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"4 Minutes"
A blond woman sitting beside a young man in front of a white background. The woman is wearing tight black leather pants and a T-shirt. She has black gloves on her hand. The man is similarly dressed. He has thin lines of beard around his face. The word "4 Minutes" is written in blue bold font on their picture.
Single by Madonna featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland
from the album Hard Candy
Released March 17, 2008
Format 12", CD Single, Digital download
Recorded 2007
Genre Dance-pop, hip hop
Length 4:04 (Album version)
3:10 (Edit)
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Madonna, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Nathaniel Hills
Producer Madonna, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Danja
Madonna singles chronology
"Hey You"
"4 Minutes"
"Give It 2 Me"
Justin Timberlake chronology
"4 Minutes"
"Dead and Gone"
Timbaland chronology
"4 Minutes"

"4 Minutes" is a song by American singer–songwriter Madonna from her eleventh studio album, Hard Candy. It was released as the lead single from the album on March 17, 2008 by Warner Bros. Records. Initially known as "4 Minutes to Save the World", the song's development was motivated by a sense of urgency to save the planet from destruction, and how people can enjoy themselves in the process.[1] According to Madonna, the song inspired her to produce the documentary I Am Because We Are.

The song features vocals by American musicians Justin Timberlake and Timbaland. An uptempo dance song with an urban, hip hop style, it also incorporates Timbaland's bhangra beats.[2] The instrumentation used in the song includes brass, foghorns and cow bells. The song's lyrics carry a message of social awareness, inspired by Madonna's visit to Africa and the human suffering she witnessed.[3]

"4 Minutes" has been praised by many contemporary critics. Some have noted, however, that Madonna rather than Timberlake appeared as more of a featured artist in the song.[4] "4 Minutes" achieved worldwide success by topping the charts in Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy and other European nations. It became Madonna's thirteenth number-one single in the United Kingdom, the highest total for any female artist on the British charts.[5] In the United States, "4 Minutes" peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Madonna her 37th Top Ten hit, breaking the record previously held by Elvis Presley.[6]

In the song's accompanying music video, Madonna and Timberlake sing and run away from a giant black screen that devours everything in its path. At the end of the video, Madonna and Timberlake are consumed by the screen.[7] "4 Minutes" was performed by Madonna on the promotional tour for Hard Candy and the Sticky & Sweet Tour. In the latter, the song served as the opener of the rave segment, where Madonna wore a futuristic robotic dress. During performances of the song, Timberlake and Timbaland appeared on video screens and sang their lines.[8] The song received a Grammy nomination in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category.[9]


Writing and inspiration

"4 Minutes" is a collaboration between Madonna, Justin Timberlake and Timbaland. All three served as producers, and Madonna and Timberlake wrote the lyrics.[1] The song, initially named "4 Minutes to Save the World", was one of the last to be produced for Madonna's album Hard Candy.[3][7] In an interview with MTV, Madonna said that the concept of the song was developed through discussions with Timberlake. She further explained the meaning of the song:

Well I don't think it's important to take it too literally. I think the song more than anything is about having a sense of urgency; about how we are you know, living on borrowed time essentially and people are becoming much more aware of the environment and how we're destroying the planet. We can't just keep distracting ourselves we do have to educate ourselves and wake up and do something about it. You know at the same time we don't want to be boring and serious and not have fun so it's kind of like well if we're going to save the planet can we have a good time while we are doing it?[1]

Ingrid Sischy from Interview magazine said that the song is a ballad for the world, containing "the sounds of a great big marching band".[3] Madonna agreed with Sischy and responded that the song was one of the inspirations behind her documentary I Am Because We Are. The documentary dealt with the acute suffering and food shortage afflicting the African nation of Malawi.[3]


Problems listening to this file? See media help.

"4 Minutes" is an uptempo dance song, composed in an urban, hip hop style.[10] It incorporates the bass effect of a marching band, a clanging beat and instrumentation from a brass that is played in a high riff.[7] Other musical instruments used are fog horns and cow bells.[2] The song is written in the key of G minor and is set in time signature of common time with a tempo of 115 beats per minute.[11] Timbaland's bhangra beats are featured at the start and the end of the song. Madonna and Timberlake's vocal range spans two octaves, from F3 to Bb5.[11] The song has a basic sequence of D–G–C–F–B–D as its chord progression.[11] Jon Pareles of The New York Times stated that "[h]owever, the song sounds as if four minutes is the time taken for a song to be a guaranteed pop hit or the time required for a quicky; in reality it is the only song from Hard Candy album which contains a message of social awareness in it." The sound of a clock ticking away emphasizes this message further.[12] Regarding the line "Sometimes I feel what I need is a you intervention", Madonna explained, "[y]eah, meaning, sometimes I think you need to save me."[3]

Critical reception

Caryn Ganz of Rolling Stone described the song as having "a marching band aesthetic as blasting brass play a scale-like riff." She also called it "a loud, busy, energetic track," while comparing Timberlake's vocals with that of Michael Jackson.[7] Billboard music reviewer and editor Chuck Taylor said that with the song, Madonna "is poised to score her first top 10 hit since 2005's 'Hung Up'. [...] There's an awful lot going on in the busy dance track [...] but the trade-off chorus between Madge and Justin of 'We've only got four minutes to save the world' is hooky enough unto itself to sell the song." He added that "4 Minutes" qualifies as a record event "between superpowers [Madonna and Timberlake] who not only share equal billing, but sound gangbusters together."[2] Mark Savage of BBC described the sound as "so futuristic it could realistically have been beamed in from the end of the world."[13] Andy Gill of The Independent called "4 Minutes" one of Hard Candy's saviors. He noted that "the Mardi Gras marching-band bumping rumbustiously along," is one of the album's "most ambitious offerings."[14] Joey Guerra of Houston Chronicle compared the track to the work of Nelly Furtado and felt that the composition was "a bid for radio play."[15]

According to Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine, the song is "a blatant advertisement for the rest of the album."[16] Chris Williams of Entertainment Weekly called it a "flirty duet".[17] Ben Thompson of The Guardian said: "It has a hard to escape sense that all concerned are going through the motions [of life] – effortlessly, sometimes brilliantly."[18] Joan Anderman of The Boston Globe believed that the "song is a sure thing, a chart-topper for its sheer star power as well as instant musical allure, and on the eve of Madonna's 50th birthday [...] '4 Minutes' feels a lot like an icon's can't-miss gift to herself." However, he noticed that the "shift in the power structure [is nowhere] more blatant than on '4 Minutes', where Madonna sounds like a featured guest trying to keep pace with Timbaland's colossal beats and Timberlake's nimble melody."[19] Freedom du Lac of The Washington Post complimented the song for being busy and brassy. She commented: "[P]ropelled by a detonative marching-band beat [...] it's one of the most thrilling things Madonna has done in this decade."[20] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic praised the melodic and rhythmic hook, but was disappointed that Madonna's voice is "drowned out by Timbaland's farting four-note synth – which might not have been so bad if the tracks were fresher and if the whole enterprise didn't feel quite so joylessly mechanical."[4]

Chart performance

A stage with four rectangular screens which display a black geometric patterned screen approaching. In front of the screen stands a female performer and her three dancers, clad in a robotic outfit
Madonna and her dancers emerge from behind the moving screens for the performance of "4 Minutes".

In the United States, "4 Minutes" debuted at number sixty-eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the issue dated April 5, 2008, based solely on airplay.[21] Within a week, the song had jumped sixty-five places, reaching number three on the chart. This leap was spurred by first-week digital sales of 217,000, enabling the song to enter Billboard's Digital chart at number two, behind Mariah Carey's single "Touch My Body". The song became Madonna's first top-ten single since "Hung Up" (2005), and was her thirty-seventh Hot 100 top-ten hit, breaking the record previously held by Elvis Presley.[6] "4 Minutes" was also her highest-charting single on the Hot 100 since "Music" reached the top of the chart in 2000. For Timberlake, "4 Minutes" became his ninth top-ten hit.[22] On the Pop 100 chart, the song reached a peak of two.[23] "4 Minutes" was a success on Billboard's dance charts, topping both the Hot Dance Club Play and the Hot Dance Airplay charts.[24][25] Four months after its release, "4 Minutes" was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales of two million paid digital downloads.[26] As of present, it has sold 2,476,000 digital downloads in the United States.[27] In Canada, the song debuted at number twenty-seven[28] and peaked on the chart the next week.[29] The song spent nine non-consecutive weeks at the top of the chart.[30]

"4 Minutes" was also a success in Australia and New Zealand. The song made its debut at number three on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart,[31] and ascended to the number-one position two weeks later, where it stayed for three consecutive weeks.[32] "4 Minutes" has been certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for the shipment of 70,000 copies.[33] In New Zealand, "4 Minutes" made its debut at number fourteen on the New Zealand Singles Chart,[34] and ascended to the top ten, finally peaking at number three.[35] The song has been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) for the shipment of 7,500 copies.[36]

"4 Minutes" debuted on the official UK Singles Chart at number seven, based only on download sales. The song became Madonna's sixtieth top-ten single in the UK.[37] The song rose to the top of the chart on April 20, 2008, thus giving Madonna her thirteenth UK number-one single.[38] She became the female solo artist with the most number-one singles in the British chart history; Kylie Minogue has the second most, with seven.[5] "4 Minutes" was number one on Billboard's Eurochart Hot 100 Singles for four weeks.[39] The song achieved similar success in the rest of Europe; it topped the charts in Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Switzerland, and reached number two in Austria, France and Sweden.[40]

Music video

An image showing a blond woman with long curly hair, and a bearded, young man kissing, while a black, geometric patterned background is devouring them thus showing the man's ribs and insides.
A still from the music video showing Madonna and Justin Timberlake. The black background is seen behind Timberlake, devouring his sides.

The music video was directed by French duo Jonas & François.[41] It featured choreography by Jamie King, who worked on Madonna’s Confessions, Re-Invention and Drowned World tours as well as her video for the single "Sorry" (2006).[7] Japanese hip-hop dancing duo Hamutsun serve also made an appearance in the video.[7] Before its release, Rolling Stone said the video had Madonna and Timberlake playing superheroes while tackling physical obstacles.[7] In the video, Madonna wore a cream colored corset, glistening black boots and styled her hair in platinum blond waves while Timberlake wore mainly denims and had a scarf wrapped around his neck.[10] Regarding the idea behind the music video, Madonna said that "it was conceptualistic". She explained that the video was shot like a march past; "It's a movement, and we want to take everybody with us."[3] About the idea of a black screen devouring everything, Madonna said,

None of us did [understand the concept of the black screen]. It was just, you know, it's very conceptual. We basically gave the song to the two French directors [Jonas & Francois] and they came up with the only concept that I thought was interesting, with this black sort of amorphous graphic line slowly eating up the world. I just liked that as a concept.[1]

The video used soft focus, gentle lighting and airbrushing looks on Madonna.[42] It starts with Timbaland chanting the opening line in front of a giant timer screen that counts down from four minutes. As he sings, a black geometric patterned screen comes from behind and engulfs all of the musical devices present. Madonna and Timberlake enter a house but run away from it after finding the screen there, which starts eating the hands and legs of the inhabitants of the house, thus showing their insides. After a number of shots showing Madonna and Timberlake jumping on the cars to escape from the screen, they finally move into a supermarket. The screen follows them, consuming the long lines of stalls and the people present there.[10] As the second chorus starts, they arrive in front of the screen where Timbaland was singing. After choreographed dancing, Madonna performs a back arch as the timer reaches zero time.[42] The last "tick-tock, tick-tock" sound is heard, Madonna and Timberlake dance again on a long stage; the black screen approaches them from both sides. The video ends with both of them kissing, and the black screen devouring them. Timberlake's bones and ribs, and Madonna's cheeks are seen in the last shot.[42]

Regarding the video, Madonna said it was like "[g]oody goody gum drops," referring to the candy oriented theme of the album.[10] The New York Times called the video heart-pounding, and compared its momentum with the music video of "Thriller", "In the Air Tonight" and "Shadows of the Night".[43] However, they commented that the video did not yield a breakout Madonna look compared to her videos from the 1980s.[44] Singer Miley Cyrus created her own version of the video and posted it on her YouTube channel. Madonna responded to it in her own video and said, "All you people out there who are making videos to my new single, '4 Minutes,' keep up the good work, nice job." She was portrayed cleaning the set of the music video, of her follow up single "Give It 2 Me".[45] "4 Minutes" was nominated for an award at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards in the "Best Dancing in a Video" category but lost to the Pussycat Dolls single "When I Grow Up".[46]

Live performances

A blond female performer dancing in front of four vertical rectangular screens which shows a man, in black jacket, dancing. The female wears a robotic dress with shoulder plates
Madonna performs "4 Minutes" at the Sticky & Sweet Tour. Justin Timberlake appears on the screens.

The song was performed during the promotional tour for Hard Candy and Sticky & Sweet Tour (2008–09). At the promotional tour, "4 Minutes" was performed as the third song of the setlist. Madonna wore a shiny black dress with black tails, Adidas track pants and high-heeled, lace-up boots for the performance.[47] Justin Timberlake made an appearance alongside Madonna, at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, to perform the song.[48] As Timbaland appeared on the video screens, the beat of the song started. The four side-stage video screens began to glide across the stage, and swiveled around to reveal Timberlake behind one and Madonna behind the other. They performed the song in a similar choreography from the music video.[47] When the song came to an end, Madonna pushed Timberlake against a wall.[49]

On the Sticky & Sweet Tour, "4 Minutes" was performed as the opening song of the "Futuristic rave with Japanese influence" section.[50] During this segment, Madonna wore a futuristic robotic dress designed by Heatherette. She coupled it with metallic plates on her shoulder and a wig with long curled hair.[8][51] Madonna and her dancers emerged from behind backdrops, on which Timbaland and Timberlake appeared, to perform their lines. An apparent duet between Madonna and Timberlake ensues, with Timberlake singing and dancing his part from the screens. He joined Madonna in person, for the show at Los Angeles's Dodger Stadium on November 6, 2008, the same show in which Britney Spears appeared alongside Madonna to perform "Human Nature".[52] They performed "4 Minutes" in similar fashion to the promotional tour choreography.[53] Timbaland joined Madonna during the performance at Dolphin Stadium in Miami. The song was also used as a mashup during the introduction video called, "The Sweet Machine" and intermediate video "Get Stupid". The latter was a save-the-world video that portrayed people with good and bad intentions. It juxtaposed John McCain with Hitler and Barack Obama with Mahatma Gandhi.[8] "4 Minutes" was also used as mashups during the performance of songs like "Vogue" and "Hung Up".[54][55]

Track listings and formats

  • UK CD 1
  1. "4 Minutes" (Album Version) – 4:04
  2. "4 Minutes" (Bob Sinclar Space Funk Remix) – 5:39
  • UK CD 2 / AUS CD Single
  1. "4 Minutes" (Album Version) – 4:04
  2. "4 Minutes" (Bob Sinclar Space Funk Remix) – 5:39
  3. "4 Minutes" (Junkie XL Remix) – 6:16
  • UK 12" Vinyl
  1. "4 Minutes" (Edit) – 3:10
  2. "4 Minutes" (Bob Sinclar Space Funk Edit) – 4:57
  3. "4 Minutes" (Junkie XL Remix Edit) – 4:39
  4. "4 Minutes" (Tracy Young House Radio) – 3:33
  • U.S. Digital Maxi Single
  1. "4 Minutes" (Edit) – 3:11
  2. "4 Minutes" (Peter Saves Paris Edit) – 4;49
  3. "4 Minutes" (Bob Sinclar Space Funk Edit) – 3:23
  4. "4 Minutes" (Junkie XL Dirty Dub Edit) – 4:05
  • EU / US Maxi CD Single
  1. "4 Minutes" (Bob Sinclar Space Funk Remix) – 5:39
  2. "4 Minutes" (Junkie XL Remix) – 6:16
  3. "4 Minutes" (Tracy Young House Mix) – 7:55
  4. "4 Minutes" (Peter Saves Paris Remix) – 8:52
  5. "4 Minutes" (Rebirth Remix) – 7:57
  6. "4 Minutes" (Junkie XL Dirty Dub) – 4:52
  • U.S. 2 x 12" Vinyl
  1. "4 Minutes" (Bob Sinclar Space Funk Remix) – 5:39
  2. "4 Minutes" (Peter Saves Paris Remix) – 8:52
  3. "4 Minutes" (Tracy Young House Mix) – 7:55
  4. "4 Minutes" (Junkie XL Dirty Dub) – 4:52
  5. "4 Minutes" (Album Version) – 4:05
  6. "4 Minutes" (Rebirth Remix) – 7:57
  7. "4 Minutes" (Junkie XL Remix) – 6:16

Credits and personnel

Source: [56]

Charts, sales and procession


Chart (2008) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[32] 1
Austrian Singles Chart[40] 2
Belgian Singles Chart (Flanders)[40] 1
Belgian Singles Chart (Wallonia)[40] 1
Canadian Hot 100[29] 1
Danish Singles Chart[40] 1
Dutch Top 40[40] 1
Eurochart Hot 100 Singles[39] 1
Finnish Singles Chart[40] 1
French Singles Chart[40] 2
German Singles Chart[57] 1
Irish Singles Chart[58] 1
Italian Singles Chart[40] 1
New Zealand Singles Chart[35] 3
Norwegian Singles Chart[40] 1
Spanish Singles Chart[59] 1
Swedish Singles Chart[40] 2
Swiss Singles Chart[40] 1
UK Singles Chart[5] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[6] 3

Sales and certifications

Country Certifications
(sales thresholds)
Australia Platinum[33]
Belgium Gold[60]
Germany Platinum[61]
Mexico 2× Gold[62]
New Zealand Gold[36]
Spain 2× Platinum[63]
United States 2× Platinum[26]

Chart procession and succession

Preceded by
"Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Airplay number-one single
June 7, 2008 – June 14, 2008
Succeeded by
"Pocketful of Sunshine" by Natasha Bedingfield
Canadian Hot 100 number-one single (first run)
April 12, 2008 – May 24, 2008
Succeeded by
"Take a Bow" by Rihanna
Preceded by
"Touch My Body" by Mariah Carey
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
May 17, 2008 – May 31, 2008
Succeeded by
"Pocketful of Sunshine" by Natasha Bedingfield
Preceded by
"American Boy" by Estelle featuring Kanye West
UK Singles Chart number-one single
April 20, 2008 – May 18, 2008
Succeeded by
"That's Not My Name" by The Ting Tings
Preceded by
"Low" by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain
Australian ARIA Singles Chart number-one single
April 28, 2008 – May 19, 2008
Succeeded by
"Sweet About Me" by Gabriella Cilmi
Preceded by
"Take a Bow" by Rihanna
Canadian Hot 100 number-one single (second run)
May 31, 2008 – June 21, 2008
Succeeded by
"I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry


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