Writers sometimes refer to Madonna as a rock star, but she’s a pop star all the way. Here’s how you can tell: While rock icons such as Bob Dylan, Pete Townshend, Mick Jagger, Joe Strummer, and John Fogerty eventually had to contend with the fact that their sound and sensibility went out of fashion, Madonna continually hires the hot dance-producer du jour and stays contemporary by association. Her music never ages because it’s never truly been “her” music.
But in 2003, with American Life, Madonna attempted to make an earnest singer-songwriter confessional about the emptiness of materialism and other excruciatingly obvious insights. She had made mediocre records before (and her list of film atrocities is too lengthy to ponder), but she’d always carried them off with a certain degree of cool, arrogant disdain.
With American Life, for the first time she seemed quaint, even a bit dorky. When people weren’t ignoring the album, they laughed at it. Well, you can accuse Madonna of many things, but you can’t say she’s not savvy. She’s always hedged her commercial bets, and on Confessions she enlists house-music alchemist Stuart Price to connect her with her roots: late ’70s disco. Price gives Madonna a modern version of the gurgling, electronic bounce that Giorgio Moroder devised for Donna Summer during her heyday (Price even samples Summer’s seminal “I Feel Love” for “Future Lovers”)
| Confessions On A Dance Floor |
Madonna’s voice, never a breathtakingly expressive instrument, happily settles into Price’s grooves with a robotic ruthlessness, and her lyrics reveal nothing of interest except for the fact that she likes New York (a city “which is not for little pussies that scream”) and apparently has little affection for the Lone Star state: “If you don’t like my attitude then you can eff off/just go to Texas/isn’t that where they play golf?” But from the ABBA sample that drives the first single “Hung Up” to the hypnotic Jackson 5 bass line of “Sorry,” Madonna successfully looks forward by glancing in her rearview, disco-ball mirror. She doesn’t deliver a single tune worth remembering a year from now, but she does defy the aging process once again. •