When a band releases an album called Dance Fever, you’re most likely going to expect something exuberant, thrilling, and full of danceable hits, and Florence + the Machine’s fifth album, released last week, is all of that, of course, but it’s also so much more.
True to its name, Dance Fever, which the band’s front woman Florence Welch has said is inspired by her fascination with choreomania — a Renaissance-era phenomenon in which groups people would quite literally dance themselves to death (or exhaustion or injuries) — is filled with a nightclub-inspired, funky energy, especially in the single “My Love,” a energetic and upbeat song in which Welch sings about her own history of being a creative and her love of making music.
But the concept of choreomania is also addressed in the song titled, well, “Choreomania,” in which Welch hauntingly sings “So out of breath, I just kept spinning and I danced myself to death.” The song can be taken as a lighthearted anthem for embracing fun and metaphorically dancing to death, or it can be much more sinister when examined through the lens of Welch’s choreomania fascination. That’s what has always been exciting about Florence + the Machine’s music, and what continues throughout Dance Fever, there’s never just one way to interpret their music.
This is Florence + the Machine’s first album in four years, two of those years, of course, happening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Welch has said that she was inspired when creating this album by the idea of returning to nightclubs and dancing at concerts, and reclaiming the emotional catharsis, or in some cases mania, that dance can lead to.
Florence + the Machine isn’t just looking to reclaim the nightclubs though. “King,” the album’s lead track, and possibly its strongest one, sees Welch reclaiming her own power as she looks at a woman’s place in society, and tears down the idea of what roles women can fit into as she almost whispers, and then proudly calls out in the chorus “I am no mother, I am no bride, I am king.” The song isn’t just filled with the band’s powerful lyrics, and Welch’s hauntingly beautiful voice, but also the Machine’s continual strong instrumentation. “King,” the first single off of the album, was the band’s first release since 2018, giving Florence fans a strong reminder of the band’s flawless hooks and stunning, anthem-like choruses.
The following song, “Free,” is a bouncy, euphoric song that captures some of these same sentiments, but sees Welch discuss her struggles with anxiety that “picks me up, puts me down, 100 times a day.” In the song she discusses her feelings that she should be medicated and in a hospital, but instead sings about the joyful exuberance she feels in the moments that her anxiety leaves her, which of course, leads to more dancing.
Dance Fever is the band’s first foray into working with Jack Antonoff as a producer. Antonoff, who has made a name for himself outside of his own music by working with some of pop music’s best and brightest, including all of Taylor Swift’s albums since 2014’s “1989,” Lorde’s second and third album and The Chicks’ vengeful and heartbreaking 2020 comeback album, spends Dance Fever doing what he does best.
With Florence + the Machine’s latest, Antonoff helped to bring together the excitement of pop music and what makes the genre so magnetic with the more theatrical and grandiose stylings that the band has been bringing to their music throughout their career. Antonoff’s style, which has helped to shape the sound of modern pop, is evident on the song’s final track, “Morning Elvis,” in which Welch sings “After every tour, I swore I’d quit, It’s over boys, This is it,” reflecting on how she thought of putting her music career behind her and moving on before starting work on Dance Fever.
Thankfully, she and the band didn’t quit, because Dance Fever ranks among the best of their work. It’s a haunting, energetic and beautiful album that speaks to the societal pressure that women find themselves under, how that pressure can cause someone to crack with anxiety, and yes, how dancing can help with all of that.
Dance Fever is out now.