People will dance to anything with Madonnas name slapped on it. And by people, I mean gay men. This is the woman who changed the face of commercial radio. She reintroduced show tunes to the Top 40 with Dont Cry for Me Argentina; made us all dance along to a song about a woman considering an abortion; and inspired countless choruses of Mommy, whats a virgin?
Ive heard dance remixes of songs such as Mother and Father, with the lyrics, My mother died when I was five/ And all I did was cry and cry. (Now, doesnt that make you want to shake your booty?) And dont forget DJ Junior Vasquezs 1995 club hit When Madonna Calls, which was literally just a message Madonna left on Vasquezs answering machine set over a techno beat. (Madonna was reportedly pissed.)
So no matter the quality of Confessions on a Dance Floor, its a given that Madonnas fans will line up in droves to hear it. But is it any good? Kind of.
Lets cut to the chase. The stand-out tracks here are Jump and Push, which sound as close to the 80s Madonna as were probably ever going to get again. The lyrics of Jump are joyous, recalling the fun, community-minded Madonna of True Blue and Like a Prayer. We learned our lessons from the start, my sister and me/ The only thing you can depend on is your family, she coosand Ill be damned if this track wont give We Are Family a run for its money at wedding receptions for big Italian families (like Madonnas).
I Love New York is almost as good. The lyrics leave much to be desired; she actually rhymes New York with feel like a dork. And someone tell Madonna that if shes going to say eff (as in, If you dont like my attitude, you can eff off) it doesnt make any sense to use the word pussies in the next line, unless youre talking about cats.
But the beat is a treat, and unlike some critics, I dont think Madonnas gunning for an inclusion in a tourism ad. This is her least jaded music in years, effortlessly evoking the era in which Madonna became a star and celebrating the city that made it all possible. (Even though Im not quite buying it, at least until she sells that estate in London.)
The first single and leading track, Hung Up, is inarguably infectious, but it feel weird to hear such an innovative artist sample someone elses workin this case, ABBAs Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight). The next single is rumored to be Sorry, an odd choice. The song distinguishes itself only with its nasty lyrics: Dont explain yourself, cause talk is cheap/ Theres more important things than hearing you speak. Sure, much of Madonnas subject matter has involved jilting an unsatisfactory lover. But the message is usually one of self-empowerment, not petty put-downs.
Other tracks prove similarly problematic. Get Together, Future Lovers, and Forbidden Love are all great dance tunes, but theyre something one would expect from a group like Daft Punk or I Am the World Trade Center, not the Material Girl. Of the three, Get Together is probably the best, but its hard not to feel that Madonnas computerized voice is a cheat (perhaps to cover for the high notes she can no longer reach?) How Highwhich would have fit snugly on Madonnas American Life CDis an enjoyable listen, but it sounds too much like Jump, which directly precedes it.
Like It Or Not, the closing track, sounds like a bouncy Bedtime Stories outtakeeven cribbing its lyrics shamelessly from Survival. (What are the artistic merits of You can call me a sinner/ You can call me a saint versus Ill never be an angel/ Ill never be a saint, its true? Discuss.) And the rest of the lyrics are just plain embarrassing. Sticks and stones will break my bones/ But your names will never hurt is intoned completely without irony. With couplets like that, Id rather be pilfering Junior Vasquezs answering machine.
Let It Will Be ranks among Madonnas catchiest work, although filled with trite observations about the price of fame. And Isaacthe song that generated so much controversy for purportedly being about Rabbi Isaac Luria, though Madonna claims its notis a garbled mess, like something removed from Ray of Light because it was too electronica-heavy and faux-spiritual.
So why am I giving this album a positive review? Because it will make you dance, dammit. The songs all segue naturally into each other, and the CD booklet comes complete with a cut-out disco-ball graphic. The boys down in Boystown will be making out to this one for a long time coming.
One final note: The title Confessions on a Dance Floor comes surprisingly close to that of Sophie Ellis-Bextors Murder on the Dancefloor, one of the best dance songs of the past five years. While I dont expect Madonna to ape Ellis-Bextor, she would be wise to listen to Ellis-Bextors body of work, which contains a harder edge than Madonnas early pop hits but nonetheless retains some of same spirit. Ill always line up in the clubs and the stores for a new Madonna song, but I wish shed save the generic deep-dish beats for Basement Jaxxand the platitudes about fame for Lourdes and Rocco.