I always have trouble figuring out how to open a review, especially when the body of work speaks for itself and anything I add won’t be any more enlightening, maybe even less so. I almost never feel this way more than when I think of Florence Welch. A startling force to be reckoned with in the music world. She stands like justice above it all, with the past in one of her scales and modernity in the other. With Dance Fever, she first uses her sword to rip away her blindfold, and then ours.
Never am I more anticipatory of a release cycle than one of Florence’s. Her attention to detail and obsession over the visual arts in combination to her musical craft are second to none, and Dance Fever is no different. From billboards that look like Renaissance paintings from a museum wall to a series of music videos telling us exactly what she wants us to glean, Florence spares no emotional expense to bring us into her world.
The album begins with Florence being torn between two lifestyles: domesticity and the quietness it brings, or the energy of being on the stage and creating new life with her words. “King” was the first single and I mentioned it in a past Queue It Up. I bring it up here because in tandem with the rest of the singles it provides a personal look to Florence’s recent struggles, but in the context of the album it is a tale of womanhood in a broader spectrum. When she lets loose at the end, it’s a nod to any woman who has ever been frustrated by whether she should settle for a life of nurturing, or to keep growing the thing inside of her that longs for freedom and the desire to run from anything that will tie her down.
It ends with “Morning Elvis” and her having made her decision through song. Throughout, she sings of feeling like she is at once too much and not enough. She sings of old times at shows and cutting her teeth on her own career. She sings of traveling and feeling big feelings and dealing with her addiction on her own. She sings of being strong and being weak and being alone and yet when she is feeling love she feels uncomfortable. She contains multitudes, as do we all.
I think the album as a whole is a lament on years lost to time. Maybe for some that is through the pandemic that prevented us from being as close to normalcy as we wish, and for others it is through choices that have taken them far away from where they thought they could or should be by now. I know for me I feel at 25 I should feel more secure in where I am and where I am headed. It’s comforting to know someone like Florence, who exudes pure confidence in her stage presence, struggles with the same idea.
Lyrically, this is a call back to Lungs and Ceremonials, where she spins her words into gold from ages ago – even calling a track “Cassandra”, a woman from Greek myth whose curse was telling the truth but never being believed. I think it is telling that we hear a song like this from Florence. She has been singing about the same thing for years, songs of bettering society and taking care of nature and finding the worth in ourselves, only for the world to sink deeper and deeper.
Back in 2018, when Florence’s last album released, none of us could have foreseen that we would be stuck in time for almost three years. Months and months of not being able to personally partake in art has taken its toll on artists and listeners alike. I am certainly not the same person who put up a piece on High as Hope. Even the title is hard to bear, because hope feels so far away these days. But if High as Hope was Florence at her most demure, an ode to where we have been, then Dance Fever is an ode to where we are going. Nowhere but up.
by Nadia Alves
Nadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.