April 28, 2008

Live-streaming Madonna's "Hard Candy."

My son Christopher Althouse Cohen — a longtime Madonna fan — emails:
Madonna just recently put her whole new album, which comes out tomorrow, on her myspace page, and I just listened to it. I just barely like it enough to buy it, even though the only Madonna album I've never purchased is "American Life." Several of the songs are well-written, but I just hate the way it's produced. She collaborated with mainstream hip hop producers for all these songs, and that just ruins the album for me. If you go on her myspace page and listen to the song "Incredible," you'll hear the problem. She comes up with a quality hook, and they add a big, overbearing hip hop beat that has nothing to do with the song and drowns everything else out. The style only really works with the first three songs ("Candy Shop," "4 Minutes," and "Give It 2 Me"), which seem written for that kind of production.

Madonna has always seemed a little bit out of the mainstream, or at least worked with people who were experimental or against the current trends in some way. Here, she decided to collaborate with the most mainstream people she could find and just generically follow the trend of female pop singers working with hip hop producers. She also sold more than half the songs on the album for use in commercials. It's a little strange to sell out after you've already sold 200 million records.

I think she's trying to reconnect with American audiences. Her last album was a big hit in other countries, but not as big here. "Hung Up" was one of the biggest hit songs ever worldwide, and was #1 in 45 countries, but only peaked at #7 here. So, I guess that's the reason. Or maybe she's influenced by her children's taste in music, if that's what they like. Seems unnecessary, though, and you feel much less that you're listening to a real artist with this album than with any other Madonna album.

31 comments:

MadisonMan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Stodder said...

I don't know how one "likes" or "dislikes" a Madonna album.

A Madonna album is forced upon you, like a commercial. The only appropriate responses to her albums are either

a) Submit. There's nothing you can do; or
b) Develop avoidance strategies. No TV for, like, six months after it's released. Especially avoid HBO, MTV, VHI, all the major networks, commercial radio, public radio, clothing stores and elevators.

She does sound a bit pathetic per Christopher's review. Too afraid to decide for herself what style she should usher in this year, she relies on the people who've been doing that job without her for the past few years.

Once Madonna is out of your system, may I recommend a great album? Levon Helm's "Dirt Farmer." It's an album worthy of Helm's legacy with the Band. If you are of a particular cast of mind, it's a lot more fun than anything Madonna has ever done, with the exception of her nudie book.

Jennifer said...

I loved her in the 80's but have steadily lost interest. Maybe mainstream is the new edgy. I've noticed a lot of edgy types - including friends - going conservative. It could just be a case of getting older. But, I swear Republican is the new Anarchy.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Titus bait. Eveyone out of the water.

Trooper York said...

I think it was Mick Jagger who called her a thimble of talent in an ocean of ambition.

I love her early stuff. I just downloaded a lot of cds into the store ipod including her early albums and was singing along and entertaining the shoppers on Sunday. You ain't lived to you've seen a fat fuck in a Hawaiian shirt singing Papa Don't Preach and vougeing his ass off. That's avant garde baby!

MadisonMan said...

My Madonna interest has a steadily downward trajectory. Her early stuff, if you want to dance? FABulous. Maybe it still is, but I don't dance as much. I also like her songs because they have melodies that you can sing along to.

I admire her ability to re-define herself. And as noted above, her ambition.

madawaskan said...

Ruth Anne

LOL!

Trooper York-

You ain't lived to you've seen a fat fuck in a Hawaiian shirt singing Papa Don't Preach and vougeing his ass off.

So titus was over?

Maybe you should have sold him some Spanx.

Shan said...

The production seems almost lo-fi; the hooks soumd like they come from video game bleeps. The producer may be hip-hop but I didn't get that drum and bass vibe, just electronic effluvia.

Trooper York said...

No that was me actually. But I did do a great job on some old school soul later in the day, Al Green, The Stylistics, Bill Withers, The Chi-lites.

Didn't it just blow your mind, didn't it.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

This album is probably her best since Like A Prayer. I love every song. I was worried she was going to be overtaken by the hip hop production and predictable Timbaland/Timberlake...but not so! Every song is decisively Madonna: rich production, catchy hooks, and full of dance beats.

Christopher Althouse Cohen said...

Shan: That's what a lot of that kind of music is now. It's supposed to feel stripped-down, but the beats are very loud and everything else is pushed to the background. Sort of the opposite of what it seems like you should do if you want a minimal arrangement.

Methadras said...

Where the hell is DownTownLad when you need him for the insightful and witty Madonna album release 'anal'ysis?

Palladian said...

Bach was more transgressive than Madonna.

Methadras said...

Christopher Althouse Cohen said...

Shan: That's what a lot of that kind of music is now. It's supposed to feel stripped-down, but the beats are very loud and everything else is pushed to the background. Sort of the opposite of what it seems like you should do if you want a minimal arrangement.


In this case, I would call it power lo-fi. Sort of like power metal, but without the metal.

Methadras said...

Seriously. I'm like a closet Madonna fan. I will never admit that I actually like her, but I do. This album is bad-ass. I like it a lot. Oh man, I fell nauseous.

Pastafarian said...

I'm still waiting for someone to use the phrase "reinvent" in reference to this nauseating nasal disco slag.

Oh, look, she stuffed her tits into a conical bra and styled her hair differently. She's an in-ven-tor. Edison, Tesla, Madonna.

Greg in Madtown said...

Christopher's well written review gets his main point across, and I can understand why he might be disappointed. Ultimately, though, there's no accounting for taste. I already love this album, which is obviously meant for a dance floor.

I also can't help but get excited about the important cultural work she's doing on this album: singing out for sexual freedom within the all-too-often narrowly scripted musical codes of hip hop's sonic fabric.

Christopher Althouse Cohen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff with one 'f' said...

"It's a little strange to sell out after you've already sold 200 million records."

What a 60's notion.

This isn't selling out, it's 21st-century music distribution. Nick Drake was virtually unknown in the US until VW made the "Pink Moon" commercial.

George said...

Here is the depraved Madonna in this week's New York magazine:

Question: In the movie, you look at one ritual in which a young woman is told she must have sex with a man three times in a day, in order to “cleanse” her.

Madonna: It’s not my place to judge that tradition. But to have a conversation with a village headsman and say, “Do you realize this is spreading a deadly disease?” and have him say, “Yes, but there’s nothing I can do” is mind-bogglingly frustrating. But we drop bombs on children during wartime, so you think, Well, who’s practicing black magic?

Christopher Althouse Cohen said...

Jeff: It's very different when an unknown artist does it. Some artists, including people working in electronic music, only make money through promotional stuff, and I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with Madonna, who's quite rich and can do whatever she wants, selling out in terms of style and then selling most of her new songs for use in commercials.

Chip Ahoy said...

For Christopher,

Madonna's Vogue and Edvard Munch's Skrik together for the first time.

Tibore said...

Trooper York said...
"I think it was Mick Jagger who called her a thimble of talent in an ocean of ambition.

That must've been before he met J.Lo.

John Stodder said...
"A Madonna album is forced upon you, like a commercial. The only appropriate responses to her albums are either

a) Submit. There's nothing you can do; or
b) Develop avoidance strategies. No TV for, like, six months after it's released. Especially avoid HBO, MTV, VHI, all the major networks, commercial radio, public radio, clothing stores and elevators."


Jeez, John, you make it sound like she's omnipresent.

Oh, wait...

Tibore said...

"But to have a conversation with a village headsman and say, “Do you realize this is spreading a deadly disease?” and have him say, “Yes, but there’s nothing I can do” is mind-bogglingly frustrating. But we drop bombs on children during wartime, so you think, Well, who’s practicing black magic?"

Jesus... Segues like that'll give a listener whiplash. If Madonna were a car, she'd have taken that corner on two wheels.

Chet said...

Hip-hop in advertising is used quite a lot to reel in the 18-27 niche market. And, that age group isn't willing to buy music and albums, unless it's been circulating for awhile, and tied to some sort of product placement.

If she's not going to do commercials and product placement....what's the point of even having her own lable? She might as well just put her music up on iTunes like everyone else.

vbspurs said...

I was in Best Buy today when I saw the Madonna poster as one entered. Completely floored me. Her face looks ODD, like a South American soap opera diva of the 1950s.

She's becoming Libertad Lamarque...

(Heh, first a Brazilian reference, now an Argentinian one. I'm on a roll)

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

Okay, just listened on MySpace.

First thought, she is trying to appeal too much to the hip-hop obsessed "Millenials".

Oddly, the songs lack her usual energy -- not an one approaching my favourite recent Madonna song, "Hung Up".

Favourite tracks so far:

4 Minutes - LOOONG Hip-hop intro, which sounds like a discarded song from the movies, Hustle-n-Flow and Gangsta Paradise -- "FOH Minutes, Tickyticky, Ay". But it will be a super hit.

Voices - "Who is the master, who is the slave?". A sure-fire topical hit in 2008...

"Spanish Lesson", however, is downright embarrassing. Isla Bonita, indeed.

Cheers,
Victoria

blake said...

I've been pretty good at avoiding her music; but really, it has to make it into a movie before I hear it.

So, I've probably heard "Ray of Light" (Ice Princess), "Beautiful Stranger" (Austin Powers 2), and "I'll Remember" (With Honors). The last is the only one I could actually identify.

John Stodder--

Levon Helm? There's a guy at the local movie theater who insists that I'm him. "You're that guy from The Last Waltz!" (Levon could almost be my grandfather. Punk kids.)

michaele said...

Tried to listen to 4 Minutes but it just didn't hold my interest. I can imagine that it's totally adequate to dance to but it strikes me as just kind of generic. Hmmm, never thought I 'd say that about Madonna. It surprises me that kids still let her barge into their world trying to appeal to them on their level.

Trooper York said...

Tibore said
That must've been before he met J.Lo.

Were gonna come around at twelve
With some puerto rican girls that are just dyin to meet you.
Were gonna bring a case of wine
Hey, lets go mess and fool around
You know, like we used to
(Miss You, The Rolling Stones)

Nah, I think he already met her and her sister. Just sayn'

vbspurs said...

Tried to listen to 4 Minutes but it just didn't hold my interest. I can imagine that it's totally adequate to dance to but it strikes me as just kind of generic. Hmmm, never thought I 'd say that about Madonna.

YES!

I bought it last night on iTunes (the only track), and I've been listening to it all day Tuesday.

Catchy. Justin Timberlake backs her up well. But it's so mediocre it hurts.

The hook includes her name, "Madonna(tick tock tick tock)".

Painful.

Cheers,
Victoria