Hard Candy is the eleventh studio album by American singer and songwriter Madonna. It was released on April 19, 2008, by Warner Bros. Records. The album was her final studio album with the record company, marking the end of a 25-year recording history. Madonna started working on the album in early 2007, and collaborated with Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, The Neptunes and Nate "Danja" Hills. The album has an overall R&B vibe, while remaining a dance-pop record at its core. The Pet Shop Boys were also asked to collaborate with Madonna on the album by Warner Bros., but the record company later changed their mind and withdrew their invitation.
Madonna became interested in collaborating with Timberlake after hearing his 2006 album FutureSex/LoveSounds. Together they developed a number of songs for the album, but the basis of the development was Pharrell Williams' demos. Madonna had a number of songs written down for the album, which amazed Timberlake. They had intensive discussions among themselves before recording a song. Later, Madonna recalled that most of the songs on Hard Candy were autobiographical in many respects. However, according to her this was not intentional and happened while she was in the process of developing the album.
Madonna had initially decided to portray herself as the Black Madonna for the cover art, and call it the same, but later felt the idea may have been seen as controversial. She instead named the album "Hard Candy", which refers to the juxtaposition of toughness and sweetness. Critical reaction to the album were generally favorable, though some reviewers condemned it for its attempt to harness the urban market. On release Hard Candy debuted at number one in 37 countries worldwide, including the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain and the United Kingdom and became the eleventh best-selling album worldwide of 2008. The album has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide.
Three singles were released from the album. The first, "4 Minutes", was a worldwide success, topping the charts in 21 countries and becoming Madonna's 37th Billboard Hot 100 top-ten hit. Other singles released were "Give It 2 Me" and "Miles Away". To promote the album, Madonna went on a small promotional tour, where she played in three cities in small venues. The album received the majority of its promotion from the 2008–09 Sticky & Sweet Tour, which went on to become the highest grossing tour ever by a solo artist.
In February 2007, Timbaland said that he was working with Madonna for her upcoming eleventh studio album. It was Madonna's last studio album for Warner Bros. Records, and following the release of a greatest hits collection (Celebration), she would join Live Nation Artists, a new initiative launched by concert promoter Live Nation. The 10-year deal with Live Nation encompassed all of Madonna's future music and music-related businesses, including the exploitation of the Madonna brand, new studio albums, touring, merchandising, fan clubs/Web sites, DVDs, music-related television and film projects and associated sponsorship agreements. In August 2007, Timbaland spoke about the development of the album to MTV News. Together he and Justin Timberlake were confirmed to have worked on the album with Madonna and said that they wrote ten songs for her. Songs confirmed to have been developed were "La, La" and "Candy Shop", which was written by Pharrell Williams. Timbaland added,
"Me and Justin did the records. [Madonna's] got a hot album. Her album is up there with Justin's album. [...] Ah, man, there's this one song, we taking it back to 'You must be my luck-eee starrrr!' ... Remember 'Ugly' by Bubba Sparxxx? I got a beat similar to that. The hook is no words. It's saying stuff named after coffee... The name of the song is 'La, La'. Pharrell did a hot one for her too called 'Candy Shop'."
Timbaland finished off by saying that the title of the album was not decided then, but he had to reconvene with Madonna to complete the record by September 2007. MTV described the new album as moving in an urban direction. It had initially been defined as having "a lot of producers from a lot of genres in there."Pet Shop Boys were originally asked by Warner to write and produce some songs for the album. Timbaland referred to the album as being "like 'Holiday' with an R&B groove".