To that end, Hard Candy has already begun to deliver, with lead single '4 Minutes' becoming her biggest hit across the pond in seven years. Sadly, despite an exciting, horn-fuelled groove and some neat vocal interplay between Madonna and Justin Timberlake - yup, he's come along for the ride - it lacks the jaw-dropping pop brilliance of Madonna's very best album trailers: 'Like A Prayer', 'Music', 'Hung Up'.
Thankfully, Her Madgesty's pop smarts are sharper elsewhere. As the title suggests, Hard Candy is the musical equivalent of a packet of sherbet lemons, with lots of sugary pop fizz lurking just beneath the hard, shiny R&B shells. Some highlights? Well, 'Give It To Me' mixes ska and disco to almost impossibly bouncy effect; 'Miles Away' merges the electronic and the acoustic as seamlessly as anything on American Life managed; and 'Heartbeat' is a rave-tinged electro-ballad with a surprisingly ace vocal performance from Madonna.
Best of all, despite the initial fears, Madonna's spirit of adventure hasn't entirely escaped her. 'She's Not Me' morphs from camp, strutting disco anthem - complete with whistles, hand-claps and guitar work from former Prince collaborator Wendy Melvoin - to Confessions-style filter house workout, while 'Incredible' ties together elements of pop, rock, trance and hip-hop with a rope made of sexual elation: "Sex with you is incredible!" she gasps as this six-minute epic reaches its climax. These tracks feature sounds familiar from recent hits by other pop/R&B artists, but only Madonna would think to package them this inventively.
Sadly, this level of creativity isn't maintained across the album. Though Hard Candy always sounds hip, modern and club-friendly, its streetwise sheen sometimes comes at the expense of personality. 'Beat Goes On', the album's much-hyped Kanye West collaboration, is flatter than Madonna's yoga-toned stomach, while an array of cringe-inducing lyrics can't disguise the fact that 'Spanish Lesson' desperately wants to break into Timberlake's 'Like I Love You'. These tracks aren't terrible, but it's disappointing to hear the woman who styles herself the "Queen of Pop" sounding so very ordinary.
Time is unlikely to view Hard Candy as one of Madonna's great artistic achievements - it's too tied to the moment for that - but, for now, it offers a brisk, exciting listen. Everything you'd expect from a modern-day Madonna album is here: a handful of future smashes, plenty of bravado about sex and dancing, several nods to her back catalogue and the usual smattering of lyrical howlers ("You don't have to be rich and famous to be good," from 'Dance 2Night', could be a new career low.)
Actually, Hard Candy's lasting legacy will probably be to document where Madonna's head was at as she approached the big five-O. "Give me a record and I'll break it," she demands on 'Give It To Me', telling us pretty much everything we need to know. Whether you like her new sound or not, it's hard not to admire Madonna's hunger.