Thoroughly Modern Madonna Gets Retro
A ticking clock is the first sound on Madonna‘s new album, “Confessions on a Dance Floor,” and it leads straight into a time warp. Her latest music invokes the early 1980’s, when dance music and electronics were just starting their long, happy liaison. Yet the voice amid the beats and blips isn’t some young pop contender just getting into the groove. It’s Madonna as she is now: a star and celebrity with spiritual aspirations and a chip on her shoulder.
She produced this album with Stuart Price, a knowingly retro British D.J. and remixer also known as Jacques Lu Cont. They came up with an album that segues its songs together like a D.J. set, while also hinting at the arc of Madonna’s career from pop ing?nue to (somewhat) deeper thinker.
For anyone who was out clubbing in the 1980’s, the music should set off name-that-tune nostalgia. There are glimmers of Donna Summer, S.O.S. Band, Tom Tom Club, Blondie, Depeche Mode and even a little Iggy Pop. In the song “Hung Up,” Madonna samples Abba’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” But she’s not attempting a simple 80’s revival; for all the vaguely familiar hooks, there are also sustained, wistful overlays of strings and acoustic guitar that enfold the music like a haze of indistinct memory.
Love songs, happy and sad, take up the first half of the album, and Madonna has kept her pop touch in “Hung Up” (which is already in telephone advertising), “Forbidden Love” and “Sorry,” a thoroughly annoyed kiss-off. But as the album continues, Madonna the serious present-day star takes over from Madonna the pop confection, reflecting on fame, wealth, religion and restlessness. “I spent my whole life wanting to be talked about/ I did it!” she declares in “How High,” before wondering, “Will any of this matter?”
Her somber side sounds best in “Jump,” about the urge to move on, and in “Isaac,” a song about revelation – “wrestle with your darkness/ angels call your name.” In “Isaac,” Madonna samples a vocalist, Yitzhak Sinwani, singing over a rhythm track built around a picked acoustic guitar. For this album’s requisite Madonna brouhaha, it drew denunciations from Israeli rabbis who believed it was about a 16th-century Jewish mystic and kabbalah scholar, Yitzhak (or Isaac) Luria, and Jewish law forbids using a holy rabbi’s name for profit. Madonna told Billboard magazine that it was about Mr. Sinwani.
Elsewhere, she sounds petulant or silly, as when she brazenly sings, “I like New York/ Other places make me feel like a dork.” By the time she finishes flaunting her attitude in “Like It or Not,” comparing herself to Cleopatra and Mata Hari, she comes across as quite a sourpuss. But with the synthesizers steadily pulsating behind her, at least she’s still inviting listeners to dance.
Review by Jon Parales, The New York Times
Thanks to yunushaq