pioneer (or, more accurately, a freestyle pioneer).

love, J-Mo :)


I've resigned myself to the fact that while I can routinely come to Rich for interesting, well-thought-out commentary on TV and movies, when it comes to his music pieces I'm almost always left disappointed. There's a knee-jerk contrarianism I find off-putting, a hint of elitism, and I almost always disagree with his personal tastes. That's the case here. I listened to "Hard Candy" last night and found it to be utterly one-note, and totally uninspired. It was, frankly, kind of boring; sonic wallpaper. It's her least interesting album ever, and I certainly don't come to Madge for deep messages or insightful lyrics. I come to her to be a pop star, which I think she's done very successfully for two decades now. Until this disc, where she just desperately tied herself on to two of today's "hottest" producers (and I frankly think the Timber- twins are both about 15 minutes ago) and basically let them do whatever they wanted. Very disappointing, but not unexpected. Kind of like Rich's take on it. Sorry!


Question: who mentioned Mariah Fucking Carey at all? Typical stan, building up a female pop star by discrediting another female artist she has nothing to do with.

I think the album's great fun and Rich nailed Madonna's inherent self-importance quite accurately. That's fair enough.


It would be great if Madonna cannibalized herself if the feast consisted of the gems found on her first record. The problem is she steals all the wrong things from herself. "She's Not Me" is a title taken from a Rolling Stone article about her and the melody is a direct rip off from her song "Supernatural". And why the recurring clock, tic-toc and running out of time references? This was done with "Hung Up".

Bears are Fat

S-Couto: I brought up Mariah, which is like relevant if one wants to talk about what's happening now in terms of pop music and its sensibilities. Please note that I specifically said that I LOVE Mariah, and I do love her, and maybe you need to read a bit more carefully cause nothing I said was meant as 'tearing down'. What is notable here is that it is MARIAH in the press being all quasi-bitchy about Madonna working with Pharell and Timbaland etc. So from what I see, she's the one acting shady. Literally: she can stop wearing those Dame Edna sunglasses any second now, please. But the pink dress was working on GMA.

There is something really interesting going on musically and culturally with Hard Candy beyond the rather thin examination that Rich attempts here. 'Black Madonna' has always been pretty controversial and a tough sell with certain folks. You had all those recriminations after Vogue and again after Bedtime Stories, like that one review in Village Voice that tore her a new one for slumming it in the video to Secret. Madonna in racial drag has been a big problem in terms of sensibility and in terms of politics. bell hooks used to go on and on and on about this, illuminating almost nothing actually.

BUT, so here we have HC, which is simultaneously 100% Madonna, and in fact is very reflexively 'Madonna' in the way that it quotes former hooks, sounds, and vibes of Madonna records (especially her first one of course). And HC is being spun as a 'more urban' record -- but I have not yet seen the accusations that are normally hurled at her when she dares to touch the topic of race. What does this mean? Moreover, Kanye West raps on this record. Kanye is rapping on a Madonna record. Does this not strike anyone as worth thinking about a bit?

I just think it's worth comparing the permutations of race, pop, gender, and so on, by actually thinking about their representation and reproduction right now by arguably the three most important female pop artists of the last 3 decades: Janet, Mariah, and Madonna.


I agree with s-couto. This is a review about Hard Candy, not Mariah. It's the same old thing (especially at and the iTunes review sections): review a Mariah record, there's a discussion about Madonna. Review a Madonna record, there's a discussion about Mariah. I'm tired of seeing it in every comment/review section I peruse.

On another point, I'm amazed that there's not yet a single comment on how this review, unlike several of the "professional" reviews already in print, does not use Madonna's age as a way of trashing Hard Candy. For that Rich gets my kudos.

The album: If I get a chance to hear longer samples of Hard Candy on a website that can handle my internet connection (it hates MySpace for some reason), I might like it a little better, but I'm not impressed by this album from the clips that premiered on YouTube a while back.


1. Thanks for reviewing it!! I was waiting for this.

2. Kudos for not hating on her age. It's a frustrating comment to see so frequently... she may be fifty but she's still hot shit.

3. It's truly a great album. I think Madonna's been doing good stuff since "Ray of Light," but I think it's her best since then. "Give It 2 Me," "She's Not Me," "Beat Goes On," etc. are fantastic dance tracks, and "Miles Away" is simply gorgeous.


Normally I turn to Madonna's music for the message. I am a life long fan and although I do agree that her earlier work was the most danceable, as she has aged, and I have, you get the sense of needing more. Her work, for me often provides that, and passionately. I suppose that puts me on the bad music-person list.

I was disappointed in Hard Candy for this reason, the lack of message. I look to her as a continuous inspirational motivator, however you wish to use that as a label on my is fine. I just can't find anything in this album.

However after reading your post somehow the disappointment has disappeared. I agree with you. There is no message, the work clearly lacks any stance, except for being musically fun.

So I'm embracing musical fun, and thanking you for ending my disappointment.


well, this review is rather balanced considering your well-known opinions of madonna. i would argue that pieces of all of her more recent albums represent some of her best work, though. that being said, "hard candy" is straight-up pop, and that's all it's trying to or should be. sorta surprising that she went back to the beginning to end her career at warners.

oh, one more thing. although jennie livingston might have been filming "paris is burning" before "vogue" came out, the film didn't come out until afterward. for what it's worth, madonna was vogueing back as early as the '89 MTV awards. i was a wee boy, but i remember. madonna certainly didn't invent vogueing, but she was at the forefront of bringing it to the masses. i'm sure if i were jennie livingston i might feel a bit differently, though.


Wow, I had no idea so many people take Madonna so personally.


Madonna're going to watch this "Farmer Wants A Wife" shit, right?


BAF, honey, that's nice that you're that into Madonna enough to extol her musical philanthropies to us lower beings, but don't be so disappointed to learn that most people (superfans aside) don't feel - or care - as much as you do. I say this as someone who loves Madonna's music and admires her as a person. I also say it absent some gay, backhanded compliment. But don't overstate the fact that she's a very good pop artist and not the usuper of Carly Simon's throne.

HEARTBEAT, MILES AWAY, DANCE 2NIGHT and BEAT GOES ON are my absolute favourites. Constant rotation.


dissecting and analyzing everything within an inch of its musical life...
i have resigned myself to realize there is no joy from the makers nor the listeners anymore...
everyone is just so sad & angry...
and this is not directed at RICH!

Bears are Fat

Jean Grey, I think many of us interpret all caps as shouting, so maybe the angry and sad person here is in fact you. But it's not me. I think this album is fabulous, and like S_Couto, have several songs on heavy rotation. I actually have started to like Candy Shop, which initially struck me as real dumb lyrically, but the breakdown at the end with Pharell talking to the grummy little kids is actually great. And then Beat Goes On has grown on me, loving that track, it really makes me want to go dancing. Unfortunately, where I live, they only play Hung Up (every Friday, promptly at midnight... it is getting old).

Anyway, just because it's a Madonna record doesn't mean we have to turn our brains off. I for one like Rich precisely because he's actually like got one -- a brain -- which is why this blog is so brilliant (except for this review!, sorry Rich). If you just want insipid platitudes, Perez is a better bet. And S-Couto, no one has to care, but that doesn't mean that those of us who do have to shut up and go sit in a corner with a dunce hat on. Tune me out if it bugs you.

Anyway. I am dying to hear what the show in NYC was like last night.


i dont get why her voice sounded really rich at some point, even in the warren beatty years, up and through music, and then after american life, it started sounding disengaged. are they doing something to her voice b/c that flat thing sells more, or have they stopped doing something to her voice? couldnt she take voice lessons again.

Nurse D'Aughntrice Jackson

Mimi getting dragged into this is silly but not surprising, given the painfully obvious marketing of "Madonna v. Mariah"...."hey look, the music business is dying! Let's pit the two of the last big shillers against each other! We'll all make enough to keep our lawns green as we look for new lives!"

However, Carly Simon's coming into this is, like, uh, what? Did she come up because we are talking about singers who can't sing?

Nathaniel R

I don't get it. and i remain a broken record about this. I've been a diehard Madonna enthusiast since 1984 and every time she has a new record everyone calls her desperate for whoever she's hooking up with to make the music.this is the same argument every two years or so.

she's not any more desperate working with justin timberlake and timbaland than she was working with babyface or nile rodgers or mirwais or anyone else who was currently hot when she hooked up with them.

she just keeps on doing what she's always done. and the oddest thing about this review is the "just be a pop star" thing because that's what she has ALWAYS done best. that's the most consistent thing she's ever done. What a good celebrity she is. Everyone else = dull in comparison.

i don't get the haters. but then give or take a song here and there i'm one of those people Rich gets pissed at for always shouting "hell yes!" in response to each new cd.

love her. I haven't heard Hard Candy yet for reasons that are too complicated and boring to get into.

p.s. just wanted to thank Bears are Fat for his props to American Life. I'm not sure i'd go that far but it's the most aggressively misunderstood and purposefully dismissed record of her entire career.


Sorry, but I've never been a fan of Madonna. I liked some of her earlier stuff, but I am not a big fan of pop anyway. She lost me when she did something to her face (and it was definitely not just exercise and diet)- lost all the freshness.

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