Dance Fever doesn’t deliver much danciness, but it does reflect an appealingly intimate pivot for Welch and co.
After a four-year gap, Florence + the Machine is back with Dance Fever, their fifth studio album packed tight with heavy drum beats, characteristically energetic vocals from Florence Welch, and an overall darker vibe than has been glimpsed on their previous work. It’s a shift that actually serves the group well after sticking to their comfort zone for so long, both for the witchy persona that Welch seems to embody and the cohesiveness it lends to the record’s overall tone.
For the first time in her career, Welch seems stunned into a kind of stillness, not sonically — the cuts still pulse with energy here — but thematically. The tracks on Dance Fever were largely written right as the first lockdowns hit in 2020, and while many artists turned that uncertainty into albums about loneliness, lost relationships, and personal illness, Welch instead takes a mirror to her career and artistry, opting to take her introspective lens to her songwriting and work rather than more (inter)personal territory. Her voice is known for the way it can fill an arena with sound, projected and powerful with every note. This creates a stark tonal contrast on the record, as the singer lyrically grapples with whether she wants to continue in this professional mode — the cycle of writing, recording, performing, repeat. It’s a more wholly intimate approach for an artist whose whole persona has been that of certain and emphatic emotions that she projects to an audience every night on stage.
The biggest impediment to this new mode, then, is that the dance tracks that the album is ostensibly named for don’t land with the group’s usual vigor. While Florence + the Machine has had success in their EDM collaborations in the past, it seems strange on a record titled Dance Fever to work with the likes of Jack Antonoff and Dave Bayley, two artists who don’t tend toward the genre in any sense. Chalk it up to a minor misstep, as the album isn’t built upon these songs despite its name, but the schism between intent and finished product is distinctly notable when these tracks pop up. Still, any fan of Florence’s booming voice is likely to be quite thrilled by this installment in her catalog, with the instrumentation here reliably delivering a perfect format with which to frame her voice.
Dance Fever was originally meant to be a victory lap for the group, likely the last album before a long creative hiatus. Instead, by all accounts the effort reinvigorated Welch, kicking off what one hopes will be another exciting era in a career that has felt flattened of late. With soaring vocals, engaging lyrical pivots, a newfound palette of emotional intimacy, and production that mostly bleeds Jack Antonoff’s involvement of all his annoying inclinations, Dance Fever is a record easily poised to appeal to long-standing fans, while also (re)inventive enough to bring new ones into the fold.
Published as part of Album Roundup — May 2022 | Part 4.