Over Madonna’s 25-year career, it’s always been nearly impossible to separate her music from her image; the two reflect each other so much that it’s often difficult to discern which came first. This tendency worried me, as the garishly horrific — and eerily pornographic — cover to Hard Candy suggested that the singer’s new album would be an equally atrocious listening experience. Thankfully, Madonna — for the most part — breaks from her image-equals-music tradition, as Hard Candy is a relentlessly modern, savvy collection of hip-pop that gleams with sleek, silky R&B and disco influences. Thanks to production by the Neptunes and Timbaland, the grooves are incessantly appealing (“Beat Goes On”) and perfectly suited for both the clubs (“Dance 2Nite”) and radio (“Miles Away”). There are a few misfires here and there — “Spanish Lesson” is borderline embarrassing with its dictionary-esque translation of Spanish words, and opener “Candy Shop” finds the 49-year-old describing her privates as “sticky and sweet.” Nevertheless, the winning moments far outweigh the uncomfortable ones, and Hard Candy is perhaps one of the tastiest treats in mainstream music this year.