Madonna’s recipe for collaboration is chock full of cavities
Any queen worth her boogie-woogie shoes can deconstruct how Madonna constantly "reinvents" herself. The thread really begins in 1995, when she tried to enlist Bjork to collaborate on the entire "Bedroom Stories" disc (but the Icelandic pixie offered only one track, which Madonna named the album after).
Madge still stuck to her formula but modified it — mostly by seeking creators who weren’t bathed in limelight. In 1997, she tagged William Orbit for "Ray of Light," and the result was a near-perfect combination. In 2000, she chose Frenchman Mirwais Ahmadzai for "Music," another successful collaboration that she repeated for "American Life," which was brutally panned but still sounds pretty good. In 2005, DJ Stuart Price’s touch was the primary imprint on "Confessions on a Dance Floor," another commercial and critical success.
On "Hard Candy," her 11th and final album under her Warner Bros. contract, Madonna must have gotten sidetracked. It’s as if she’s trying to compete with urban princesses like Rihanna and Fergie by plucking studio collaborators who just took home all the MTV Music Awards: Timbaland, Pharrell Williams, Kanye West and Justin Timberlake.
"Hard Candy" is an obvious stab at enticing a fan base she’s missed since "Bedtime Stories." And it just falls flat — her choice of producers is especially uninspired.
While "Hard Candy" is a bunch of dum-dums, there are a few premium chocolates.
The synth jam "Give It to Me" is a surefire club-banger that’s already going through the remix machine. The acoustic six-string riffs on the melancholy "Miles Away" are especially appealing and augment the song’s traditional structure. An ode to an unfaithful lover, "She’s Not Me" shifts from Timbaland’s funky style to a William Orbit-styled rave anthem.
The rest of the batch?
Madonna tries to install catchy hooks on every song, but most of the tracks are quintessential Timbaland beats layered with Casio effects that surround Madonna’s lame raps and fluffy lyrics. The first single, "Four Minutes" — more of a drum cadence and rap — sounds like it was tailored to become fast-food commercial (Hey, "Ma-DON-uh" rhymes with "McDonalds").
"Candy Shop" and "Beat Goes On" both contain fun grooves, but they quickly peter out and don’t even bother with a climax.
The pretty-pulsing "Heartbeat" sounds like a Nelly Furtado reject while the "Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You" is almost a cloned version of Justin Timberlake "Cry Me a River."
Madonna connoisseurs expect a unexpected "reinvention." Relying on Timbaland to crank out a radio-ready collection was the wrong way to go — unless she really wanted to serve up some stale pop ditties.
GUERRILLAS IN HER MIDST
British-based Sri Lankan M.I.A. (Maya Arulpragasam) was a visual artist video documenting Elastica’s 2000 U.S. tour when bisexual rocker Peaches changed her life. The queen of electroclash gave M.I.A. a tutorial about ruff-neck grime and the introduced her to the Roland MC-505 sequencer.
Some could cast this tale in the "All About Eve" tradition. However, Peaches and M.I.A. are more like anti-pop sisters — not competitive titans. With M.I.A.’s intoxicating vocal delivery and dizzying blend of hip-hop, reggae, electronica, eastern tones and punk, some could argue that she’s already eclipsed Peaches.
If you check out her Dallas gig on Friday, expect to dance to gun shots, military-chic fashions, chants to overthrow all governments and a sweaty super-fun old-skool rap show.
Palladium Ballroom, 1135 S. Lamar. May 2 at 8 p.m. $20. 214-373-8000. Ticketmaster.com
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 2, 2008.
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