- The Washington Times - Monday, November 14, 2005

Madonna

Confessions on a Dance Floor Warner Bros.

When Madonna confesses, we all inch up in our chairs to hear a bit better.

Yet “Confessions on a Dance Floor,” her new album of dance-floor hopefuls, doesn’t have time for much soul-searching.

It’s a return to the booty-shaking form that helped her morph from her bubble-gum daze of the late 1980s into the ever-changing diva we continue to see.

For most 47-year-old artists with two children in tow, shaking their groove thing could be a potential career killer. However, the chameleonlike Madonna isn’t like most musicians. The erstwhile Material Girl co-wrote and co-produced every track on “Confessions,” and there’s little here that could embarrass. (As an added bonus, when she’s singing, her acquired British accent disappears.)

“Hung Up,” the album’s first single, and “Sorry” find Madge shedding whatever rust had gathered since her similarly beat-dominated discs “Ray of Light” (1998) and “Erotica” (1992). It’s all flash, no substance — and when Madonna’s working the club, there are sure to be sweat and leers.

Of course, Madonna can’t let a whole album fly by without snippets of her worldview peeking through. She ruminates on the price of fame on “How High” and sounds, at times, both disingenuous and forthcoming about its perks. “Like It or Not” brings back the bluster, promising she’s “never gonna stop, no no,” as if we would have thought otherwise.

Elsewhere, “Isaac” amounts to a beat-heavy shout-out to Kabbalah, but it’s an engaging singing sermon that should float above knee-jerk cynicism. A Middle Eastern-style singer chants along to an accelerated beat, leavened by Madonna’s earnest warbling.

When she isn’t breathlessly promising to tell us about love, she’s awkwardly rhyming New York with dork on “I Love New York,” a flawed number rescued by an ebullient chorus. Madonna has never emphasized the songwriter in the singer-songwriter equation, but a mature artist should snip out hackneyed lines before they reach the market.

The mechanized hook of “Forbidden Love” slips comfortably between Madonna’s sultry voice and sinewy beats, but “Future Lovers” — the fourth of the album’s 12 tracks — flails under the weight of too much spoken-word filler.

“Confessions” is a 180-degree turn from 2003’s “American Life,” Madonna’s last release and a commercial flop when stacked against her previous smashes. She has traded in that album’s Che Guevara chic for her customary dance duds, and darned if they don’t fit a whole lot better.

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