Thursday, May 01, 2008

Beat Goes On

Madonna released her 11th studio album Hard Candy this week. I am a fan of Madge. Always have been, still am. I have always admired how she has handled her music career, always in complete control of everything. She has maintained a pretty remarkable hold on the charts for 25 years. Her impact and influence has been huge from the get-go. Beyond all of that though is this - she has made some killer dance records, and that is why I love her. The ballads are always just OK for me (I'm not a big fan of the genre), the pop songs are generally pretty good, but the club tracks have always been top of the line. From the sound of it this record doesn't look to change that.

I will admit this; first glance of the cover I thought to myself "blecchh, enough of the unitard thing." I was sick of it after 5 seconds three years ago. Now don't get me wrong, Madge is still pretty damn hot for a soon-to-be 50 year old, but please girl, put some clothes on that ass. My 8 year old daughter is also a big fan, and she heartily concurs about the outfits - "I don't like how she looks in those". So a big thumbs down on the whole cover concept from the whole family!

The music also kind of took me by surprise at first. I was not very impressed. But it's Madonna, so I gave it some leeway and stuck with it. Production duties are handled by the current kings of US r'n'b-hop - Pharrell Williams and The Neptunes, Timbaland and his studio partner Nate "Danja" Hills and their cohort Justin Timberlake. If you think you know what this is going to sound like you're probably right. It's Madonna doing urban 2008 (much like 1994's Bedtime Stories). Candy Shop is a big groover with more than a hint of Kraftwerk, although lyrically the candy metaphor is a bit played out. I do love the music tho'. Current single 4 Minutes is standard issue Timba/JT, and at first I did not like it at all. I have since come around, and my kids really like the Death Star marching band-ness of it all. Justin sings on several tracks, as does Pharrell. Wendy Melvoin plays some gorgeously funky guitar on She's Not Me, one of the better tunes. Kanye West delivers a rap on Beat Goes On, but the tune could do just as well without. I love the groove, and the little Pharrell chant in the chorus is ace. My daughters love to sing along "get down-beep beep-gotta get up out of your seat". It is interesting to hear the collaborations, but they aren't really anything new. A bunch of pop icons on cruise control? At times. But there are flashes of greatness. I give Pharrell the edge over Timbaland in the songs/production department. Is it classic Madonna? Probably not. There are some boring moments but then something happens to perk things up. And it might just kick start your dance party.

Madonna - Beat Goes On

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