Florence + the Machine Find Vulnerability in Grandeur on 'Dance Fever'

BY Sun NoorPublished May 26, 2022

Florence + the Machine have always had a way of conveying various emotions through their intricate yet ethereal instrumentation and Florence Welch's heartfelt, emotive songwriting, from the melodramatic, mythical baroque pop of 2011 debut Lungs to 2018's stripped-down and direct High as Hope.

On much-anticipated fifth record Dance Fever, Florence + the Machine deliver a personal, chaotic and beautiful ode to letting go of the anxieties that come with being open. The album's artwork draws inspiration from the Pre-Raphaelites, which is very fitting and representative of the subject matter, as the movement saw art's purpose as being to illustrate life in a detailed manner. This period saw artists embrace complexity, which is what the band aim for on this record.

This perspective lies underneath all of the album's grandeur and embellishments, as Welch finds herself yearning to be open and vulnerable, resulting in the band's most liberating record. The dancing imagery, which is central to this record, reflects the catharsis that Welch is striving to find.

Dance Fever picks up on where the band left off with High as Hope, as Dance Fever continues to elaborate on vulnerability in a more explicit manner. The Jack Antonoff-produced album opener and lead single "King" kicks off with a scene that finds Welch and her partner arguing about whether to have children before wandering off onto existential thoughts about the world ending and the purpose of art. Welch sings, "You need to go to war to find material to sing," implying that sometimes hardship is necessary to make art, especially art that is representative of real-life frustrations. The harrowing scream at the end of the song presents her attempt at taking control in her narrative, breaking free from artistic expectations. Those themes continue on "Free," where Welch weighs in on dealing with anxieties surrounding her art.

Welch's powerful vocals shine on this record through anthemic synthpop, baroque pop and folk balladry, as the band experiment with new textures, aligning with the inspiration drawn from the Pre-Raphaelite tradition of embracing contrast within art. The record also contains synth-heavy numbers such as "Free" and "My Love," which was transformed from its initial sombre poem version (available as a bonus track on Apple Music) into a club banger produced by Glass Animals' Dave Bayley. Layered harmonies and handclaps create an orchestral sound through minimal instrumentation and string elements on "Prayer Factory" and "Girls Against God." This creates a nostalgia for Florence + the Machine's earlier works, as these tracks are reminiscent of their sound from the first few albums.

"Dream Girl Evil" is the album's focal point, as Welch takes on an rejects the notion of an ideal woman and how people perceive her. She sings, "Make me evil, then I'm an angel instead," observing how women are stereotypically perceived as either good or evil, using angel and devil imagery. She emulates Nick Cave and Iggy Pop on the experimental track "Cassandra," through her lower register vocals. The haunting synth elements and harmonies at the bridge create a gothic aura with the synth elements and subtle harmonies.

The album culminates with another anecdote and introspective track. On "Morning Elvis," Welch recalls her chaotic time partying in Memphis and mentions that she never got the chance to visit Graceland. But even so, she promises to still make it to her performance, ultimately finding liberation in music.

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