Confessions Best Heard on a Dance Floor

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What was it Winston Churchill said about the Soviet Union? "It is a CD, encased in a plastic box, sealed with an adhesive strip along the top, wrapped tightly in cellophane, inside a superfluous plastic bag"? OK, actually he said, "It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma," but I think the first statement does a better job of describing something profoundly and lastingly inaccessible.

Did I ever mention that I HATE excessive and extraneous packaging? What about disco--did I mention that I hate disco too? What about Madonna? Did I ever mention that I have a fierce loyalty to the Material Girl, even now that she's gone and morphed into a self-righteous religious loony and one of the worst lyricists in the world? (Whatever happened to the woman who wrote "Live to Tell," a song that can still make me weep?)

All of which is to say, there are several reasons why buying Madonna's new album, Confessions on a Dance Floor, wasn't as rewarding an experience as I had hoped.

I couldn't abide American Life, the album she released in 2003 that most people had sense enough not to buy. I couldn't even listen to it, in fact. I bought it just before a long drive, put it in my car stereo, and waited to be transported to that special happy dancing place Madonna has so often taken me to.... Instead, I found myself having to push the "skip" button before the first song was even over, because I found the lyrics unforgivably trite and stupid, and the music uninteresting. And then I hit the "skip" button before the second song was even over, because I found the lyrics unforgivably trite and stupid, and the music uninteresting. And the same went for all the other songs on the album--OK, I admit I have never listened to the entire album. I took it out of the cd player after that first time and only once tried to listen to it again, after Wayne told me how great it was, how it would grow on me.

I am pretty sure Madonna's American Life will never grow on me.

Confessions on a Dance Floor might grow on me. I didn't love it instantly, like I did Ray of Light or Like a Prayer, but I don't hate it. I admit that I put it in my car stereo and skipped through several of the first songs, but it wasn't because I couldn't stand them: no, I wanted to see if Track 8, provocatively entitled "Jump," was a Van Halen cover. Alas, it was not, although it is a decent song. (Anyone else fond of Aztec Camera's languorous cover of "Jump"? Truly inspired!) But even that disappointment didn't prevent me from remaining curious.... All I am saying, is I will give Madge a chance.

The album is on in my stereo right now, and I'm letting each song play out to its end. I find some of the lyrics appallingly stupid--as evidence, I call your attention to "I Like New York" (personally, I think that referring to yourself as a "dork" in a pop song makes you one, unequivocally and eternally)--but there's a decent dance beat, a good fast one, so even with the Abba sampling, I wouldn't call this a true disco album. I find myself wanting to get out of my chair and dance--actually, I find myself dancing in my chair, snapping my fingers and shimmying with my shoulders, bopping my head so that my hair--long and unfeathered as it might be, more the hair of an 80s headbanging chick than a 70s dancing queen--billows and waves about my head. OK, OK, dancing from the waist up isn't enough.... I've got to get up and let the rest of me in on the fun.

Yeah, the dance floor might be the right place to hear these Confessions.

p.s. The link Wayne tried to provide to Madonnalicious didn't work, so I'm providing it myself.

9 Comments

Okay.

This is her redemption album. Her apology for getting all folky and weird on American Life, for being friends with Gwyneth Martin, for moving to England and talking in an accent that is not her own. She was born in a drum machine and that is where she belongs, despite her husband's attempt to turn her into Joan Baez. (He bought her an acoustic guitar, so she learned to play it = folk Madonna) He also bought her that horse that threw her. How long do you think this will last?

Now that I've had a couple of days to groove with this new CD, I have "grown" to adore it. It's not surprising that you are dancing in your chair. That is the whole point. Madonna said, "I want people to get up out of their chairs and dance." Mission accomplished.

Lyrically, I had a similar reaction. But their is something really endearing about the "stupid" lyrics. The ones I take issue with are the "profound" ones. Or the lyrics that complain about how hard it is being a celebrity, was it worth it, blah blah blah. Makes her sound like a jaded teenage starlet.

The thing that I find most impressive about her Confessions is the way the album pays homage to older Madge hits and other dancefloor anthems without being too obvious about it (ABBA samples excluded) She references herself in creative ways. There are echoes of Pre-Madonna, Fever, Keep it Together, Human Nature, Papa Don't Preach, etc. Even the vocoder stuff is amazing. (Vocoder is the thing that makes her sound like a robot.) As on the Cher hit "Believe", something about menopause must make women want to contact their inner-robot.

I can't believe you thought Madonna would cover David Lee Roth. Shame on you. I hope you feel like a dork. If you don't like my attitude, you can "F" off...

From the dancefloor,
SO

I find it easier to imagine that Madonna would cover David Lee Roth et al than that she would express open admiration for and do a duet with someone as unforgivably talentless and uninteresting as Britney Spears....

Why not cover big hits from 80s metal bands? It's as interesting as sampling disco tunes.

On Britney: How does that saying go? "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer"? Like when Barbra heard Celine and said "Find us a shitty duet, she sounds too much like me...I want to ruin her career." (courtesy: Sandra Bernhard)

What in Madonna leads you to believe that she has the same affection for 80's metal that you do? Her love of spandex? Aqua Net? What? During the 80's, she was the antithesis of that. She saved us from that, at least until Kurt Cobain came along and really saved us. I recently found myself trapped in a vehicle with someone else's iPod which was rolling through a playlist called "80's Metal Hits" - Ratt, Warrant, Van Halen, etc. I thought I was going to die. Especially when I realized that the "ballad" type songs were exactly like the ones Clay Aiken and Backstreet Boys are singing on the radio today. Uggh! There is, in my opinion, nothing interesting about 80's metal bands, except maybe how easily they are forgotten. But then again, that is just my opinion.

On an album titled "Confessions on a Dancefloor", I find it easier to imagine that Madonna would cover "Jump" by the Pointer Sisters. But alas, she chose to write another song with her brother-in-law, Joe Henry, who cowrote "Don't Tell Me", and I believe that was the wisest decision.

Jesus, Wayne--chill. I realize my credentials as a fan of chick music aren't as good as yours, since I never went through a phase of buying Debbie Gibson, Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson albums like you did, but that doesn't mean I didn't learn anything in the 80s about how to distinguish fun bad pop music from egregiously offensive bad pop music.

What in my post or my character leads you to assume that I assume that Madonna has the same taste I do? I would NEVER assume that. Maybe she's not bright enough to appreciate the genius of a song like "Ice Cream Man," from Van Halen's 1978 debut album. Maybe she can't see how a truly great song like "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks became ever hotter when Eddie Van Halen played its guitar riffs.

I don't think Madonna "saved" us from 80s hair metal, since she was radio friendly in the same ways that Bon Jovi was. You could hear them on the same radio stations, while if you wanted to hear the Smiths or Depeche Mode, you had to go someplace else.

I have always been a fan of the quirky, surprising cover, and I've heard plenty of songs that were mediocre in the original become luminous and inspired as covers--Sid Vicious doing "My Way" springs to mind. I'm not saying Madonna MUST go out and cover a song by Van Halen or Bon Jovi or Led Zeppelin (oh wait! she already played the opening chords of "Stairway to Heaven" on national TV) or any other band with loud guitars and two words in their name. But if she did, I'd want to hear it, and I would even imagine that she could make it good.

An album about which I feel no ambivalence is Kate Bush's new album, "Aerial," which a friend recently gave me. OK, she's still doing the kind of complex, heavily orchestrated weirdness that people were rebelling against when they went off and invented punk rock, but I like the album. And the packaging is entirely free of plastic! It's a two-cd set and quite ingeniously presented.

Just a few comments on Madge moving to the UK... She has now become one of our National Treasures - she's always doing stuff for our charities, mixing with other British national treasures; my boyfriend remarked the other evening that it won't be long before she's offered a Dame-ship or something like that :-) She was performing some of her new songs on "Children in Need" this week - it's a UK "telethon" I believe you call it in the USA. She was fabulous. Currently she is sporting a major Farah Faucett hair-do and wearing sprarkly dresses and high top glitter boots (I know most of Holly's readers do not live in the UK so you will have missed this performance). We are VERY happy to have her in Europe and the accent thing - well, your accent changes when you live abroad, especially when you are living with someone from a different country, as Madge does, and as I do (so I know...). It's just a natural occurance. My own accent has now become so hard to place as it's an odd mix of NE England, Yorkshire, SW USA, Cork-Irish and Ex-pat Benelux... Finally, I am so glad that you like the new album, Holly, as I can now play it in the car when we're driving from Paris to Brussels when you visit next week.

And now something about Kate. Yes, she's a sweet-hearted nutcase. My favourite track on the new album is the one about the washing machine (track 4 "Mrs. Bartolozzi"). In my mind's eye I can see Kate doing some funky modern dance to this track, on a set that looks like scenery from a kitchen appliance rock-opera... And the lyrics - well, some of them make Madge look pretty profound - "Slooshy sloshy slooshy sloshy/ Get that dirty shirty clean.... Washing machine/ Washing machine/Washing machine" But don't let this put you off - it's a great album despite the fact Rolf Harris sings on it. And I can imagine I will have lots of fun singing the washing machine song with my very young daughter!

It has been brought to my attention that I have come off as nasty, petulant and adolescent in this discussion. That was not my intention, nor did I intend to hurt the feelings of those who cherish the idea of a Madonna/Van Halen union. For this deep transgression, I apologize.

It just goes to show you that no matter what city you are in, we are all kind of dorky... myself included. Thank you, Holly, for waking me up. And for those who are interested in the UK show Matt was talking about, you can go to Madonnalicious and see her performance, Farrah Fawcett flip and all.

PS> I had no idea the First Lady was a recording artist. Politics aside, I look forward to hearing the new Kate Bush album: "Confessions from the White House" Why she married W. I guess we'll never know.

Dorkily yours,
SO

I'm currently in Brussels. Matt and I drove up here from Paris yesterday, and we did indeed listen to "Confessions on a Dance Floor" on the drive. Whether it's despite or because of the fact that "Jump" shares its title with other songs I'm already familiar with, I think it's my favorite on COADF. As for the washing machine song, despite my fondness for the lovely Kate, I prefer to pretend it simply doesn't exist.

Matt has also introduced me to another very cool female vocalist: Goldfrappe. I'd include a link but unfortunately links don't work in the comment section of my blog.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on November 18, 2005 12:16 AM.

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