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Nov 09 2005
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It’s official: Madonna’s fans have received the continuous-mix ear candy they have demanded as a ransom for continued devotion, even if Confessions On A Dance Floor turns out to be anything but superficial. She’s sneaky like that. Overall CD Rating: 9/10
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TRACK BY TRACK

“Hung Up”

The album opens with the ticking of a clock, ballsy for a 47-year-old in a field where her rivals are in their teens and twenties. Though she claims that “time goes by so slowly,” the exact opposite impression is conveyed, a sense that if you don’t seize the moment, it will pass you by. This feeling is helped along by the legendary call to action that is ABBA’s bassline from “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight),” sampled here to the point of saturation. In the original, it was “half past twelve,” while in “Hung Up” it’s “a quarter to two”—maybe time really does go slowly, since in the 26 years from the original’s invention to “Hung Up”’s addictive reinvention, only an hour and 15 minutes have elapsed! The song is an irresistible pop perfect storm with a stop-start quality that manipulates you as easily as the tide toying with driftwood. It’s musical crack, and if there is anything to complain about, it’s that it’s so exactly what the doctor ordered that it’s not as surprising as previous lead singles from “Like A Virgin” to “Like A Prayer” to “Music.” At one point in “Hung Up,” Madonna sings with conviction, “I don’t know what to do.” It’s a lie. She knows. 9/10

“Get Together”

I’ve never heard a more perfect club song than this euphoric piece, which drips with a sexuality so open it’s innocent and begins with a ringing bell that could either be a neat outro providing closure to “Hung Up”’s 60 Minutes intro or a school bell indicating class is in session/let recess begin. Sampling Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better With You” (itself known to have had a passionate affair with Madonna’s seminal hit “Holiday”), “Get Together” exudes optimism, boiling down club-hopping to love-seeking. The song is a fantastic example of Madonna’s songwriting abilities—here, she writes simply but with feeling: “Can we get together?/I really wanna be with you/c’mon check it out with me/I hope you feel the same way, too.” This chorus perfectly communicates what we all seek in the darkness of a club—and in life. What else is there? 10/10

“Sorry”

Rumored to be the set’s second single, “Sorry” is, ironically, another unapologetic vacation for the mind and draft notice for theCoadf_back_cover_news feet. Opening with Madonna murmuring “I’m sorry” (or close to it) in several different languages, the song zips along aerobically, as if it were a long-lost Flashdance soundtrack cut. I hear this as a vastly improved take on her admittedly pleasing Erotica tracks “Thief of Hearts” and “Words.” Madonna has held out a long time without a classic woman-scored kiss-off song (“You’ll See” came close). If she was waiting for a worthy cut, her patience pays off with an absolutely grade-A entry in the genre. Pet Shop Boys could have written this for Madonna—it’s that good. If this isn’t a hit, Billboard is no longer worthy of existing and a faggot fatwa should be called on all radio programmers. 10/10

“Future Lovers”

A dark-horse candidate for my favorite track on Confessions is this fabulous—in both the gay and non-gay ways—concoction, which finally perfects the psychedelic grandiosity Madonna has occasionally toyed with, notably on “Up Down Suite,” “Bedtime Story,” parts of Ray of Light and the enjoyable but somewhat stunted “Impressive Instant.” While “Hung Up” arguably fails to wrestle control of its muscular ABBA sample, “Future Lovers” washes over a soundalike bassline from Giorgio Moroder’s “I Feel Love,” managing to rekindle the excitement generated by Donna Summer’s orgasmic vocal with a completely different, revelatory narrative. Here, Madonna speak-sings, “I’m gonna tell you about love” (a dozen years after ‘teaching us how to fuck’) like a sexy HAL—let’s agree to call this song’s feminine narrator SAL. When Madonna sings “in the evidence of its brilliance” with the shrill, almost tinny urgency first heard on “Mother and Father,” the effect is very different—it’s not gut-level intimacy, it’s the opposite, a proclamation of the connectedness of the cosmos. Like an astral tour guide (or a drug dealer), Madonna flirtatiously asks, “Would you like to try?” Who wouldn’t? Andy Warhol said, “In the future, everybody will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Instead, perhaps in the future everybody will be lovers for 15 minutes. 10/10

“I Love New York”

The nearly perfect ride through the first four tracks is interrupted by this detour. Early pro reviews raved about this tribute to the city that never sleeps (hey, if Madonna can use clichés, so can I) while early fan reaction has been more mixed, running from ranking it a ways down the list of fave songs on the CD to being embarrassed for Madonna over this clunky American Life bastard child. 23756916
The deftly spare lyrical quality that shines on other songs is supplanted here by a clumsy, juvenile approach that gives birth to you’ll-never-live-this-one-down lines like, “I don’t like cities, but I like New York/other places make me feel like a dork.” Dork is a fine enough word, but I think most people who are in love with and in awe of New York would agree that spending a little time here is what makes you feel like a dork, and you feel pretty darn jaded elsewhere. The song is saved from becoming the next “I’m So Stupid” with a killer chorus, an exhilarating demand to “get off my street,” Cure-ish guitars and a ’60s instrumental wash that evokes images of a beautiful stranger dancing the pony. Is it enough to win you over? Love it or hate it, mad, sad or glad, “I Love New York” definitely stops traffic—and that’s no good when the rest of your CD is a runaway train. I don’t despise this song, but I still kinda wish it would F off. 6.5/10

“Let It Will Be”

This is an odd duck, and not only for the completely unnecessary and (unless I’m missing it) meaningless extra word in the title. Am I insane to be reminded of Iam Siam’s “She Went Pop?” It has an arresting opening that mimics “Papa Don’t Preach” or even“Dear Jessie” and a vocal with a palpable sense of narrative urgency. “Now I can tell you/about success, about fame,” Madonna growls, as if relieved to have the good times of the previous tracks behind her as a synthesized cowbell clangs somewhere in the mix. “The place that I belong/it won’t last long/the lights they will turn down” she predicts like a disco Nostradamus. But though she could easily launch into a sermon, she instead preaches to the choir with a prettied up take on a theme stars visit far too often in their work—the dangers of fame, the insubstantial nature of having it all. If this message were broadened to include the kind of success mere mortals are more likely to be inflicted with, maybe. But she’s saved by the music and has never sounded more righteous than when she spits, “Just watch me burn!” Our own little Joan of Arc, aflame at the stake of criticism. 8.5/10

“Forbidden Love”

This charming electro Romeo & Juliet gives me fever—it could be the promise of “Future Lovers” realized, yet also continues Madonna’s more old-fashioned appreciation for a boy and girl in love started in “La Isla Bonita.” We enter on an odd horn sound that’s both playful and desolate, making it easy to envision a video staged on Mars with kisses bestowed from inside spacesuits. It builds to an aural crescendo that lovingly capitulates Moroder’s Metropolis work with Queen. Three minutes in, the beat sounds like “Vogue,” fitting for a song that could reasonably be read as an ode to star-crossed gay lovers or, with more effort, chalked up to the gay-marriage debate—either way, it’s hard to resist the urge to chant “menergy” as you play it. One Madonna song it sounds nothing like is Madonna’s own 1994 tune “Forbidden Love”—I don’t count this as self-reflexivity because I’d bet money she simply forgot she was recycling a title. Shimmery and adorable. 10/10

“Jump”

This kinetic construction is single-worthy for being catchy and universal and yet fresh. Longtime fans will be shocked to hear the raspy spoken-word introduction, which sounds like a throwback to “poor is the man whose pleasures depend on the permission of another.” This time around, Madonna’s saying, “There’s only so much you can learn in one place/the more that I wait, the more time that I waste,” re-emphasizing an Alice In Wonderland “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date” theme begun in “Hung Up.” Further in, the song becomes a semi-remake of “Keep It Together” with its high praise for family and paraphrasing of Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.” Engaging songwriting like “life’s gonna drop you down like the limbs of a tree/it sways and it swings and it bends until it makes you see” is brought to life with the most direct vocal on the album. Madonna’s pride for her handiwork leaps through. 10/10

“How High”

A natural progression from a song called “Jump,” “How High” is infinitely more pensive. Madonna again returns to questioning fame and fortune, wondering “how high?/outer space!/how much fortune can you make?” Mtvu_huntercollege_online_newsOf achieving her goal of “wanting to be talked about,” Madonna bitterly admits, “I did it/was it all worth it?/and how did I earn it?/nobody’s perfect/I guess I deserve it.” But while this could be read as Madonna giving herself permission to enjoy her lofty status, it sounds more to me like a very unconvinced “I guess I deserve it.” Lyrically smart and musically interesting, the song nevertheless fails to live up to its brilliant bookends and isn’t half the song that Music’s “Nobody’s Perfect” is. 7.5/10

“Isaac”

“Those naughty rabbis” took exception when they heard rumors Madonna had named this poorly titled song after Isaac Luria, a 16th Century mystic, and the media decided that the flap somehow meant the song was “controversial.” This gorgeous masterpiece of a song hasn’t got a chance to rise above its silly pre-publicity and be accepted on its own, which is a shame because it’s a lush Middle Eastern-flavored gem that’s the spawn of “Frozen” and Sting’s “Desert Rose” with the moaning from “Secret” thrown in for good measure. Going into the third decade of her career, Madonna is still unafraid to seem pretentious, and that’s good because otherwise we might never have had this whirling-dervish slice of musical nirvana. Anyone who hates this is probably hating it out of the mistaken belief that liking it would mean being fooled by Kabbalah. Had this song been named something else and failed to attract the attention of a few self-appointed keepers of Judaism (who leaked it to them so far in advance of whoever leaked it to me?), this could have been a brilliant single. Seriously! 10/10

“Push”

Madonna has announced that this is a love song to her special Guy. It reminds me of Like a Prayer’s Prince-ly “Love Song” and its challenging “Act of Contrition,” complete with backward-sounding music and a consistent feeling of struggle. There is a slave-galley rhythm and both the delivery and content of the lyrics communicate effort. Words fall across one another in a jumble like hikers taking a tumble. (Now I’m writing Madonna’s next album.) Progress is made, which is good since the song definitely feels like climbing a mountain in 3:45. Quoting The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and perhaps some Tom Tom Club, the song is certainly not as inaccessible as a mountain aerie. Some hear this as a good single for the American market. I’m still trying to convince myself it’s a good album track. 6.5/10

“Like It Or Not”

It’s brand new and yet I feel this song is already underrated. Sure, Madonna has dished out cheek before—mission statements you can dance to like “Human Nature” have been a large part of her work. But the genius of this song is that while knowing it’s coming from Madonna gives it a kick, it is not specific to Madonna’s singular experience. It’s a wonderful anthem for those who live their lives with no regard for the small minds around them, and for those who wish to God they could. A flash of “Die Another Day” at the beginning winds down into an almost exact regurgitation of the opening of “Frozen” (again with the “Frozen!”) before completely about-facing into a giddy declaration of independence set to a clapping percussive beat—if you can close your eyes and picture Madonna snapping her fingers to this and dancing like a Shark or a Jet, you might agree with me when I say I can only believe this song was inspired by her abortive work on the shrugged-off Texas Guinan movie musical Hello, Suckers! Promo2The song already role-calls femmes fatales Cleopatra and Mata Hari (Evita is there in spirit), so Tex would fit right in. Regrettably, a lazy lyric like “sticks and stones will break my bones” detracts from a juicy one like “I’ll be the garden/you’ll be the snake/all of my fruit is yours to take/better the devil that you know/your love for me will grow.” Madonna’s vocal is reminiscent of “He’s A Man,” especially on that line, and the galloping bassline is a ’70s Amii Stewart lark—you better knock, knock, knock on wood, Madonna, that our love for you will grow. But so far, so good. 9/10

(Credit: Visit madonna.com, madonna.nu, madonnalicious.com, drownedmadonna.com and madonnatribe.com for all the latest. Thanks to these sites for some of the images in this piece.)

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