Sweet reviews for Madonna's "Hard Candy"

Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:20pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - As parting gifts go, Madonna's 11th studio album -- and her last before she exits long-term record label Warner Bros. -- is unusually generous, if early reviews are to be believed.

Released internationally this week, and hitting U.S. stores on Tuesday, "Hard Candy" scored solidly among rock critics, although much of the credit, or blame, they said, should go to the established hit-makers with whom she collaborated.

The dance sounds, with hip-hop influence, see Madonna return to her roots and shed the weighty issues for which she regularly campaigns. And by working with the likes of Justin Timberlake, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, she puts safety first.

"It's surprising that her 11th studio album ... is an act of submission," wrote Caryn Ganz of the Rolling Stone music magazine, giving "Hard Candy" four stars out of a possible five. "For 'Hard Candy,' Madonna's midlife meditation on her own relevance, she lets top-shelf producers make her their plaything."

The Independent newspaper's Andy Gill, in a three-star review, argues that Madonna, who turns 50 this year, aims to satisfy "the sweet tooth of functional dance-pop.

"Why else would she turn to off-the-peg hit-machines The Neptunes, Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, after such success with more adventurous producers like Mirwais, William Orbit and Stuart Price?"


Alexis Petridis, in a three-star rating for the Guardian, calls Timberlake's involvement in "Hard Candy" a "mixed blessing," with the familiar sounds from his last album "FutureSex/LoveSounds" "less startling (the) second time around."   Continued...

<p>Madonna arrives for the premiere of the film "I Am Because We Are" during the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival in New York April 24, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>