Last week, Madonna's manager announced that she would be starting work on a new album very soon.
For Madge fans this news was met with a mixture of happiness and trepidation. The lack of out-and-out joy comes, chiefly, from the memory of her last album, 2008’s disposable, grab-bag collection ‘Hard Candy’. To prevent the rot, here’s five things we think she needs to do to make this album work.
1) Right 'Hard Candy''s Wrongs
'Hard Candy' - what I like to call 'The Mid-Life Crisis One' - was a hard pill to swallow. It was the musical equivalent of buying a red Porsche, ditching your spouse and netting a much younger beau. Musically uninspiring and lyrically barren, this was Madonna’s weakest album in decades. The beats came from the likes of Timbaland and Pharrell Williams, but they were merely serviceable facsimiles of material they’d already put out. Vocally, Madonna sounded tight-lipped and dead-eyed, perhaps due her lyrics which, with their tired references to clubbing, reeked of pretence and falsity. There was no sense here of the organic collaborations she’d whipped up with William Orbit, Mirwais or Stuart Price, which leads us onto point two…
2) Find Some Interesting Producers
The idea of Madonna hooking up with the likes of Dr Luke or RedOne chills us to the bone. Yes, they’re the hit-makers du jour but Madonna desperately needs craft, something left-of-centre that leads the pack rather than blindly following it - something akin to 'American Life''s folktronica. In the 80s, she wrote some of her best songs with Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray. The jury is out whether her Facebook search for new producers is a good or bad thing.
3) Write Good Lyrics
Listening to albums like ‘Like A Prayer’ and ‘Ray Of Light’ again, it’s clear that Madonna did at one point write lyrics about real things. She needs to draw from the events that have affected her (divorce, adoption) and pen some lyrics that mean something, like she did so well in the past on tracks like ‘Mer Girl or ‘Til Death Do Us Part’. Instead of dropping clangers like this choice couplet from 'Hard Candy' : ”Are you a one trick pony/ Or do you wanna keep running this race?” What does that even mean?
4) Do Not Collaborate With Lourdes
When we read that she was set to work with her 14-year old daughter on a track called *gulp* ’It’s So Cool’ we thought it was possibly the worst idea she’d had since she decided to start acting. Turn away the Tween/Disney/Bieber bangwagon immediately, Madge, it will only end horribly.
5) Find An Interesting Concept
‘Hard Candy’ was a weak album wrapped in a weaker concept: sweets as a metaphor for sex. That was it. Madonna works best when she centers around a bigger theme, like ‘Ray Of Light’'s spiritual rebirth or ‘American Life’'s political slant. It’s time to come up with an idea that resonates and inspires.