Critics Sample The Product Of Madonna’s Last Day Of Work At Warner

Apr 28th, 2008 // 20 Comments

pleasedontmakemelookatthiseveragain.PNGFrom time to time, we like to round up the all-important, all-summarizing last sentences of the biggest new-music reviews. Under consideration today is the new album/contract killer by Madonna, Hard Candy, which hits stores tomorrow:

• “The dance floor — not the pulpit, not the art gallery — is Madonna’s truest home, and it’s a good place to shake off pretensions and excesses. Her grand statement on “Hard Candy” is nothing more than that she’s still around and can still deliver neat, calculated pop songs. Madonna has had more profound moments — “Like a Prayer,” “Ray of Light” — but not every pop star is cut out for full-time profundity. This time around, concocting new ditties that will have her arena audiences singing along, she was smart to stay shallow.” [NY Times]

• “Hard Candy is a let-down after 2005′s triumphant Confessions on a Dancefloor. Still, your disappointment is tempered by the certainty that there’ll be another Madonna album along in a bit, and it would be a foolish man who wrote off her chances of scaling the heights again. “I can go on and on,” she sings on a track called Heartbeat. Twenty-six years into her career, who would doubt it?” [Guardian]

• “Pop has never been about raging originality, but “Hard Candy” sounds like the least original Madonna album yet. It’s not just the predictable lyrics about sex, dancing and more sex (lots of songs about doing “it” ’til dawn). Those of us who listen to Madonna for the tunes can be thankful that the self-help bromides and political pronouncements that clogged up some of her recent albums are long gone. The real problem is that Madonna sounds downright modest. In the past she was first among equals. But by deferring to her collaborators (it’s telling that she takes no co-production credits), she sounds like just another pop mouthpiece. [Chicago Tribune]

• “The beats are tired and over-familiar: each producer sounds as if he is doing an impression of himself. Nor do any of these boys seem to have the emotional maturity to draw anything deeper out of a woman who must surely have something to say at this point in her life. Madonna sounds muted and lyrically guarded – sometimes even downright sad and lonely. Most importantly, Madonna has always understood what makes a body want to move. Heartbeat and Dance 2night try desperately to evoke the joy of the disco, but it’s too contrived to get you on your feet, and the whole thing falls flat.” [Daily Telegraph]

  1. recidivicious

    I liked Carrie Brownstein’s take on it: Botoxed.
    [www.npr.org]

  2. Clevertrousers

    Mommy, why is Grandma wearing a leather corset?

  3. bcapirigi

    @recidivicious: npr blog commenters are really hoity-toity these days, aren’t they?

  4. Adairdevil

    The cooler-than-thouness in the comments over at the Carrie Brownstein/NPR page makes me want to hurl. It’s like a snotrocket contest to see who’s the most above liking Madonna.

    I’m not a big fan of the new album–its blahness reminds me of when she was so desperate for a hit that she worked with Babyface and foisted “Take a Bow” on a too-willing public–but I’m tired of people bitching about her being older, or claiming she was never even slightly talented in the first place. I thought we, as a culture, got over that particular hump circa Ray of Light.

    Off to dial up “Impressive Instant” from sheer spite . . .

  5. Clevertrousers

    @Adairdevil: It’s not about her “being older” – it’s about her creepily desperate refusal to age gracefully. Geriatic porn just isn’t my thing…

  6. Chris Molanphy

    @Adairdevil: Couldn’t have put in better myself. Thank you.

    Middlebrow music snobs dissing Madonna when she puts out a bad album are like PBS viewers dissing the occasional weak Judd Apatow movie: their opinions are right for the wrong reasons, and they say more about the complainers than the object of their scorn.

  7. Nunya B

    @Clevertrousers: What is she supposed to do exactly in terms of aging gracefully? The whole Madonna concept, such as it is, doesn’t allow for “aging gracefully.” She’s not any other pop artist out there and she can’t just slap on a muumuu and start singing slowed down songs about this or that; to suggest that she do so just because she’s old now is pretty horrible.

    Hard Candy is probably mildly disappointing based on the mixed results between “4 Minutes”, “Beat Goes On”, and “Candy Shop” (the only songs I’ve heard, but it should be disappointing on its own terms- as a Madonna album that isn’t musically interesting- not disappointing because it fails to be palatable to people with a restrictive and ageist view on female sexuality.

  8. Nunya B

    Also, can we just get over these horrible titles like “Touched for the Very Last Time” or whatever? Madonna’s place in the pop pantheon is guaranteed, regardless of whether or not her latest album is strong or not. I wish critics would stop sounding her death knell every time she missteps.

  9. Clevertrousers

    @kisskisskiss: Oh come on – the “whole Madonna concept” is about re-invention, not being locked into one concept. She could redefine aging gracefully and forgo the mumu entirely. But her constantly flogging the supposed S&M glam is just tired and lame. She stalled out aesthetically in the mid-90s and is just churning out more of the same old same old…

  10. Clevertrousers

    @kisskisskiss: Not as long as headline writers are lazy, lazy people…

  11. bcapirigi

    @Clevertrousers: Although I didn’t like her last album and doubt I’m going to like this one very much, I think American Life is possibly her best album of all.

  12. Clevertrousers

    @bcapirigi: Really? It didn’t do much for me… But then again I’m still waiting for her to do something as good as “Into the Groove”

  13. Nunya B

    @Clevertrousers: For Confessions she mentioned that it was time to start harvesting from her back catalogue- and after running through the various reinventions offered by Ray of Light, Music, and American Life I think she probably felt like she didn’t have anything left to prove. Those three albums pretty much killed any talk of Madonna not having artistic longevity, and with good reason. So Confessions was an amazing ’80s club pastiche full of amazing pop songs that didn’t mean anything. This is… really, more of the same. A lot of Popjustice forumgoers seem to think that this really slots in well next to her debut album and if that’s true I think the idea behind “Hard Candy” makes a lot of sense, even if the execution may be lacking.

    This seems like a retread, because it is, but I don’t think Madonna can be accused of having stalled out in the mid-90s.

  14. Clevertrousers

    @kisskisskiss: I’m talking more about her aesthetics than her music, here… and there’s just something kind of boring to me about her whole ongoing S&M club diva thing… Not that I want her to go back to treating us to that Kabbalah business, but I just feel like I saw all this the first time around and it’s time for something new… that’s what made Madonna fun in the first place…

  15. Audif Jackson Winters III

    Does she rap about lattes on any of the tracks?

  16. recidivicious

    @bcapirigi: I usually never bother to read past her posts to the comments, so I wouldn’t know! Looking at it now, though… yeah. You know some of those people were cranking her 80s albums when they were younger, they’re just afraid it’ll crash their indie cred if they admit it.

  17. Jay-C

    @bcapirigi: “NPR” and “hoity-toity” are redundant most of the time…

  18. Cam/ron

    @Adairdevil: Indeed, many of Brownstein’s critiques are written from a very smug view (check out her review of the Rock Band game for Slate). I agree that Madonna reached her peak as a “provocateur” about 15 years ago (unless her kissing Britney and Christina count). How do you shock people with sexual imagery in a culture where a Google image search can give anyone free porn, and nearly every fetish has been photographed and sold for $50 a month?

  19. recidivicious

    @Cam/ron: If I were her, I’d probably be smug, too. But I didn’t really see it in this particular instance. She even admitted to liking Madonna back in the day. Besides, you have to admit “Botoxed” is a pretty good description for a lot of pop music these days: polished and “perfected” by overproduction until it expresses about as much emotion as, well, a forehead full of botulism toxin.

  20. HomefrontRadio

    I dislike Madonna simply because i’ve had her shoved down my throat the entire life, and have constantly been told by critics and cultural commentators that what she is doing is somehow amazingly brave and empowering. All i see is a child who wants attention, with no talent to back it up.

    Empty provocation of Wowsers to sell trite dance records isn’t feminism – it’s hucksterism. A change of hairstyle does not equal an ‘artistic reinvention’.

    I’m so, so weary of her.

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