Florence + The Machine are back with their fifth album, Dance Fever, which was released today.
Dance Fever has been in the works since before the pandemic, when Florence Welch read about the medieval European “dancing mania” or choreomania. This ritual involved groups of people, sometimes even thousands at a time, dancing erratically until they collapsed from exhaustion and injuries.
To Welch, this concept was so interesting she decided to dedicate an entire album to it.
Dance Fever, with its free-spirited and wild energy, is a warm welcome to spring as well as a reminder to “be careful what you wish for,” as Florence Welch herself told the New York Times.
King, the album’s opener, addresses the tough realities of being a woman in the music industry through its references to motherhood, marriage and femininity. It talks about the sacrifices that women make in their careers and the difficulties that come with balancing motherhood or domesticity and a career.
Welch tackles traditional feminine roles by singing powerful lyrics like: “I am no mother / I am no bride / I am king”. One can decipher the emotions Welch is feeling whenever she’s singing; her voice is so striking and deep.
All the songs on this album have been composed with originality, robust emotion and intimacy. “I think it was important for everything to just have a little bit of an air of tragedy,” Welch told Spotify.
The album’s second track, Free, which Welch said covers anxiety and her mental health, is perhaps the most cheerful song on the album. It is an ode to the freedom of dancing – in Welch’s words: “Anxiety never really goes away, you have to learn to dance with it.”
Choreomania, which alludes to the aforementioned “dancing mania” is specifically dedicated to the liberation of dancing. Welch starts the song with spoken-word lyrics that depict anxiety, its constancy and its over-active nature. Still, despite the darkness that comes with it, the song is upbeat and dynamic.
Back in Town is a song about travelling to New York after lockdown. Despite how exciting this concept sounds, the song is slow and melancholic; perfectly depicting the fear that comes with moving out of lockdown and returning to normalcy.
Welch meditates on many deep, personal topics in Dance Fever, including loss, rage and desire. While these subjects dissipate across the album, they all accumulate in Girls Against God, another slower song, where Welch releases her pent-up thoughts on all of them.
In Restraint, an interlude, Welch sings with a low, croaky voice: “Have I learned restraint? Am I quiet enough for you yet?”. Those who know Florence Welch know that “restraint” is not a word that is associated with her, a woman that flings herself into dance and song with all her vigour.
Prayer Factory is another interlude, one that lasts a little over a minute. Similarly to Restraint, it is a terrifyingly haunting song. Like Girls Against God, it covers the theme of loss and nostalgia: “All the things that I ran from / I now bring as close to me as I can.”
It’s reminiscent of the deprivation that came with lockdown, like Cassandra, which alludes to the Greek Goddess that was cursed to utter true prophecies but to never be believed.
The interlude’s predecessor, Dream Girl Evil, is captivating with its thumping beats which eventually build up into a mighty chorus, almost resembling a prayer, which goes together with the many religious allusions scattered across the album: angels, demons, life, death, heaven and hell.
“Heaven is here if you want it”, Welch croons in Heaven is Here, the first song Welch wrote in lockdown. As she stated on social media, she “wanted to make something monstrous. And this clamour of joy, fury and grief was the first thing that came out.”
At the end of the song, Welch sings with a raspy voice: “And every song I wrote became an escape rope /
Tied around my neck to pull me up to Heaven,” depicting the desperation that comes with wanting a getaway from a locked-down world and being stuck.
Daffodil, my personal favourite from Dance Fever, is about “the helpless optimism of spring” and the torment that came with the pandemic. While spring is generally associated with rebirth, regeneration and new beginnings, it was, ironically, around that time that COVID-19 started. Welch said that the song ends in heavy instrumentation to symbolise the “unending horror” that the pandemic brought to the world.
My Love, written by Glass Animals’ Dave Bayley, is a song that stands out with its disco-song qualities; its tune is unexpected but it is refreshing. Like Free, it makes you want to get to the nearest dance floor and dance like nobody’s watching!
In contrast, The Bomb is where Welch laments the idea of love and destruction, comparing the two of them. Although she mentions collapsing buildings and burning skin, the tune of the song is soft and relaxing.
The album’s closing track, Morning Elvis, meditates on sobriety and its challenges. Welch wrote the song in the style of a confessional, where she recollects how she was so hungover once that she missed a trip to Graceland, the “home” of Elvis Presley. It’s the perfect mellow song to end the album on.
With Dance Fever, Welch wanted to bring together “the idea of something glamorous but inherently broken and fading.” And she did just that – flawlessly.
Dance Fever is now available on all music streaming services.
Featured Image Credit: Radio X