Y’know I’m a pretty big Madonna fan.  Well not to the point where I buy anything and everything that has Madonna written on it, but I always manage to spend hundreds of pounds on her concert tickets and I have a rather sizable catalog of Madonna remixes and rarities so I think it’s safe to say I’m a pretty big fan.  There has only been one time in my life where I felt overwhelmingly starstruck and that was when she stood next to me for about 4.5 seconds outside the stage door after a performance of "Up For Grabs" in 2002.  I almost fainted.

When Madonna hinted she was going to work with Timbaland on her new album "Hard Candy" I was a wee-bit disappointed.  I’ve always seen Madonna as one to nurture new musical talent as demonstrated by her collaborations with Stuart Price, William Orbit and Mirwais.  I even defended her "American Life" album when the critics called it her worst work to date, but quite frankly I thought it was one of her best – my only criticism was that the title track wasn’t that great, but I stuck by her.  "Nothing Fails" and "Mother And Father" still move me.  Working with Timbaland, Pharell and Justin Timberlake seemed to be a strange move for Madonna in my eyes.  Radio is over-saturated with Timbaland hits.  And that’s ok – it’s just not what I prefer to listen to, but I think the industry can learn a lot from him.  It was with caution I took on the fact that Madonna was going to work with this team and I would await the final product before casting any judgment.

Well the day has arrived and "Hard Candy" has dropped.  And the verdict.  Eh – it’s ok.  I’ve listened to it about three times now and the only standout track to me is "Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You".  It’s gorgeous.  I really want to like "Miles Away" too (the ending of this song is actually stunning), but I feel the song got lost in the production a bit.  I actually think the track would sound much better as an acoustic song that focuses on the lyrics.  There are some really cool electronica bits on "Give It 2 Me", "Dance 2nite" and "Heartbeat" that I like, but they will take me awhile to get used to, I find the whole beat pattern on the album as a whole to be rather repetitive.  I really don’t get "Incredible" at all and "4 Minutes" is a good collaboration, but it’s not really Madonna now is it?

Perhaps this is Madonna’s attempt to secure and maintain the interest of the younger more commercial audience who buy records and hey that’s ok.  I’ll continue to shell out hundreds of pounds on her upcoming tour, but I’m hoping that the tour will see her revisit some of her classics -I don’t really think showcasing this album live would work very well unless Stuart Price is involved.  That’s just my opinion. 

I’ve been wrong before and there will probably be a plethora of people who will disagree with me regarding "Hard Candy" but for now, it’s not an album I’ll wear out like "Confessions On A Dance Floor", but rather a collection of songs that will pop up when I have my iPod set to random.  Perhaps Madonna is saving her really good songs for her new contract with Live Nation and didn’t feel the need to push herself as an artist for this last record with Warner Brothers – just a thought. 

I hardly ever say this either, but bring on the more gay-friendly remixes please.  I still love you Madonna.