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RECORD RACK

Back in the throes of disco fever

November 13, 2005|Richard Cromelin

Madonna

"Confessions on a Dance Floor"

(Warner Bros.)

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"RE-INVENTION" must be one of Madonna's favorite words. It was the title of her 2004 tour, and now the press release for her new album proclaims that the record "re-invents dance music for a new generation."

It doesn't say what generation that is, and actually she isn't reinventing so much as revisiting. Or maybe it's retrenching. After the critical and commercial drubbing that met her last album, 2003's dour, sonically spare "American Life," the singer has scampered back to the shelter of the place she knows best: the grand, gaudy, glittering embrace of the discotheque.

"Confessions on a Dance Floor" (due in stores Tuesday) is disco with a vengeance, a whomping, unapologetically airheaded engine of stroboscopic beats and succulent textures that exhumes dance music's time-honored values of celebration and affirmation.

What better way to signal this slant than with a sample of ABBA, whose "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" forms the spine for the party-starting "Hung Up"? From there, each track blends into the next in a riot of guilty pleasures, produced with invention and flair by Madonna and such collaborators as Stuart Price, Mirwais Ahmadzai and Bloodshy & Avant.

Madonna seems totally at home in this artificial world, singing with more strength and sharper intonation than ever, happy to lie back and let her voice be snipped and shuffled, braided and layered, stretched like taffy.

"Confessions" has a bratty ode to New York City, tales of forbidden love and futuristic love, empowerment anthems and an ethno-trance diversion into Kabbalah-centric introspection -- but it's actually pretty short on confessions. When she does go into self-serious mode, the album loses its charm.

There's something almost wishful about the sentiments of the closing "Like It or Not," where Madonna strikes a pose of puffed-up defiance. "This is who I am / You can like it or not / You can love me or leave me / 'Cause I'm never gonna stop," she sings, as if people still got worked up about her the way they did back when she was the shock goddess pulling everybody's chain.

The world has moved on to other villains and heroes. Madonna should be happy there's a vacancy for a disco diva, and for most of this album she seems to be.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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