Madonna knows her own mind, so the decision, in 2007, to pair with the team that was then dominating pop radio – Timbaland and his matinee-idol protégé Justin Timberlake – for her Hard Candy album was less a case of following trends than it was seizing an opportunity to reshape them in her own unique style. This is the story of how Madonna’s Justin Timberlake collaboration, 4 Minutes, resulted in a song that became one of both stars’ biggest hits.
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The song: A riff-heavy earworm
Work on what became Hard Candy, issued in the spring of 2008, resulted in five songs bearing a Timbaland co-credit: Miles Away (the album’s third single), Dance 2Night, Devil Wouldn’t Recognise You, Voices and the track that would launch the record, 4 Minutes.
A chart-topper in the UK, Europe and the US dance charts, 4 Minutes continued the “Queen of Pop”’s domination of the international singles market that had endured, largely without pause, since her breakthrough almost a quarter of a century earlier, and which included a record-breaking run of No.1 singles. The song is a riff-heavy earworm, with Timbaland’s trademark beats and tics anchoring the strong pairing of two of music’s biggest stars. Justin Timberlake and Madonna proved a strong match vocally, with Timbaland joining the opening of the cut, and the lyrics complementing the apocalyptic techno ticking-clock trickery that underpins the song’s production.