Before we into the personal, strobe-lit music daydream that was (and still most certainly is) Madonna’s whirling tenth studio album, Confessions on a Dance Floor, it’s absolutely necessary to understand that before the conception of Madge’s Grammy award-winning dance music opus, her music career was in pure best of times, yet (somewhat)worst of times mode.
While Madonna certainly flourished in mid ’04 with the smashing success of her Re Invention World Tour, her music career in the public’s headphones had diminished quite a bit due to the critical thrashing of her Patti Hearst warped American Life set. But, being the true music chameleon she is, Madonna rightfully linked up with disco music kingpin Stuart Price (and Life co-conspirator Mirwais Ahmadzi who came back for just a few tracks) and cooked up Confessions on a Dance Floor, an album that not only got Madonna back to her roots creating pure confessional dance music, but an album that came out right at a time when Madonna’s fans needed it…as much as she needed them.
Gliding (almost) effortlessly from bubble gum pop diva to vogueing champ to children’s book author to of course, a hardcore Kabbalah studying enchantress, we know Madonna gets her kicks in taking on whatever emotions she’s dealing with at the time and incorporating them into her beat heavy body of work. Her “true” reinvented flame came with ’98’s Ray of Light, an album that explored Madonna’s full force studies of Kabbalicism, eventually becoming her “I’m aware of all things me” album. This would be followed with 2000’s s whirling Music set, which would become her “I’m aware of you and me, but let’s have fun!” album, with American Life eventually turning into her “I’m just angry now” record. By the time Confessions roller skated its way onto the charts in mid November of ’05, Madonna (finally) came full circle with her late ’90s/early ’00s self and served us with a recording romp that was as every bit as melodic as it was mysterious, because with Madonna, do we ever truly know what she’s feeling without her giving too much away? Confessions on a Dance Floor certainly came close.
Led by the ferocious dance ditty, the ABBA “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” sampling, “Hung Up,” Madonna immediately proved she never lost her faith in the power of the beat. The head-spinning production of the song instantly became an all-out inferno that not only took us instantly back into the unhinged club world where she made her famous name, but became her biggest hit ever, topping music charts in a whopping 35 countries.
Designed as a non-step shimmering DJ set, the rest of the record sputters into full glittery motion, with each track slicing up musical stories about Madonna’s post-Esther life underneath ferociously filtered productions that are built up by each track playing out as a lesson in dance music school. Many album cuts sample several iconic disco tunes from back-in-the-day, including the derivative bassline of “Get Together” which plays on the classic Stardust single, “Music Sounds Better With You.” The dearly departed Donna Summer completes the 54-esque tone of “Future Lovers,” and even Jackson 5’s “Can You Feel It” sets the unapologetic tone of second Confessions single, “Sorry.” While lyrically, this record isn’t Madonna’s strongest effort, (ahem, “I Love New York”), but it doesn’t matter because she succeeds in taking the listener on a ride packed full of blinding beats and her never-ending woo-ing to take you on the floor of life, especially with tracks, “Jump,” “How High,” “Let It Will Be,” (“Now I can you about success, about fame,” hisses Madonna on top of a stinging groove), and the clap-happy album closer, “Like It Or Not.” Besides the mid-tempo flow of the touchy “Isaac,” there isn’t a song on Madonna’s glowing set that won’t make you dance, sweat and confess your music sins all at the same time.
Of course, whenever we think of Madonna’s prismatic Confessions era, the dazzling accompanying Confessions Tour is always worth a mention. It has been dubbed as the highest grossing tour ever for a female artist, raking in $194.7 million, and also recognized as the highest-grossing music tour per concert in the 2007 edition of the Guinness World Records. Divided into four parts: Equestrian, Bedouin, Glam–Punk, and Disco, the tour came complete with a horse-themed “Like a Virgin” routine, (naturally), lots of bondage, and one holy controversial performance of “Live to Tell’ that caused quite a stir. While performing her trademark ’80s ballad, Madonna took to the stage by hanging on a giant mirrored cross wearing a crown of thorns, but because this is Madonna, the “Live to Tell” controversy ultimately became the divine highlight of the box office destroying live spectacle.
However, there’s also a certain truth that we just can’t deny about Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor set: Many critics (and sone fans) say that it was her last “great” and “relevant” album. But how can we really know for sure? The dance diva has made a career out of reinventing her style and sound, and while yes, the album plays out as her more recent “loosest” studio set, no Madonna album is the same with Confessions ultimately becoming another piece of the Material Girl puzzle that we’ll be trying to figure out for years to come–whether on or off the Dance Floor.