Madonna’s ‘Hard Candy’ Turns 5: Stan & Deliver

Stan & Deliver gives fans an opportunity to shake, cry and sing the praises of the albums they love from their faves.

Four years before she was waving her pom-poms onstage next to Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. at the Super Bowl (the most-watched halftime show in history, for the record), Madonna was already working up a sweat (and flaunting her vascularity) in the middle of a boxing ring to the tune of her crunchy, workout-ready collection of electro-pop treats: Hard Candy, originally released in April 2008.

Unlike 2005′s immaculate return-to-roots record, Confessions On A Dance Floor (produced by Stuart Price), Hard Candy saw the Queen of Pop turn away from thundering club anthems and opt for a trendier Top 40 radio troupe to achieve a more modern sound (or as Britney Spears might say, “something more urban”), taking on the cheeky-yet-cringe-inducing moniker “M-Dolla” and enlisting Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West and Timbaland.

True to its name, Hard Candy is a mixed bag of sugary-sweet pop offerings (Turkish delights, and so much more!), somber electro-ballads, mid-tempos saturated in Timbaland’s (oft-grating) beatboxin, and playful dips into funky, old school disco territory. When she’s not defending her position on the throne (“Give It 2 Me”) or encouraging a certain heightened awareness (“4 Minutes”), Madonna mostly seems to be having a blast: “See my booty get down like!” she taunts on “Heartbeat” — easy material for the detractors who would angrily accuse her of attempting to stay “hip,” sure, but still more than enough fun for the fans who’d rather just dance.

Yet the album’s more sobering moments — including “Miles Away,” “Voices” and “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You” — would later reveal themselves to be very real frustrations set to song, building up to what would become her divorce record: 2012′s chilly, synth-heavy and oft-menacing MDNA.

Five years later, the record still holds as a mixed candy jar. Some confections have become a bit less tasty, while others prove to be far stickier, sweeter and far more fresh than their expected shelf life.

We asked some of Madonna’s biggest fans to go track-by-track through Hard Candy. Join us now in rediscovering the rawness of Madonna’s sugar. Hurry, you only got 4 minutes! Just kidding. Take your time, and leave a comment below with your thoughts on Hard Candy.

  • Brandon Hall

    I pretty much hated this era to be quite honest. It was such a underwhelming shift coming from Confessions, and lacked even an ounce of its polish, but with that said, she managed to put one of my favorite songs onto this record.

    Miles Away, this song is so simple and beautiful, its also my favorite performance from her S&S tour. I could listen to this song a hundred times on repeat.

    • hazzy

      I agree with Brandon… Miles Away by far is one of her more recent amazing song.. the lyrics tugs your heart and it gives you the insight of what was happening in her personal life with her X husband…I wish she released it before the other singles… Love that song

  • Pedro

    I LUV this record! The fact that so many “critics” dimiss this CD by comparing it to “Confessions” merely adds to its brilliance. Yes, she could have had another massive dance hit by following the same formula with Stuart Price, but she chose to challenge her pop-prowess and make music that SHE likes! Madonna has always said that she wants to make records that she likes to hear over and over again, and, once again, she proved that she could make POP music with anybody! This record deserves a lot MORE credit than it has gotten…especially compared to the “pop” music that was out at the time and since!

  • Daniel

    Voices and Devil are as good as anything Madonna has put her name to, I love her like this (see also: Secret Garden/Easy Ride/Falling Free).
    Overall the album is good but it it is that album that she was following trends instead of creating them. Timberland had already had his peak by this stage with Nelly and Justin. Give It To Me, Miles Away, She’s Not Me, Heartbeat and Incredible are all great though.
    MDNA was a return to form for me, apart from the very average Luvin’ which in my opinion doomed the album from the start (perhaps “doomed” is a bit harsh, 3 mill or so isn’t bad 30 years in to a career).

  • tony

    nasty beetch.

  • Tyler Phillips

    Really enjoyed this piece. I’d LOVE to see one on American Life which, along with Hard Candy, is too often dragged through the dirt by critics and fan alike. American Life is actually my favorite Madonna album and I’ve always found it ridiculously underrated. For me it was the perfect hybrid of Music’s trance electro sound, and Ray Of Light’s introspective lyrics. That era is frequently glossed over and labelled a failure, but to me it was her most forward thinking and adventurous project to date. Given the current Top 40 landscape’s obsession with electropop, the album still sounds ahead of the curve.