The producers are back! Producers have always been a key piece in the music manufacturing puzzle, but in my opinion the producers haven’t shone like stars, like they do now, since disco’s heyday. Again, in my opinion, I don’t think that’s entirely a coincidence. During the time of disco, large portions of the population wanted an escape, and the high energy light content music of disco filled that desire. Although many of the disco performers were talented vocalists in their own right, it was the music those vocals were over that people cared about, and soon the producers became viewed as the artist. It even reached the point were producers started cutting out the middle man and released their work with them as the performers.
I think it’s safe to say that again, large portions of our population would like to forget about all the crap going on and just dance, dance, dance. And again, as notable and talented as the artists may be, it’s the producers who are gaining the notoriety. Despite working with such talented, or questionably talented, women as Gwen Stefani, Nelly Furtado, and Britney Spears, the credit for their recent successes seems to be falling squarely on such producers as The Neptunes, Timbaland, and Justin Timberlake. All of whom worked with Madonna on her new album “Hard Candy”.
This album received a lot of hype from industry folks saying that Madonna is trying to capture the urban market. Long time fans, such as myself, will remember that when Madonna first came on the scene, in a time when radio airplay came first and music videos came second, many people thought that Madonna was a Black artist. There was genuine shock when they saw the videos for “Borderline” and “Lucky Star” that featured a spunky, slightly pudgy, and absolutely Caucasian woman dancing about. Madonna isn’t trying to capture the urban market; she’s trying to recapture it.
“Hard Candy” wants you to dance so much that what you hear is the absolutely most danceable options available. No real risks were taken (since I wasn’t shocked, annoyed, or concerned about her collaborations with hip hop producers) and no real intimacy was provided (like in her equally danceable, but decidedly electronic, offerings of “Ray of Light” and “Music”). Take the R&B/hip hop of top 100 radio, mix in some disco, add a dash of techno, and you have “Hard Candy”. That said, “Hard Candy” commands you to dance, and makes you want to obey.
The first single “4 Minutes” is the real stand out on the album. Not only is it one of the tracks that really captures the R&B sound of the moment, but it has a marching band loop in it! Let me state for the record that what R&B needs is MORE marching band! It was the reason I liked JC Chasez’s song “Blowin’ Me Up (With Her Love)”, and I love it here now. The other song I really like on “Hard Candy” is “Heartbeat”. It really takes the old school Madonna and rubs a little funk on it. It’s got the thump, it’s got a catchy melody, and it’s got Pharell’s patented heys in it. The rest of the album is an exercise in mainstream danceability. Not that it’s bad per say, it’s just not inspiring. Occasionally it strays a little too far into disco territory like on the song “She’s Not Me”, which is okay with me, but it’s probably a touch too disco for today’s top 100 listeners.
Madonna wants you to dance, even if it means sacrificing herself on the altar of the producer. Honor her noble sacrifice and shake that thang!
Enjoy “4 Minutes” below. I have to say, that yes, I know she has trainers, and stylists, and all that jazz, but this 50 year old woman is holding her own with a spry young Justin Timberlake. When they do a little undressing of each other at the end, it’s not creepy, just kind of hot. Not many 50 year olds can pull that off!