May 1, 2008

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Madonna, Hard Candy
WEA/Reprise Records, April 29
Hip-hop historians will probably view Madge’s new record a lot more favorably than the folks who’ve tossed blank emperor’s-new-clothes faint-praise and finely couched insults at it thus far. One watershed near-miss — and those are legion — is “Candy Shop,” a conjuring of Prince serving Bee Gees on a tribal-house dance floor; if it hadn’t been the album-opener it would have stood as a welcome break from the steady parade of reggaeton, hip-hop and old-school-Madonna chimeras that appears everywhere else (“Spanish Lessons” only proves that she’s still got the hots, or whatever she gets, for Latin guys).

Her old stop-the-world radio tricks aren’t missing as she doubles her voice with vocoder for ultimate woofer-busting effect in “Give It 2 Me,” a dollop of oom-pah bubble-junk engineered for cranking over this summer’s amusement park rides. The acoustic guitar and stuttering world-beat texture of “Miles Away” make it one of the album’s more interesting ideas, whereas “Heartbeat,” glitched up with salt-shaker rhythms, is its most eye-roll-inducing fig leaf, a Destiny’s Child-swathed begging for cred from second-generation breakdancers who are plenty busy enough pricing surgical tattoo removal. Almost as boring is “Incredible,” a meandering, meaningless search for what made Nelly Furtado popular, which, “I’m Like a Bird” aside, has always been a good question (actual ringtone-ready lyric: “Sex with you is: Incredible”). C+ Eric W. Saeger