Leading up to the release of the most recent Florence + the Machine album “Dance Fever” (May 13th, 2022), lead singer Florence Welch described the album on social media as “A fairytale in 14 songs.”
That is precisely what “Dance Fever” is. Welch is this story’s heroine and our guide through these songs.
“Dance Fever” is more grandiose than FATM’s previous album, the stripped-backed 2018’s “High as Hope.” “Dance Fever” goes back to the theatrics that was prevalent on their first two albums, “Lungs” (2009) and “Ceremonials” (2011), and what was somewhat present on their third album, “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.” (2015).
Welch’s flair for the dramatics is ever so present in the opener “King.” In “King,” we see the start of a recurring topic of her roles as a woman in music. In “King,” she sings about her wish to have a domestic life but still wants to perform. The opening lyrics exemplify this, “We argue in the kitchen about whether to have children.” As the song goes on, she repeats, “I am no mother, I am no bride, I am king.” Welch is declaring that she will not be put into a box; she will make her own path in life. But there is still this pint of rage within her; she is angry that she has to choose between motherhood and a career, and it comes out in a scream during the bridge.
“Choreomania” is probably the most replayed song on the album for me. Each listen, I like the track more. There is something just beautiful about the way the music sounds. It’s celebratory, but there is this sorrow to it. Welch’s vocals sound like she is in a hurry; she is in a panic; she wants to savor the moment, but something is holding her back, “Something’s coming, so out of breath/I just kept spinnin’ and danced myself to death.” In a way, the song’s title is also the title track. “Choreomania” is another name for dance mania. Welch has stated in many interviews that she became fascinated by the dancing plague that affected the city of Strasbourg in 1518. It became an inspiration for the album’s name. This track also has one of my favorite lines from the whole album, “You said that rock and roll is dead/But is that just because it has not been/Resurrected in your image?”
There is this humor within “Dream Girl Evil.”This sarcastic playfulness becomes apparent as the song goes on. Welch asks the question in the song, “Am I your dream girl?” as if saying do I live up to society’s expectations? “Dream Girl Evil” feels like a deconstruction of the persona FATM and Welch herself have created over the years. This almost mythical character is just a human being behind it: “Make me perfect, make me your fantasy.”
“Heaven Is Here” reminds me more of a battle cry than a song. The lyrics are accompanied by heavy percussions and claps. “Heaven Is Here” feels like the rising action in a story. The protagonist is drawing her sword and getting ready for a battle, “And I ride in my red dress/And time stretches endless/With my gun in my hand/You know I always get my man.”
A recurring motif in “Dance Fever” is spring which makes sense; spring can represent change and transformation. This can be seen the most in the next song.
“Daffodil” begins with a sudden gasp like our narrator just awoke from a bad dream. The first verse is vastly different from the rest of the song and is a confession of a sort, “I couldn’t help it, yes, I let get in/The helpless optimism of spring/Worn out and tired and my heart never tired/ And the world bent double from weeping /And yet, the birds begin to sing.” Welch is pouring out her emotions to the listener. The track sees the singer going through a metamorphosis, becoming something more than who she was and fighting between these two parts, “Made myself mythical, tried to be real.” “Daffodil” has elements of gothic fiction in the way the lyrics conjure up images of a dark atmosphere and vampires coming to life at night, “You practice resurrection every night/Raising the dead under the moonlight.”
“My Love” has echoes of “Ceremonials” in its production. The track is big and operatic. The lyrics delve into these feelings of loneliness and emptiness that can come from not being around people for a long time, “My arms emptied, the skies emptied/The billboards emptied.” The singer longs for human connection again.
“Dance Fever” lets listeners delve into the world Florence + the Machine has created over five albums. It’s beautiful and tragic, filled with words that pull at the heartstrings.