Madonna, Hard Candy
All-American and of its moment
If Confessions was Euro-centric and classic, 2008′s Hard Candy is all-American and of its moment. Like its predecessor, Candy suggests that the clock was ticking on her marriage to Guy Ritchie and, indeed, the pair filed for divorce late that year. The giveaway is that Madonna’s lyrics on the happy songs — particularly the smash Justin Timberlake duet “4 Minutes” and its less successful follow-up “Give It 2 Me” — are rote and over-generalized, whereas the anxious cuts “Miles Away” and “She’s Not Me” are honed and precise. Her collaborators Timbaland, Timberlake, the Neptunes and Danja created much of the greatest hip-hop, pop, and R&B of the past 20 years, yet what should’ve been monumental is often shockingly slight. Sometimes a brilliant bridge offsets a shoddy chorus (“Beat Goes On”), but too much here seems phoned in, as if no one dared to prod these masters — Madonna included — to reach their full potential. Unconsciously, the star acknowledges the coasting: Over the album’s far-funkiest groove, “Dance 2night,” she sings, “You just gotta give more, more, more than you ever have before.” No one’s doing that here.