Album: Madonna, Hard Candy (Warner)

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The Independent Culture

For the record, I'm neither ageist nor a prude. But when, four tracks into Madonna's 11th studio album 'Hard Candy', the 49-year-old Queen of Pop starts monotonously cooing "see my booty get down" while Pharrell Williams pants desperately over the top, my immediate reaction is sheer, hair-standing-on-end embarrassment.

It's like watching your mum trying to be a lap dancer. The track in question is "Heartbeat", which until that point, was a rather pleasing, bleepy electro-pop ode to the dancefloor – much like the rest of the album, in fact. And therein lies the problem. Whereas Madonna made her mark as a ballsy, boundary-crushing, sexually liberated pop idol, on 'Hard Candy' she takes her cue from pretty much every sexually available, pleasing pop muppet going – from hiring the Neptunes or Timbaland to produce every track on the album to the ridiculous give-it-to-me crotch shot on its cover. Indeed, on "Give it 2 Me", she chants said phrase as if all she really wants you to give her is a mug of Horlicks and a couple of valium. Even Kanye West (who guests on the actually rather brilliant "Beat Goes On") can't save her. The passion's gone.

Pick of the Album: 'Beat Goes On': Kanye provides a pulse