Monday, September 2, 2013

Reinvention Does Not Guarantee Quality - Madonna's Generic Dance Album: Confessions On A Dance Floor (My New Artist Of The Month!)

The Good: Succeeds in creating dancable songs.
The Bad: Songs lack substance, Nothing to write home about in lyrics, voice, production, music
The Basics: Madonna's Confessions On A Dance Floor is a musical leap into utter mediocrity for this performer.

If anyone could resurrect disco, it would be Madonna and with Confessions On A Dance Floor, there are moments that she appears determined to try. Every few years, Madonna reinvents herself by taking on or challenging the establishments of pop music - whichever is more profitable for her at the time - and she has been largely successful. Now, though, it's hard not to postulate that Madonna's luck may have run out.

Confessions On A Dance Floor is a twelve-track pop-dance album that is perhaps the least inspired Madonna album yet. With its emphasis on production and dancibility, the tracks blend one to another with a quality that is less cohesive and more indistinct. In short, after the first track, the album becomes generally one long, blase track that is as unexciting as it is uninspired.

If Confessions On A Dance Floor is a concept album, i.e. using the dance floor as a confessional, then the work fails with a hard-to-sell concept. Creating an all-dance album is a difficult sale to me regardless, but in the case of Madonna, one hopes for a certain level of quality. After all, she wouldn't have survived so long were it not for something that tapped into the collective unconscious (other than the prepubescent desire of Middle America to see her naked).

The failure then, outside of unity of form and the lack of definition between tracks, is primarily in the lyrics. One of the particularly witless songs on Confessions On A Dance Floor is "I Love New York," which made me ashamed to even be listening to this album. Madonna opens the song with, "I don't like cities / But I like New York / Other places make me feel like a dork . . ." Granted, there are not many things that rhyme with York, but c'mon! I shudder. The song continues to make terrible associations - rhyming mad and sad, heat and street and suggesting "If you don't like my attitude / Then you can F [yes, that's how SHE phrases it!] off / Just go to Texas / Isn't that where they golf. . ." I've lived in New York state my entire life and I think this song is just stupid (and cruel, I mean, come on Madonna! No one deserves to be condemned to Texas!).

The thing is, "I Love New York" is not alone on Confessions On A Dance Floor. None of the songs pop with quality lyrics. Many are downright unbearable. Madonna wrote or co-wrote the entire album, so this responsibility falls on her. Has she lost her edge? Perhaps. As a concept album, this fails - and I'll continue using "I Love New York" as an example - because it is not terribly confessional. Okay, Madonna's character for the album loves New York City. Big deal. How is that remotely confessional? How does that reveal anything intimate, integral or even noteworthy?

With the exception of a few songs, notably "Future Lovers," "How High," and "Forbidden Love," the songs are not confessional. They reveal nothing of significance. They are contradictory - "Jump" states that you can't grow living in one place after declaring New York City is the only place to make the singer happy.

So, we're left with a failed concept and a dance album. Switching over to the music, the album is no better off. Madonna creates an album that is solely production. They are all keyboards/synthesizers and beat machines. The first single from the album, "Hung Up" uses some sampling as well. The thing is, it's perfectly possible to make a dance-pop album using just synths and drum machines and make the tracks different and distinct. There can be some musical variety even with such limitations.

Confessions On A Dance Floor, however, is not that type of diverse listening experience. Songs sound alike, the tracks blend together and Madonna's vocals persist within a similar and familiar range. There is no challenge here, there is nothing that stands out after the first track that screams "This is different!"

Madonna has endured and she can survive a failed album. This is certainly that failure and one hopes when she reinvents herself next, she will have something that is distinct, interesting and well-written.

The best song for the concept of the album is the musings on fame found in "How High," though the best track might well be "Hung Up." The rest is utter garbage.

For other, former, Artist Of The Month works, please visit my reviews of:
"Jackie's Strength" (single) - Tori Amos
The Collection - Alanis Morisette
Break Every Rule - Tina Turner


For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing.

© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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