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Confessions on a Dance Floor
The presence of Madonna feels almost incidental, as Price deals in back-beats and a pounding glib electro-clash. What comes out the other end, sparkling yet full of post-modern grit, is a Madonna song for people who don’t like – or even are actively hostile towards – Madonna.
Ed Power, 07 Nov 2005
Sometimes you wonder whether Madonna is excited by music any more. She has recently appeared eager to dabble in everything and anything else.
We have, in the three years since her last record, had to endure her strained, steely forays into children’s literature and the cultivation of a faux- estuary burr to go with her faux working-class husband.
Then there has been her embrace of the Kaballah (to the predictable delight of the world’s Jewish community). Careers have foundered upon less.
Certainly, 2002’s American Life stank of ennui and middle-age. Over-produced and anaemic, it was, by a distance, the closet thing in her career to a flop. Critics, their expectations perked by Madonna’s late ‘90s electro-pop forays, pronounced the record a reeking carcass; the public took a long hard stare at her ‘American Pie’ cover and decided they didn’t fancy a second serving.
American Life, in fact, barely resembled a Madonna LP at all. She sounded disembodied from the music that the French producer Mirwais had constructed around her voice. The album suggested a collaboration too far, a reinvention that knew only what it did not want to be.
For such reasons, one might expect Confessions On A Dance Floor to mark an artistic volte-face. Yet it is precisely the opposite, plunging deeper into electro-pop aesthetics with true-believer commitment.
The record was overseen and largely written by Stuart Price, who, as Jacque Lu Cont and Les Rhythms Digitales, has recorded smart ‘80 synth-pop pastiches.
To an extent, Confessions is Price’s masterpiece, a throbbing collision of analogue effects, hi-NRG basslines and euro-chic melody.
Like Mirwais, he deploys Madonna largely as a special effect. Crucially, he knows how to use her. This is particularly apparent on the single ‘Hung Up’, a high-kitsch bauble which samples the keyboard signature of Abba’s ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)’ and achieves something impossible – it out-camps the original.
The presence of Madonna feels almost incidental, as Price deals in back-beats and a pounding glib electro-clash. What comes out the other end, sparkling yet full of post-modern grit, is a Madonna song for people who don’t like – or even are actively hostile towards – Madonna. You cannot deny her genius.
Over its opening third, Confession On A Dance Floor is manic, relentless and exuberantly naff. Madonna, it becomes obvious, has closely observed Kylie Minogue’s reinvention as Queen of Camp. ‘Get Together’ and ‘Sorry’ are preening gay disco workouts, hawking trance rhythms and frothy lyrics, some delivered in a vampy French accent.
Fearing perhaps that his silent takeover will grow too obvious, Price relents, eventually, and Confessions starts to assume the guise, however distorted, of a record Madonna might make.
On ‘New York’ she pays cloying, clumsy tribute to the Five Boroughs; ‘Let It Will Be’ suggests ‘Like A Prayer’ with a Pet Shop Boys song poured on top. Elsewhere, ‘Push’ recalls ‘Justify My Love’ and ‘Like It Or Not’ is Goldfrapp’s ‘Strict Machine’ slowed down and sleazed-up.
Amidst the glitter and grind of Price’s exquisite ‘80s reenactments,Confessions lacks one essential: space. Tracks run together in the style of a mix album, resulting in a incessant blather of post-modern disco. Cumulatively, this becomes a little much. By the end, Madonna sounds exhausted. The listener will be forgiven for feeling the same.