One of this season’s most highly anticipated albums finally made its way across my desk –- and it hasn’t stopped playing since I got it. Madonna has outdone herself once again. On Confessions on a Dance Floor, the Queen Chameleon did what she should have done years ago –- create a non-stop, no-breaks-between-songs dance remix album.
For years, singles quickly followed up every album that Madonna released with various remixes by the likes of superstar DJs Junior Vasquez, Victor Calderone, Peter Rauhofer, Deep Dish and Tracy Young. And Confessions will likely have the same result, but the big difference here is that the DJs have a dance mix to work off of –- and hopefully take to another, more infectious level.
After an angry set that was American Life, Madonna has once again let her hair down and wants to flip, shake and twirl it on the dance floor, where she spent much of her time coming up in the ‘80s. Here, she drops the serious tone of some of her work and gives a fuck-all attitude to the shit going down in the word.
Lyrically, however, Confessions is a far cry from the Grammy-winning Ray of Light, but then again, Madonna has never been known to write epic poems that win awards (save the aforementioned Ray). On “I Love New York,” Madonna spews vapid lines like “I don’t like cities, but I like New York/Other places make me feel like a dork/Los Angeles is for people who sleep/Paris and London, baby you can keep.” Ah, such silly simplicity.
Fortunately, other tracks nod to Madonna’s personal and spiritual growth over the last half-decade or so since birthing Lola and Rocco and finding Kabbalah. She is self-reflective, questions where she came from and ponders what life is about (if not love?) and actually sounds like she’s over herself a bit.
On “Isaac,” possibly the album’s most powerful track –- and Madonna’s one open wink at Kabbalah -– features Hebrew incantations, Yemenite-like wailing and touches of swirling Spanish-influenced plucky guitar. The song concludes with an Israeli man saying, “The gates of heaven are always open/and the angels/how they sit in front of the light/that’s what it’s about.” Sadly, “Isaac” seamlessly flows into the one throwaway track on the collection, “Push,” a silly love nod to husband Guy Ritchie.
But the music, teamed with production by Stuart Price (who also works under the moniker Les Rhythmes Digitales), makes you realize it’s not necessarily about the lyrics but the entire package. You almost forget how insipid some of the lines are when you can’t stop moving and find yourself actually singing along to the now catchy words, wishing you were on a dance floor instead of stuck at your desk at work.
This is one of Madonna’s most groundbreaking, ambitious efforts to date. At 47, she must be feeling quite spry because this set takes her back to her “Holiday” and “Get Into the Groove” days. It is a solid collection of energetic dance tracks with looping synth-heavy production and nods to old school ‘70s disco with samples from Abba (“Gimme Gimme Gimme”), The Jackson 5 (“Can You Feel It”), Donna Summer (“I Feel Love”) and even Madonna herself (“Papa Don’t Preach” “Nobody’s Perfect” “Erotica”).
While the album is void of ballads, “Forbidden Love,” comes close. It’s a beautifully layered, slowed down, chill-out dance track that invokes a sultry vision of lip-locked lovers, while giving nods to the wispy, transcendent production of Air’s Moon Safari.
The pairing of “Jump” and “How High” (seemingly Madonna’s little joke) holds the second half of the album together. “Jump” is filled with sinewy beats and Madonna’s signature raspy vocals tipping the hat to “Keep it Together,” but this time instead of telling us to rely on family, she’s saying she can “make it alone.” “How High” kicks off with a Daft Punk-esque robotic voice and shows Madonna reflecting on the price of fame and fortune and whether it’s all worth it.
Perhaps Confessions is Madonna’s way of apologizing for the less-than-stellar American Life. Maybe it’s her way of telling the world she just wants to have fun. Either way, the album is a welcome collection of kinetic, kaleidoscopic songs that will keep Madonna fans and club kids happy for quite sometime.