Given that nearly all of her catalog has been squarely aimed at clubs or at least remixed for them, it was a bit wacky that Madonna’s late 2005 album was widely hyped as a return to her disco roots. Confessions on a Dance Floor avoids the folk guitars of her last few albums, but otherwise it’s not drastically different. Soul-searching themes still get set to computer beats — only this time they pound harder with less syncopation and, apparently, greater commercial intent. She may have renounced her celebrity-centric ways with American Life, but the fact that she started this album with a prominent ABBA sample (“Hung Up”‘s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)”) instantly recognizable to millions of Europeans, club-pop connoisseurs, and gay men surely suggests she was nevertheless eager to catch the attention of her fan base.
Confessions embraces the Eurodisco tradition from Donna Summer to Pet Shop Boys to David Guetta via her new primary collaborator Stuart Price, combining eternally hip synthpop paradigms with hands-in-the-air trance anthem gaucheness. Although only “Hung Up” clicked on US Top 40, Confessions did so well overseas it was as if American Life never happened. Here, its success was more moderate, as it came a couple of years before Gaga brought the stadium-dance formula employed by most of it back to radio. The highlight, though, is “I Love New York,” which suggests early Liz Phair jamming with LCD Soundsystem covering the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Yes, it’s that good.