Monday, May 12, 2008

Call the cops! Madonna's sugar is still raw!

Amidst the initial media speculation surrounding Madonna's latest platter, you'd anticipate that it would be a dog's dinner. Well, you know what they say, "Jealousy will get you somewhere."

On first play, the album is consistently slick, awesome and downright cool. The album has an infectious minimalism about it which is refreshing, when one would think someone of Madonna's stature would try to throw everything into it but the kitchen sink.

But Madonna's always understood the groove and what gets people moving. Her music is physical and impulsive, and 'Hard Candy' is no exception.

The Neptunes enhanced 'Candy Shop' kicks off the festivities with Madonna singing, "My sugar is raw." And you know something, she just may have a point. But this ain't Brown Sugar. It's a metaphor for Madonna's hidden agenda, which is, ultimately, to make people THINK while SHE does all the entertaining.

It's a simple but effective ploy, and it's done with precision and passion.

'Hard Candy' doesn't automatically go through the motions. If you've been following Madonna from day one, you'll know she hates to go backwards. So, with that said, if she wants to co-write some tracks with Pharrell Williams of NERD and Neptunes fame, Timbaland (the king of cell phone drama in the studio) and Justin Timberlake, Madonna has good reason.

The press would like YOU to think that she was so desperate that she had to rope the same dudes who made Nelly Furtado and Gwen Stefani relevant. However, unlike Stefani, Madonna is cool, and everybody knows it. Madonna doesn't need the Hiruku girls to validate her bullshit.

So, we dive straight into the second track, '4 Mintues' which, I must admit, when I first heard it on YouTube, I went along with the pack and said, "This is Madonna gone Wal-Mart!" But on third listen, it was hard to kick, and that's when the addiction set in. It's also good to see Justin participating in something cool again, because, in my opinion, he hasn't recorded anything this funky since his first solo album.

So, what about the singles? There's going to be many. After '4 Minutes', it could be 'Miles Away' the pretty ballad songs with the infectious chorus, or the dance frenzy 'Give It 2 Me'. "You've done it all before, it's nothing new." Madonna ain't no hypocrite. She just wants you to lick her boots.

Can she pull it off live? Are you kidding? I saw her BBC Radio 1 performance in the UK last night. Madonna continues to own the stage. Her performance of 'Candy Shop', 'Give It 2 Me' and '4 Minutes' (the latter staged with stunning hi-tech video footage of Timberlake choreographed to Madonna's live dance routine). Forget the music, visually, the show is spectacular.

It's an event. It's Madonna. Bring on the clowns.

What's probably putting people off is the crass artwork on the CD inlay. Pictured is your royal badass licking a leather wristband, dressed up in some tacky wrestling bondage outfit and a look that's very reminiscent to Peaches.

Track #5 is the acoustic guitar flavored 'Miles Away' gets a robotic synth treated vibe, and suddenly Madonna takes you back to the sound of the brilliant 'Music' album. Potentially, this could be the biggest hit from the album. For those lazy journalists who have mistaken this song for a hip-hop groove throw-away, think again. This is pop music at it's most supreme.

'She's Not Me' kicks off with some funky hand claps then follows with some timely lyrics - "I should have seen the sign way back then, when she told me that you were her best friend ... She started dressin' like me and talkin' like me. It freaked me out. She started callin' you up in the middle of the night, what's that about? I just wanna be there when you discover, you wake up in the morning next to your new lover. She might cook you breakfast and love you in the shower . The flavor of the moment is she don't have what's ours. She's not me. She doesn't have my name. She'll never have what I'll have. It won't be the same." Pow.

'Incredible' sounds like a electro pop funk dance floor ditty, a grown up fairy tale that's both beautiful and optimistic. It's like the cherry on a vanilla sundae. "I can't get my head around it," says Madonna. "I need to think about it!"

'Beat Goes On' features Kayne West, is both sexy, moody and slick. Great dance track that gives several nods to Chic and hazy memories of Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger and Studio 54. This is a great driving track. And thank god Kayne doesn't kill the song by rapping on it. Instead, Madonna makes good use of his falsetto, "Get down, beep beep, gotta get up outta your seat!" Sassy and classy.

'Dance 2Night', another sexy slow tempo funk workout. Great dance track. Meanwhile, the folks in South America and Spain will dig the flamenco enhanced Pharrell Williams co-written track 'Spanish Lession' (for hardcore Madonna fans only).

Madonna saves two thought provoking ballads for the end of the album, the piano driven 'The Devil Wouldn't Recognize You' and the Massive Attack influenced 'Voices'. Both are spiritual in nature and shows Madonna at her most mature, musically speaking of course. What's more, she still looks gorgeous, sophisticated, and most importantly, in control of her destiny.

This candy just got outta control. Sugar, sugar.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Emmanuel Jal knocks some cents into 50 Cent

Emmanuel Jal, the Sudanese hip hop prophet/messiah, and possibly the next most important artist to come along since the great Bob Marley, is just one of many artists to perform at Nelson Mandela's 90th Birthday concert in London's Hyde Park on 27th June.

Earlier this month, Jal implored 50 Cent and other hip-hop stars to stop glamorising violence. The Warchild rapper - a former child soldier in Sudan - has a track on his new album called 50 Cent, in which he calls for the end to gangster rap.

Emmanuel said: "The song 50 Cent came when I was in the UK and there's so much gun crime and knife crime. My cousin was arrested because he stabbed a white kid and for me that was so painful.

"I'm saying: 'You've come to this country, they've given you a chance whereby you can make something of your life and you're holding onto this?'

"But I say there must be somebody who's influencing this kid. Because they had formed a little group, they called themselves D Unit and what they do is they beat kids, they think it's fun, they call themselves gangsters, terrifying other kids."

He added: "Also the producer who produced my album, his son did a drive-by shooting in the Bahamas and he's in jail and what's his influence - he wanted to be a gangster as well.

"So I say it's going to be difficult to call 50 Cent and tell him about the situation so that's how we came up with the song.

"The world that is promoting the violence - we can't say it's the hip-hop artists, it's the record companies because they want to make money."

Emmanuel Jal's album Warchild is released by Sonic360 Records on May 12.