Now for the good news. “Four Minutes” is a great lead single, although heavier on the Timberlake than I would prefer, that manages to get stuck in your head. If the case of Hard Candy is to prove that Madonna can still keep up with the youngsters on the radio then “Four Minutes” is great supporting evidence. “Give it Me,” the purposed second single, is another catchy bouncy treat, if not terribly original. “She’s Not Me” is a disco fidelity epic that would do her "Like A Virgin" producer and Chic frontman Nile Rodgers very proud. Dripping with handclaps, dramatic violins, and funky guitar riffs, the song is at once defiant and danceable.
“Miles Away”, the best song on the record lyrically, profiles a strained relationship hurt by distance. ”Heartbeat” is a classic Madonna get-on-the-dancefloor track. She generally seems to be having fun as she whispers “see my booty get down” and it’s infectious. “Dance 2 Nite” is another floor-filler with Justin Timberlake that’s thankfully more “Into the Groove” and less “SexyBack”. Speaking of JT, slipped in towards the end of the album is “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You” is another collaboration that recalls his “What Goes Around (Comes Around). It’s the closest thing Hard Candy has to a ballad and it’s a damn fine one.
So the bottom line is this - Hard Candy is at once an overcooked record with too many uninspired chefs in the kitchen and an addictive piece of ear-candy handmade for the headphones. Filled with triumphs, frustrations,contradictions, risks, and vanities, it’s pure Madonna, like it or not. And if you’re not crazy about this incarnation, stick around.
25 years listening to Madonna have taught me to never expect the same thing twice and Hard Candy proves she far from finished evolving.