Madonna ‘Hard Candy’: Aidin Vaziri | She never ceases to amaze. After we witnessed the cheapo shampoo commercials, the trying-too-hard S&M cover art and her waxlike appearance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony (left), the odds were pretty good that Madonna’s 11th studio album would head straight for the Amazon clearance store. After all, just last year Duran Duran roped in Justin Timberlake and Timbaland in the hopes of giving its fatigued synth-pop sound a shot of virtual Botox, and the group hasn’t been heard from since. At 49, the Material Mom does her fellow ’80s megastars one better by employing those guys, plus Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. If only she had a track from Tony Kanal, “Hard Candy” would pretty much be a Gwen Stefani album, built around seamless club-ready tracks such as “Give It 2 Me,” “Heartbeat” and the lushly produced “Incredible.” Less contrived than “Confessions on a Dance Floor,” this album has dispensed with the tightly controlled experimental grooves of the past decade in favor of a straight-up dance record that brilliantly allows a group of high-end producers to pull Madonna and her vapid lyrics into the new millennium. It certainly makes for her most fun release in ages, if not her most age-appropriate. On the thumping “Give It 2 Me,” she declares, “Don’t stop me now, don’t need to catch my breath/ I can go on and on.” It’s entirely possible she actually means it this time.
Craig David ‘Trust Me’: Aidin Vaziri | Remember Craig David? Nearly a decade after the slick British pop phenom failed to crack America with a debut album stuffed with holographic R&B hits such as “Fill Me In” and “7 Days,” he returns defeated. His fourth album doesn’t so much fizz with the liquid two-step rhythms and Spanish guitars of his early years but instead shuffles along on the back of tired ideas. Eleven years after P. Diddy sampled the song for “Been Around the World,” David rediscovers the thump of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” single for the album’s centerpiece, “Hot Stuff.” The rest falls evenly between horn-heavy club fodder (“6 of 1 Thing”) and heavily cliched midtempo ballads (“Don’t Play With Our Love,” “Awkward”) that make Leona Lewis sound like Black Flag.