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Was Anyone Else Caught Off Guard by Hard Candy?


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I honestly don’t believe her “this is the music I’m listening to” excuse as to why she made that album. It’s as if she panicked and felt her relevance amongst the gp was slipping and made a desperate grab at it. It was too “on the nose” and an about face from where she was heading musically after Confessions. I don’t dislike the album but I just associate it with when she changed from a groundbreaking creative artist to a blatant trend chaser.

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Madonna and her producers.

She works with producers and use their knowledge and signature sound to enhance the Madonna phase she is living through.

You can listen to "At Close Range" soundtrack and believe is a continuous Live to tell instrumental. WIlliam Orbit's "Strange Cargo's" are Ray of Light demos and instrumentals too. She started working with Stuart price when he was at his prime as DJ/Producer and CODF is clearly his sound but you link it to Madonna's sound. Same thing applies to Mirwais. He did Paradise with her in his album, but she dragged him into her work and creative phase.

Hard Candy comes. All of the producers have their own strong signature brand that they had been using to give to all of the artists they'd been working with on the past 4-6 years before that album. Nelly Furtado, Gwen, Ciara, Neptunes, Justin. And you can't hear Madonna there at all. Even is she has an input is drowned for the same beats, loops and samples you hear in Man Eater, Sexy Back, Cry me  a river and she's got the moves.

And  I think that's the issue, It's not a bad album, it just feels alien and bit Madonna-less.

Then MDNA  got a bit of the same treatment.

That's what I enjoyed about Madame X, like she felt excited and a explorer again.

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1 hour ago, EgoRod said:

Madonna and her producers.

She works with producers and use their knowledge and signature sound to enhance the Madonna phase she is living through.

You can listen to "At Close Range" soundtrack and believe is a continuous Live to tell instrumental. WIlliam Orbit's "Strange Cargo's" are Ray of Light demos and instrumentals too. She started working with Stuart price when he was at his prime as DJ/Producer and CODF is clearly his sound but you link it to Madonna's sound. Same thing applies to Mirwais. He did Paradise with her in his album, but she dragged him into her work and creative phase.

Hard Candy comes. All of the producers have their own strong signature brand that they had been using to give to all of the artists they'd been working with on the past 4-6 years before that album. Nelly Furtado, Gwen, Ciara, Neptunes, Justin. And you can't hear Madonna there at all. Even is she has an input is drowned for the same beats, loops and samples you hear in Man Eater, Sexy Back, Cry me  a river and she's got the moves.

And  I think that's the issue, It's not a bad album, it just feels alien and bit Madonna-less.

Then MDNA  got a bit of the same treatment.

That's what I enjoyed about Madame X, like she felt excited and a explorer again.

It’s funny when fans complain about the Sound being to influenced by Justin and Timbaland and then they single out Devil as their favorite track. Which is literally Cry Me A River Part II.

I totally agree with your take on this. I find all the Justin/Timbaland tracks unoriginal and dated at the time of the release.

But the Pharrell tracks are amazing and totally make up for it.

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I remember reading somewhere that after the Confessions massive success, Madonna was already lining up with the Pet Shop Boys to create a second dance album, like Confessions 2.0; but Warner for some reason (maybe so she won't sounded repeated) thought it would be cool if she went to the RnB/Urban direction and they convinced her to go that route... Big mistake.

However, listening this album nowadays, I still enjoy it and find it at least somewhat more coherent than the mess that was Rebel Heart or Madame Mess, MDNA is another generic EDM mess but I really enjoy that album lol.

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8 hours ago, kesiak said:

That's so true. I also feel Hard Candy has aged much better as an album than some might've expected at the time of its release. Confessions was the last time Madonna was so universally loved, commercially successful and critically acclaimed all at once and I think that helps romanticise that record/era. Some mediocre lyrics aside, I personally much prefer Hard Candy's sound and production and listen to it way more often than Confessions. Having said that, I do remember thinking back in the spring of 2008 that she doesn't sound like "Madonna" but then again, I thought that too when I first heard Erotica. :)

Totally agreed with everything here except going back to it more than Confessions. It actually sounds pretty fresh nowadays. Just wish the mixing was a wee better…this album (and MDNA and FREAKIN REBEL HEART) would really benefit from a proper remaster by an experienced producer. The songs may have their up and down moments, but a lot of the songs suffer strictly from terrible mixing. She should give a call to the guy who does Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish’s final mixing. Their albums are top notch from a mastering perspective.

That said, all very interesting thoughts in here. Thanks for not taking this as a Madonna bashing thread — It’s still a great era in my opinion, just…different. The only time I’ve really ever felt that Madonna “magic” again that I described in my first post — Where I felt like her vision was creative and unique, where she seemed 100% into it, where the production was mind blowing, where she had a CONCEPT — was the MDNA Tour. If she had included a few more classics and started that tour at a decent time each night, it’d be one of her most celebrated. Her modern Blond Ambition, I fear.

I do think the imagery of Hard Candy was a big reason for its divisiveness. The trailer teaser a few posts ago was a perfect example of actually having an idea marketing-wise…everything else felt like they threw whatever they could at the wall to see what would stick (no pun intended). I mean, Madonna as a boxer posing in front of photoshopped candy? It just didn’t make sense.

“Hard Candy” being marketed as, like, an adult magazine with the album cover being a Playboy mock up with its oldest yet sexiest cover model, still with her in the boxing garb? Candy shop as the first single to go along with it (a much better final version of that song, since it totally has the potential to go OFF)? Trailers offering phone sex lines that would actually take you to a pre-recorded message advertising the album? Having little interview snippets in the album booklet that were, like, little articles corresponding with each song to explain how they fit into the context of her life at the time? I could totally get on board. M Dolla could have been a double entendre for an alter ego that is both a blonde pinup bimbo and an urban confessional chanteuse? It would have worked.

I do hope she one day releases a tell all autobiography and has enough distance from her past at that point to properly tell the story of each era, because this one is one of the most interesting to me. Things definitely changed….wasn’t she originally in discussions to work with Stuart Price again? Where did he go and why has he been erased from all future eras?

When this inevitably is re-released in the future, along with other eras still in the vault, it would be fantastic to finally get proper mixing and concept art.

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It took me by surprise but I adjusted.  My first impression was that it was the least Madonnaesque album in her discography but soon the demos came out and I enjoyed it more and more as the vision unfolded further.  Pharell needed to be utilized more.  Love my own version of Hard Candy Deluxe!  It flows well for me and adds to the excitement.  

1. Candy Shop

2. 4 Minutes

3. The Feeling's So Crazy

4. Give It 2 Me

5. Heartbeat

6. Miles Away

7. She's Not Me

8. Pala Tute 

9. Across the Sky

10. Incredible

11. Ring My Bell

12. Beat Goes On

13. Animal

14. Dance 2night

15. Spanish Lesson

16. The Beat Goes On [pt. 2]

17. The Devil Wouldn't Recognize You 

18. Voices

 

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31 minutes ago, Sultrysully said:

It took me by surprise but I adjusted.  My first impression was that it was the least Madonnaesque album in her discography but soon the demos came out and I enjoyed it more and more as the vision unfolded further.  Pharell needed to be utilized more.  Love my own version of Hard Candy Deluxe!  It flows well for me and adds to the excitement.  

1. Candy Shop

2. 4 Minutes

3. The Feeling's So Crazy

4. Give It 2 Me

5. Heartbeat

6. Miles Away

7. She's Not Me

8. Pala Tute 

9. Across the Sky

10. Incredible

11. Ring My Bell

12. Beat Goes On

13. Animal

14. Dance 2night

15. Spanish Lesson

16. The Beat Goes On [pt. 2]

17. The Devil Wouldn't Recognize You 

18. Voices

 

I love this version of the album minus Miles Away, dance 2night and Spanish Lesson 

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At its release, I preferred the album X by Kylie Minogue and honestly I keep thinking it’s way better than HARD CANDY, yet I am not a fan of the minogue :Madonna033:

It was the first time that a Madonna album didn't excite me more.

The album had leaked and I think I heard INCREDIBLE first, which I immediately hated.

I love the titles produced by Pharell (GIVE IT 2 ME :Madonna018:) the rest had a train of delay and déjà vu.

The sleeve is a tribute to bad taste :shade2:

seriously... who can love this cover with this picture of a candy in the background that seems created by a perfect amateur? :Madonna009:

Nevertheless this album coincides with a good time in my life, since it is at this time that I met my husband. So, it’s still the album of Madonna that I love the least, but the one that has marked me the most :Madonna001:

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She seemed to be on such a great path with Confessions and the dance/electronic pop sound so was really surprised when I heard the Demo's for Candy Shop and Beat Goes On and just thought this is a quality control drop

I think it's a good album with some great tracks but would have done more in 2003 around the time of Kelis Kaledeescope record

I think it was a solid pop record but MDNA needed to be great and a return to her usual brilliance and it was another step down - Rebel Heart was then was a step down again in terms of quality 

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I always say this album makes sense as the follow up to "Music". It would have been a surprise at that point and not sounded dated or desperate. She could have collabed with amazing girls like Gwen, Kelis, Nelly F, Lil Kim etc. if she wanted cool features. I've always found Justin corny. Even at his peak. 

I'm not a huge fan of the music videos for Confessions but the HC were the first time I watched an M video once and never replayed. THAT definitely caught me off guard. 

 

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If Hard Candy was released in 1999 - 2002 would've been a massive hit....because that's when that sound/producers were hot. Most of Pharrell's songs were demos by other artist (Heartbeat, Spanish Lesson), Tim/Justin songs were just songs that sound like off his albums (Most of his first album were rejected by MJ). I think Miles Away is only personal song on the album , I think if she worked with Pat or didn't have the mindset to make a dance album we would've gotten a deeper meaning album. She's Not Me, the demo of the Beat Goes On ("Always the bridesmaid never the bride"), Voices and Miles Away deal with relationship issues. 

The whole Pharrell made M cry in the studio to me just shows how fragile/stressed state of mind she was in making this album. Her marriage was ending, she was turning 50 (which almost every interview focus on), questions about Lady Gaga....I feel she just wanted to put out something light and fun, or rather sticky and sweet during this time and we got "Hard Candy"

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Its got a few great tracks but not her best by far. I think she trusted in others to have more input with the stress of her life at the time and it was made for touring. Dare I say it like Britney's last 2 albums were made just to have a few good songs to fresh up her Vegas show. I do know fans that its their fave and fans that became a fan because of it! So it has its place. Amazing tour!!!!!

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I adored it when I came out (I was 13) and to this day I still think it has some strong songwriting (She's not me, Miles Away, Give it 2 me, Devil Wouldn't Recognize You, Heartbeat). The sound wasn't the most avant-guard, but that's only a problem if you care about that. I prefer Hard Candy to MDNA. MDNA shares the same problems with HC (late on a trend, not enough "Madonna") while also having considerably worse songs throughout. 

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I just remember that here in Germany where she hadn’t suffered from the AL-backlash, people were still crazy for her when Hung Up was released. I remember that radio stations announced a week in advance that they were going to play the new Madonna-song in XX days and the general anticipation was high. The single and record then were a huge success and the concerts she played in Germany received favourable reviews. 

It was basically the same again in 2008 but this time, it felt as if something was missing. Madonna was missing. 4minutes is a decent song but unlike 2005, Madonna wasn’t there in 2008. She did nearly no  promotion, didn’t appear on TV. All she did were the two promo concerts that sounded badly put together and were badly rehearsed. While Madonna seemed quite positive in 2005, she appeared way more reserved in 2008 (in hindsight, it was understandable) and her new puffy face didn’t help it. 
Then, it was the first time she released a record and did not live the new era at all. She looked so different on the album cover and in the music videos compared to how she looked during interviews. I was surprised that this time, she didn’t sell a full package where she really presented the persona from the record also in real life. 

And then, there was the music. Hard Candy is a decent album but in comparison to her previous work, it felt forced and uninspired. While after ROL, many songs by other artists sounded like wannabe-ROL-tracks, this time, her new music sounded like something you’ve heard before. And it marked the moment when she started to be very in your face with her sexuality, after more than ten years, where she wasn’t quiet about her sexuality but didn’t use it as a tool. I’m sure, 1998-Madonna would have been terribly embarrassed by a song like Candy Shop when she had a song like Skin, which was also about love and sex but der with the whole issue in a way more elaborate and tasteful manner. 
 

All in all, Hard Candy marked the beginning of her decline as a pop-star, as an artist, as a professional performer and as *the* driving force in show business. 

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On 7/31/2021 at 3:57 AM, eXtremeOccident said:

Listening to Revolver right now (HORRIBLE vocal mixing by the way :hearno: I mean, amateur level) and just reminiscing on past Madonna eras while listening to Celebration and, well....

Was anyone completely caught off guard by Hard Candy? After Confessions, there were so many routes of music that still seemed unexplored for Madonna and yet ones that could be cool....but then...she suddenly did something that she had never really done before. She released an album that sounded a little dated already.

Everything about Hard Candy to this day still just feels so un-Madonna. I know this era is hotly debated by other Madonna fans, but I really do see Madonna as having had two eras -- 1983 - 2007 and 2008 - today and wonder if other Madonna fans feel this way. It's been so weird being in the fanbase as someone who discovered her around the time of Live 8, right before Confessions, and knowing what she was celebrated for and did at the time vs. how a lot of people perceive her today, as well as how she presents her art.

For the ones who agree, what do you think changed? Was Guy freakin Ritchie really the trigger to all of it, or were there other factors?

To clarify, I love everything she releases to this day. But I certainly feel like some of the magic Madonna always had started to disappear around Hard Candy, and I've always wondered if I'm the only fan who feels this way.

Anyways, please discuss :Madonna052:

if madonna recorded her first 2 albums in the hard candy era, they would sound like hard candy

 

hard candy is a pop disco rnb record like her first 2 albums. working with pharrel is like working with nile rodgers back then.

 

the difference is she's older, her audience wants her to make the album they want.

 

i think hc is a very very madonna album. people just didn't want madonna making that record in her fanbase and she's older.

 

i prefer it than confessions

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Many things went wrong during that time, some already have mentioned 

1. She was having issues in her marriage at this point.

2. It's almost like she wanted to sound like Nelly Furtado at a time when Timbaland was probably exhausted and definitely overused.

3. This was the first time I felt an album was a justification for a tour. She had a big commitment with Live Nation now. 

3. JT added very little to the album. There was nothing SexyBack about it. Maybe there wasn't a connection there?

4. She got more involved with Malawi and the charity, which is great but definitely a distraction.

5. BONUS: Steven Klein sucks.

 

PS: I love Give it 2 Me btw, although that bridge is a bit dreadful.

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Yes it was a surprise, and it took me six months after it was released to listen to the whole album.

I still feel like after American Life, M wanted to regain her commercial success in the USA and as a result she put the political stuff in the background and worked with a hot producer she felt could help deliver a hit. And he did in every country but the US.

Billboard asked a bunch of radio programmers back in the day why they were not playing Confessions after Hung Up had been such a big hit. They basically said she was not really an American entertainer anymore and she wasn't doing US style music anymore. Though if you read between the lines, many were saying she was un-American. 

So it really should not have been a surprise that her next move to was to hire Pharell and Timberlake/Timbaland. Unfortuntely I think her massive drop in success might have made her doubt her own abilities and hand over too much power to her producers because whether the tracks are good or bad, I always come away with the feeling that M is a guest on her own album. 

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Not really. It was bound to happen but she felt late to the curve considering Nelly, Justin and others had already made use of the sound and it felt like she was late to the party. The idea on paper sounds cool but the execution left a lot to be desired. The music has aged well and there's a newfound appreciation for it however, as a whole I'm not a fan of it. You have some simple lyrics with her screeching through some songs (Pharrell encouraged her to sing so high) that sounds like Incredible or Spanish Lesson are a chore to listen to.

On the other side, she did blend dance with a version of R&B and urban genres to her own niche. Songs like Candy Shop, Dance 2 Night, Devil Wouldn't Recognize You, She's Not Me are done well. Though it's a mystery she omitted and discarded some great tracks like Across The Sky, Pela Tute, etc.

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