Warner – 2005 – 56 minutes
It's official. The leotard is back... and so is Madonna. But back from where? Well, take a look in the nearest bargain bin and you're bound to find several copies of 'American Life' – her underwhelming and critically mauled album from 2003. The subsequent 'Reinvention' tour of 2004 wowed some fans but failed to impress many of the 80,000 people at Slane Castle. Her performance at Live 8 in London reassured us that music does make the people come together -iIt's just a pity she fluffed it up in a post-show interview with the BBC's Jo Whiley. But I'm just another critic and boy, has she had her fair share of criticism through her 22-year career. Does she care? Quite the opposite, in fact, and some would say she feeds on it and it fuels her passion to succeed even further. You can laugh, you can mock, but you gotta admire.
So, at the age of 47, Madonna revisits her clubbing years with a high energy, all-out camp disco jukebox of tracks that mixes her 1980's-style lyrics with 21st Century beats. Her co-producer this time is Parisian-born Stuart Price, who worked with her on two previous tours as keyboardist and later as musical director. Also known as Jacques Lu Cont, he's already had the pleasure of remixing artists from Goldfrapp to the Killers to Gwen Stefani.
Earlier this year, Price sneaked a remixed version of Abba's 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme' into one of his sets for an Australian audience. The crowd went wild. He photographed the event and showed it to Madonna, who was immediately convinced. And so 'Hung Up' was born. It opens the album like no other track could. The thumping bass line then continues throughout the entire album and rarely gives up. Designed as a continuous mix, it really works better than dipping in and out of tracks.
'Get Together' is one of few tracks where Madonna's vocals work sublimely. The trance and synth layers float perfectly underneath. 'Sorry' is set to be the next single from the album -her apologies in various languages either mean she's annoyed an awful lot of people or she's kindly not leaving anyone out (except maybe the Irish). 'Tá brón orm' must have been too much of a verbal challenge.
Then there's 'I Love New York', an apology in disguise, for abandoning her nest? If ever there was a soundtrack to a gay nightclub in New York, this is the title theme. T-shirts are swinging and lights are blinding. You can almost see it. It's also got some of the cheesiest lyrics she's ever mouthed. Unashamedly brash.
Half way through and we're getting tired; 'Let It Will Be' and 'Forbidden Love' bring the tempo down. Then 'Jump' comes out of nowhere and we go for one last boogie. It's a stomper of a pop tune, which harks back to the days of 'Deeper and Deeper'. The spiritual lecture this time is in the form of 'Isaac', which has a decent rhythm if nothing else.
One last thrust briefly keeps the interest levels up: 'Push' is her anthem to husband Guy Ritchie and we can be thankful it's not a Jennifer Lopez effort like 'Dear Ben'. It's mildly edgy, albeit very radio-friendly. 'Like It or Not' aptly closes the album with Madonna reassuring herself she ought not to care and she'll never stop etc etc. We know, you've told us enough times.
We've reached the end and the mood is now sombre. 'Confessions...' is like a rollercoaster, reaching an ecstatic high at the start, only to come crashing down all too quickly. The lights have come on - it's time to leave the dancefloor. Play it from the beginning and pick yourself up again.
Tracklisting: Hung Up - Get Together – Sorry - Future Lovers - I Love New York - Let It Will Be - Forbidden Love – Jump - How High – Isaac – Push - Like It Or Not