They often say that the best pop music is the preserve of a band or an artist that are in their relative infancy. The white heat of youth with its innate desire for self expression can often be a force to be reckoned with, and a force that can be dulled as age and cynicism take their toll.
So where does that leave a 47-year-old mother of two who has just released her sixteenth album. Is this a case of one reinvention too far? The rehashing of a previous incarnation for a last grab of pop’s limelight? Or is this a genuine musical reawakening?
“Confessions On A Dancefloor” is unquestionably a return to Madonna’s dancefloor roots, albeit in a suitably modernistic form. By now you should be familiar with lead single “Hung Up”, with its sampled Abba refrain and uber cool production values. If you liked that then you’ll love this.
This album has a clearly defined agenda, and like the title says its all about the dancefloor. Expect none of the obligatory syrupy ballads that Madge has seen fit to throw into many of her previous collections. This album seems to be a personal proving ground as much as anything else. A chance to throw down and climb back into the ring with the Johnny and Jenny come lately’s who loiter in today’s charts.
Ever the astute collaborator this time Madonna has chosen to work primarily with Stuart Price (better known to the club conscious under his Jacques Lu Cont moniker), and this album is almost as much a showcase for his production and songwriting talents as it is for Madonna herself.
In terms of those production values the album really can’t be faulted for recognising many of the better traits in today’s dance music market. The overall sound is polished yet without sounding too squeaky clean and there is an appropriate use of those swooping filters and effects that would make most of the tracks on offer here suitable for a club without any additional tampering whatsoever.
The album has also reverently looked to the past in order to secure some sure fire winning influences. The most obvious being the single, sure its cheeky, it might even be cheesy. But can you tell me pinching the high camp soul of an Abba track hasn’t paid dividends ?
Some of the other nods and winks to the past on the album are a little bit more subtle. There are bass lines on here that have that rubbery flexible feel of a Nile Rogers/Bernard Edwards production. This is Studio 54 ripped from its foundations and dropped in the here and now (and with a more relaxed door to floor policy).
In other places the influences are a little less obvious, a chunk of Iggy Pop’s “I Want To Be Your Dog” makes an appearance on the album (in the form of “I Love New York”). After being hosed down in glitter for a modern outing the bass line retains the raw drive of the original but comes to the party with the dress code in mind. There’s also a lighter touch in evidence in places, particularly on the eighties pop influenced on “Let It Will Be”. There’s an even a backward glance to her own back catalogue as she pilfers the vocal melody from “Like A Prayer” for “Push”.
Lyrically the album doesn’t carry that much weight but then again if you consider the genre that isn’t necessarily the impetus for such material. At times the efforts fall flat and Madonna comes across a little petulant and throwaway in her craft. She takes somewhat limp wristed pot shots at President Bush at one stage, and the religious connotations of Isaac do tend to make one’s teeth itch a little. However none of these shortcomings spoil your enjoyment of the album as a whole.
So in total what you have here is Madonna raising the benchmark on her own musical history. The last few years have seen her recordings showing signs of musical maturity and a surprising amount of sustained credibility (Music, Ray of Light being prime examples). “Confessions On A Dancefloor” doesn’t necessarily follow the templates she laid out in the recent past but it does show that her spirit for reinvention is no less dimmed with the passing of time.