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ENTERTAINMENT
Entertainment Weekly

EW review: Madonna's 'Confessions' glides

Also: Brilliant Kate Bush

By David Browne
Entertainment Weekly

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(Entertainment Weekly) -- Madonna without the marriage, the children, the British estate? Such is the fantasy world conjured up in "Confessions on a Dance Floor."

Madonna never completely deserted clubland, of course, but she hasn't made an album this consistently beat-driven since 1992's "Erotica." Once again, she's the restless soul aching to connect, this time by way of fluid Ibiza techno ("Jump," "Get Together") and a robo-voiced Kraftwerk homage ("Forbidden Love"); "Hung Up" shows how effortlessly she can tap into her petulant inner teen.

Unencumbered by the freneticism and unevenness that marred her last few albums, "Confessions" glides on a jet stream; for that extra rave-new-world touch, the songs segue into one other.

For all its pretenses of being giddy and spontaneous, though, "Confessions" is rarely either. Madonna is no longer the free spirit of her youth, which is plenty obvious when she ponders the spiritual "place where I belong" ("Let It Will Be") or indulges in further self-pity over the price o' fame ("How High"). It's as if a rain cloud has settled over her nightclub.

Yet Brit techno whiz Stuart Price, her new co-producer, overrides her cliches by focusing on the beats. The disingenuous "I Love New York" wants us to believe she feels like "a dork" when she's not in that city and that she's down on London, her new home. But damn if that chorus won't make for a perfect jingle for a tourism commercial.

Like so many Madonna albums, this one eventually runs low on gas; not even Price can make sense of her Kabbalah parable, "Isaac," which evokes older, better Madonna hits. But she's smart enough to know that dulcet dance music for grown-ups is a worthy niche waiting to be filled.

EW Grade: B+

'Aerial,' Kate Bush

Reviewed by Marc Weingarten

Maturity hasn't dulled Kate Bush's propensity for musical loopiness. Twelve years after her last album, she is still besotted by all the wonders of this good green earth.

On the sprawling but focused "Aerial," she is a sprite flitting across verdant, languorous soundscapes, cooing along with the birdsong and extolling the virtues of her son, the beauty of numbers -- even doing the wash -- all the while mesmerizing with her controlled whimsy and intricate arrangements that never overwhelm her voice. Considering the length of her hiatus, this is a remarkable surprise.

EW Grade: A

'Walk the Line,' Various Artists

Reviewed by Tom Sinclair

Q: Why pay to listen to "Walk the Line," an album on which Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon channel Johnny and June Carter Cash?

A: Because it's better than you suspect.

Produced by T Bone Burnett ("O Brother, Where Are Thou?"), these new versions of beloved oldies ring surprisingly true. No, it's not Johnny and June, but a credible simulation. If, combined with the (quite good) film, this inspires new fans to check out the originals, a higher purpose will indeed have been served.

EW Grade: B


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