It’s been nearly 20 years since Madonna commandeered the imperative, “Shut up and dance”.
It’s an imperative Madonna at times has lost sight of herself.
2003’s American Life was described by its performer as an “angry” album. It can also be described as scattershot and cold. I can’t see how she ever thought Mirwais would add any value to her work.
For her eleventh album, Confessions on a Dance Floor, Madonna recorded with her touring music director, DJ Stuart Townsend, a.k.a. Les Rhythmes Digitales, in his home studio.
The result is one her strongest, most focused albums in years.
If American Life reflects the unrest preceding the 2004 presidential election, Confessions on a Dance Floor could be seen as resignation to its outcome.
Four more years of this crap — may as well shut up and dance.
In that sense, the escapism offered by Confessions on a Dance Floor is a means of healing. It also handily offers an apology for the misery that was American Life.
The album starts by sampling one of the most enduring escapist pop artists of the late 20th Century — ABBA. Madonna and Townsend lobbied Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus hard to quote “Gimme Gimme Gimme” on “Hung Up”, the opening track and first single.
After that, it’s non-stop — one track follows the other in a continuous mix. No ballads, no grand gestures. It pursues a single goal relentlessly and succeeds.
“Continuous mix”, though, also implies homogenity. Club music doesn’t really deviate from its parameters, and the drum beats that thread through most of the album aren’t really distiguishable from each other.
Still, there’s something simultaneously antiquated and modern about Confessions on a Dance Floor. As Les Rhythmes Digitales, Townsend referenced 80s new wave in his own work.
Confessions sounds like Madonna managed to reach back in time to early in her career and brought back some of that Blonde Ambition with her Re-Invention.
If the Killers can rehash Duran Duran and Interpol rehash Joy Division, then surely Madonna can rehash … Madonna.
For all the maturity of Like a Prayer, the spirituality of Ray of Light or the smoothness of Bedtime Stories, Confessions on a Dance Floor finds Madonna doing what she does best — getting four on the floor.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any duds. “I Love New York” is well-intentioned but incredibly juvenile.
Madonna can be exceptional when she aspires for maturity, but she’s expert in getting people to feel good. And Confessions on a Dance Floor feels very, very good.