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"She's Not Me and She Never Will Be"
on July 3, 2010
Madonna's "Hard Candy" was met with mixed reviews when originally released in April 2008.
While the album does have a few faults, I would place it on par with 2005's "Confessions on a Dance Floor". Most critics hailed "Confessions" as a much-welcomed return to Madonna's early dance-music roots. I, for one, wish that COADF had been more varied, something that "Hard Candy" manages better than its predecessor.
While the opener "Candy Shop" sounds like something that would be more at home on a Britney Spears CD, it's a little better than "4 Minutes", which is the weakest track here despite the fact it received lots of radio airplay and reached #1 in some markets.
Madonna unfortunately seems desperate on this album to work with then-mega-successful producers such as Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, and their sounds overshadow her own.
Fortunately, things improve greatly on the next few songs.
"Give It To Me" is a fantastic club song and should have been the first single. It's relentless beat and "Get stupid" interlude make this one a standout.
The same can be said for "Heartbeat", with it's pulsing beat making the song itself seem like it has a lifeline. The Timbaland effect actually works in its favour. Again a clever interlude ("See my booty get down") makes it fun and memorable.
"Miles Away" also received airplay and its personal lyrics made a connection between Madonna and fans since her separation from Guy Ritchie became public shortly after the release of this CD. "Miles" is serviceable but not outstanding.
"She's Not Me" on the other hand, though much too long to be radio-friendly, is absolutely the song that makes this CD a must-have for me. It has a great 1979 retro-vibe from the first note, borrowing heavily the Nile Rogers/Bernard Edwards "Chic" sound which I have loved since 1979. The bells and chimes are very Anita-Ward-like and it even has Donna Summer-type "toot-toot, beep-beep" whistles. To top it off, former Prince guitarist Wendy (of Wendy and Lisa fame) provides ample support. The strings on the outro are gorgeous. Madonna is always great when in "defensive-tough-chick/stay-away-from-my-man" mode (think "Thief of Hearts") and I can't praise this track enough.
"Incredible" seems like some sort of hot mess upon first listen, but there is something engaging about it, especially the second half when it gets a little more frantic.
Another winner is "Beat Goes On" which is also rather retro-sounding. Ironically, it has the same tempo and reminds me of the 1980 hit "And The Beat Goes On" by The Whispers. I could do without the Kanye West appearance since I can't usually stand his arrogance, but the rest of the song is so good, I can tolerate him here.
"Dance 2Night" is an average mid-tempo track. I would probably like it better if it didn't have the Justin Timberlake influence.
While many reviews have panned the Mexican-flavored "Spanish Lesson", I find it a lot of fun. Madonna sounds very playful delivering the sometimes non-sensical lyrics. Also working in its favor, it sounds different from anything else on the album.
Unfortunately, the last two tracks are kind of a let-down. "Devil Wouldn't Recognize You" is competent enough, but it's another JT rip-off and "Voices" is forgettable at best.
I would say about half this album is average, but the standouts still make it a worthwhile purchase.