Madonna – “Confessions On A Dance Floor”
Since the release of her phenomenal comeback album “Ray Of Light” (1998) and its equally successful follow up “Music” (2000), things had quietened a little for Madonna. A second greatest hits collection (“G.H.V.2”) had shifted seven million copies worldwide while her ninth studio release “American Life” (2003) had only found favour with four million. But never one to dwell on past glories or setbacks, Madonna decided to go back to the beginning for her next adventure. Right back to the New York dancefloors where she learned her craft as a dancer. The disco music of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s. A glorious return to disco/dance pop after so much experimentation.
Writing and recording took place from late 2004 and while a few co-authors from previous albums still hung around, this new record had a new producer who crafted the millennial dance-pop atmosphere with more than a nod to Madonna’s disco roots and early triumphs. At twenty four years of age, Yorkshire born Stuart Price had already worked with 46 year old Madonna on the “American Life” album, co-writing the track “X-Static Process”. He left the Queen of music to work with long established British group New Order on their album “Waiting For The Sirens’ Call” and American singer Juliet Richardson on her self-titled debut album before being asked to be chief collaborator on Madonna’s tenth long player.
How did it pan out…let’s press play and see…!
1. Hung Up
The album kicks off in fine style with “Hung Up”, a track originally conceived as a straightforward dancefloor filler. Then Madonna and Price, both fans of ABBA, realised that if you played “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (A Man After Midnight)” over the top, it sounds rather good! The only problem is, how do you get ABBA’s permission (they don’t normally allow samples)? Madonna actually wrote a begging letter to Benny and Ulvaeus with a demo of the song in the hope they would allow it. They did! “Hung Up” is a tour-de-force in disco-pop-dancefloor magic that won back many millions of die hard Madonna fans who perhaps had abandoned her during the 1990’s and with her recent releases. Nine million in fact, the total number of copies sold worldwide of “Hung Up”, becoming her biggest selling single thus far. “Hung Up” topped the singles charts in TWENTY SIX countries around the globe with the video of Madonna astride a ghetto blaster being seen over 190 million times on YouTube to date! “Hung Up” put Madonna back at the top and contributed to the expection of a full album of disco/dance-pop classics.
2. Get Together
With the ring of an alarm clock (if you’re listening to the non-stop version) we go deep into clubland with penetrating vibes and smooth rhythms as Madonna repeats continuously “it’s all an illusion, there’s too much confusion”. The song features samples of Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better With You” (1997) and Chaka Khan’s “Fate” (1981)and also acknowledges The SOS Band’s 1980 hit “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” with the line “baby we can do it, we can do it all right”. “Get Together” is nothing more than an outright dancefloor anthem that makes you wanna move and groove and feel alive. It explodes in the middle eight into a superb electro-club number that is worthy of being up there with the greatest of club anthems of the past few decades. The song was released as the third single from the album topping the US dance charts but making No.84 on the singles chart. It generally peaked top ten outside of the US including a No.7 position in the UK.
Hot on the heals of “Hung Up” came “Sorry”, one of the first tracks written and recorded for the album, and another storming dance-pop number full of life and action, and not sounding to unlike something the Pet Shop Boys would produce! There’s more than one link here. The Pet Shop Boys provided one of the mixes of this song including additional vocals recorded by Neil Tennant. Both Madonna and PSB had a mutual admiration for each other with Neil and Chris originally writing the song “Heart” in 1987 for her to record. For whatever reason, Madonna turned to offer down and PSB went on to record it for themselves, taking it to the top of the UK singles chart in April 1988. They would later work with Robbie Williams on the song “She’s Madonna” in 2007. Madonna sings the middle eight in wight different languages – French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Hebrew, Hindi, Polish and Japanese. “Sorry” was released as the second single in January 2006 and topped the charts in eleven countries worldwide including the UK and on the US dance chart. It reached No.58 on the singles chart.
4. Future Lovers
While the previous three tracks had been produced by Madonna and Price, she returned to Mirwais Ahmadzaï, with whom she had worked on “Music” (2000) and “American Life” (2003) with, for this next disco throwback, which has more than enough references and vibes to Donna Summer’s classic “I Feel Love” to it. This is where Madonna began, back in the disco dance halls of the late 1970’s. Only the later bass and harmony would suggest it was written and produced in the early years of the twenty first century. “There’s no love like future love” Madonna directs, advising not to dwell on past conquests, but to move on and move forward…and therein lies the evidence of its brilliance!
5. I Love New York
It’s hardly surprising that after twenty years in the music industry, Madonna would eventually write a song about New York and with an album about her roots, this is where that song was likely to end up. “Other cities always make me mad, other places always make me sad, no other city ever made me glad” she proclaims. And where might that be…”except New York, I love New York, I love New York”. Of course! The song is not as heavy a dance/club anthem as its predecessors but more of a rock-pop number that breaks up act one before launching into act two for more hard hitting stompers.
6. Let It Will Be
…and that starts with “Let It Will Be”, a song that grows and grows with energy following the orchestral opening, which lures you into a sense that this could be a brief respite. A moment to chill. No! On your feet. “Just watch me burn”. More thumping beats and disco overtones as Madonna takes us all on a journey back to where it all started “now I can tell you about the place I belong”. She also muses on where she has come in the decades since “now I can tell you about success, about fame”. Another early recording with Ahmadzaï, the song is given a big pop-disco facelift by Stuart Price and is certainly worthy of being potential single material.
7. Forbidden Love
No, not the “Forbidden Love” from the “Bedtime Stories” album, this is a new composition, a deep, transient number that could feel out of place on an album of disco-pop but amazingly it provides the perfect bridge from one half to the other. I love the mood and passion of this song as it releases all of its energy after the first chorus and envelopes you in its thick rhythm. I also love the complicated hand-arm dance that Madonna executed on the tour for this album when performing this number and the bubble background projections are just spot on for how this track looks, sounds and tastes. A quiet standout if ever there was.
It’s back to the floor now as the beat pumps and intensifies. Are you ready to jump? The bass and the groove of “Jump” are magnetic and electric, along with “Get Together”, this is the most brazen club anthem on the album, full of life and melody with its catchy choral lyrics “get ready to jump, don’t ever look back”. Another Madonna/Price collaboration, “Jump” was released as the fourth and final single from the album following its ‘sisters’ to the top of the US dance chart as well as the single sales chart and topping the charts in Italy and Hungary, together with a top ten placing in a dozen other countries including the UK, giving Madonna four straight top ten hits off the same album. Yes, I’m ready to jump!
9. How High?
More electronica symphonia now as Madonna tells us of her rise to stardom and what its brought her. “It’s funny, I spend my whole life wanting to be talked about”. “I did it” she muses, but later questions “was it all worth it?, I guess I deserve it?” So just “How High” are the stakes for fame and celebrity? And when you finally get there “How much fortune can you make?”. Great synths and vocalisation on this track that also closes with a poignant string accompaniment as Madonna asks the all important question “will it matter when I’m gone?”.
Madonna goes Kabbalah, her new found interest, exploring the esoteric teachings to explain the relationship between God and the mysterious Ein Sof (The Infinate), for this next track, which blends Middle Eastern themes with a dance-based backing track. “Remember, remember, never forget, all of your life has all been a test” she informs us and warns that if you “wrestle with your conscience”, angles will call your name. There’s a chant of “Im Nin’Alu” (if (the doors) are shut), perhaps a nod to Ofra Haza’s mid-80’s hit of the same name? It’s all very spooky and meaningful but the constant drama and fast paced beat will carry you along and through to the other side allowing you to draw your own conclusions.
11. Push Me
“Keep on pushing” Madonna tells us all as if we’re flagging on the dance floor! “Push Me” is another stirring track that whilst not being an outright dance number, has a funky R&B beat to it and confident vocals with its positive message “everywhere I go, everything I do, it’s all because you push me”. This is a great track that doesn’t outstay its welcome too long. Short and snappy, “Push Me” acts very much like “I Love New York” as a breaker between more fluid pop/dance/disco mantras.
12. Like It Or Not
The album concludes with “Like It Or Not”, the most melancholic of all the tracks here. Perhaps finishing on a down tempo and certainly the least energetic number is what we all need after all that muscle work under the glitter ball. Having discussed, fame, celebrity and the rise to stardom, she concludes with “you can love or leave me, but I’m never gonna stop”. This is who she is after all.
An album about the rise to fame, love, wealth and religion, set against the backdrop of disco halls and nightclubs could only have one title. “Confessions On A Dance Floor”. Released in November 2005, with one global smash hit already to promote it and with unashamed critical approval, it was hardly surprising that “Confessions” was a massive hit. Many noted it was Madonna’s finest since her first two albums, a glorious return to her pop and disco roots that had been badly needed for many years. “Confessions” outstripped her previous release “American Life” in every territory, topping the charts in forty countries worldwide including her two most lucrative, the UK and her home country, where the album sold over 1,700,000 copies and over 1,300,000 copies across the Atlantic.
Globally it seemed that every country agreed with this change in direction. French sales exceeded 750,000, her best performing long player since “Ray Of Light”, a story so typical of virtually every country it was released. With worldwide sales of more than ten million copies, Madonna reignited interest from a wider audience. Her Confessions Tour of 2006 saw her play to over a million people in sixty shows that grossed $194million, a career record that wouldn’t be bettered for another three years with the much larger Sticky And Sweet Tour. Madonna’s career has gone through many highs and lows since “Confessions”, and while many would cite the album as her greatest most recent work and one of her very best studio recordings of all, Madonna has certainly continued with her promise at the very end of this record “I’m never gonna stop”. Hail!
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or if (like me) you prefer the non-stop version…!