The Wonder Behind Florence + The Machine’s Fairytale in “Dance Fever”
A true queen of the arts and creation, Florence Welch unveiled her fifth studio full-length album, Dance Fever, on Friday the 13th of May this year. At one point, the release sat on the top of the UK charts, and dwelled in the top ten in the US, all while becoming immediately critically-acclaimed since its release. Of all the magic and mystery from her releases in the past, Dance Fever combines all her past eras into one of epic proportions. The gentleness of Lungs and High As Hope, the drama of Ceremonials, and the intense storytelling fantasy of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful all contain themselves in mere tastes entombed in this album’s fullest.
Here is our break down of each track; only partially digested, for your impressions to fill in the gaps as you listen and take in…
“King” showcases an intense self-affirmation of identity as an introduction. We are introduced to a character who knows who she is and feels it deeply in her core being. From there, we begin to witness the struggles to simply be, and to exist in this plain of our world as we know it. Her art in itself is self-consuming, as she begins to shift and grow and transform into her fullest form. We as listeners are mere listeners in her experience as a warrior, a ruler over hearts and heavy is the weight of the crown she wears. And we see, too, that she’s forsaken all things “normal” to have the crown that fits her and only her.
And in the last line of the track, we are transitioned into the next chapter of the fairytale, a realization that control is merely an illusion for the character involved…
And I was never as good
as I always thought I was
But I knew how to dress it up.
I was never satisfied, it never let me go
Just dragged me by my hair
and back on with the show.
“Free” then floats as effortless sound in our ears. We are pulled into the sighs and sounds that feel much like the breath in our own lungs. The strings wail in the background as a synthy beat inspires the feet into movements of dance. For the first time, we experience the mania in the “choreomania,” the creativity as our main character is pulled and controlled by the Muse of inspiration that takes control of her every breath just as much as it seems to give her purpose and life.
And I hear the music
I hear the beat
and for a moment when I’m dancing
I am free
The torment and struggle it is to be a creative is fully fledged in this track, contrasted into an illusion of joyful melodies and frantic dancing. In reality, the creative and the characters involved are merely slumped over a desk or an instrument, trapped in their own creation… but when it comes into full fruition and completion… we are freed from the Muse and the chains it holds us in.
A quiet breath of poetry introduces to the next chapter of the album. “Choreomania” is the unofficial, official title track of the album. Defined as the “dancing madness” or “dance fever,” choreomania is defined as “n. an uncontrollable urge to dance, especially in a frenzied, convulsive manner. Major outbreaks of choreomania occurred in Europe during the Middle Ages…” (American Psychological Association).
Lyrically, the song is fairly simple in its own right, but you feel the struggle in your bones. Its something only Florence and the Machine can pull off as she resurrects the old souls of music that have been long lost to lack of substance and the urge to flush content into the world without an extra thought. And in creation, the character involved becomes manic, a continuation of the “freeing” feeling transformed into the urge to keep feeling the release that creating offers. Instead, the Muse pulls her back in and disappears for awhile. The character is left to her own devices, just spinning and longing for freedom…
Slowing the frenzy to a near standstill, the next track, “Back In Town,” faces all pains with no distractions to pull our character away. The still and the quiet forces her to confront her demons in their fullest as she is home for the first time in a long while… and she, too, finds out who her true friends are as they try to tell her to settle. And you sense she contemplates the feelings of settling as she sits with her feelings and finds solace in the process.
I came for the pleasure but I stayed
Yes I stayed for the pain
In the process of being home, in facing her demons, we are roped in to the experience of “Girls Against God.” Our main character looks real love in the face and “I don’t like it very much.”
What a thing to admit,
but when someone looks at me with real love,
I don’t like it very much.
It makes me feel like I’m being crushed…
Florence’s voice soars effortlessly in our ears as the acoustic guitar contrasts the intimate tone with all the more intimacy. A true “anti-love” song, our character lets out her contempt between the inevitable choice she’s facing between love and her drive for creating. She contemplates turning her back on a seemingly “God-given” right to have love, just like many typically would long for as the “end goal” in any fantasy story. Then the song transforms as Florence laughs maniacally and the instrumentals fade.
I met the devil
You know he gave me a choice
A golden heart or a
The first signs of toxicity are exposed in its fullest in the next chapter of Dance Fever. “Dream Girl Evil” shares a tangible feminine rage in the idea of settling for less, a kind of “love” that told her to “settle,” conform, and “become smaller” than what our main character truly longs for within.
Throughout the track, the anger continues to build and bubble below the surface. And we feel it begin to burst before she sits with her feelings and refuses to stuff them away and hide them from existing.
Did I disappoint you?
Did mummy make you sad?
Do I just remind you
of every girl that made you mad?
Make me perfect, make me your fantasy.
You know I deserve it
Well take it out on me.
“Prayer Factory” becomes the continuation of self expression. As she begins to feel what she’s distracted herself from or hidden from in the past, the track begins with an unsettling wail of Florence’s vocals as her fingers snap a beat that intensify further with strings and acoustic guitar. The single becomes a chant and a séance of its own.
As Florence expresses what once was hidden, a prayer factory forms of greater desires and more… And fear settles in, gripping her with thoughts she may never fully become what she knows deep down that she can. And so deeply, we feel, too, that tangible desire to become more and reach for our full potential, just as she does.
“Cassandra” is a song of grief, of the loss for the former girl who’s now lost her inner magic. And the grief pulls us as listeners along to feel this loss deeply. In settling for less, even for a moment, our main character loses her gifts as something far more divine. She shares her sorrows in conforming into a mold of someone else’s creation and told to fit herself within.
Well can you hear me
I cannot hear you
Every song I thought I knew
I’ve been deafened too
And there’s no one left to sing to..
And all the gods have been domesticated
And heaven is now overrated
And the churches they all closed their doors
With nothing left to worship as all the gifted and divine are cut from their heavens, all feeling lacks and there’s nothing left but to follow along blindly to those who reshaped our world to their own liking. Before the song ends, Florence’s voice trembles and her words form into more perfect poetry before breaking again into the main chorus.
Take me back
Oh drunken gods of slaughter
you know I’ve always been your
In following the previous chapter of this fairy tale, “Heaven Is Here” creates a safe place as our main character faces the path that she desires for still from within, rips open her eyes and creates a circle of protection in her song for any who share in her story and her journey.
Taking on the role as a protector, this space and circle is free from those who try to control, mold, and manipulate people into becoming small. Throughout the song, feet stomp to the beat, and march in unison to freedoms of their own design.
And every song I wrote
became an escape rope
tied around my neck
to pull me up to heaven
“Daffodil” begins with a gasp of fresh air. Florence admits to bend over from weeping, and watches the contrast with the resurrection that comes spring after a long winter of hardship and biting cold. The song title itself speaks to this resurrection. As daffodils are perennials, they wilt and return all the stronger the next year due to their strong root and footing within the ground.
In hoping to have something that seemed so “God-given” as love, our main character has lost the mythical from within. And its in this chapter where she pursues the form of herself that once was in order to become her truly divine self again.
There is no bad, there is no good
I drank every sky that I could
made myself mythical, tried to be real
saw the future in the face of a daffodil.
Now that she’s turned her back on the face of “true love,” we face the next chapter of Dance Fever. “My Love” shares a unique song about romance that shares not the loneliness, but an excess of a different form of love. It doesn’t emphasize the emptiness of a relationship gone, but simply the longing to express love and a desire to share it with an almost frantic energy.
This kind of love is its own magic, as the fairytales say, but it doesn’t heal the sick or cure old age… so where can it go instead?
An intense interlude of chanting and heavy drums, “Restraint” is merely two lines…
And have I learned restraint
Am I quiet enough for you yet
In just a few small words, we gain full access to this rage from within that projects all the feelings we are told to stifle and hide away, never to see the light again. It says instead, “No, I will not settle for less than what I really am. I will not be the quiet little thing, keeping her head down just so you can take up more space…”
The full turn away, and refusal to look back, “The Bomb” shares the ultimate choice our character makes between becoming “the girl” or writing “the song.”
It’s the grander, the bigger, and the bolder choice; to contradict those who told her to settle in. She stares the temptation to crumble into the cycle again, and like prey to a carnivorous flower, she is drawn in to its reach. And rather than repeating the loop of choosing to become “the girl,” she writes the song. And you can almost hear her kicking herself for using the situation itself to create the song, in all its chaos and pull.
I don’t love you, I just love the bomb
I let it burn but it had to be done
and I’m in ruins but is it what I wanted all along
sometimes you get the girl
sometimes you get the song
We then witness the final chapter of the album, “Morning Elvis.” In the pursuit of becoming more, of becoming divine, she follows her calling. But this, too, is another reflection of the past of Florence, contrasting into the fairytale and snapping us to a cold reality of what laid for her in her life like it had for many before her who also longed for more.
Florence Welch graces death and nearly joins the many who’ve passed away living the life of fame and music. Instead, she sweats it out.
And I’ll see you all with Elvis if I don’t survive night
Florence + The Machine has begun tour for Dance Fever, and all of us are very ready to dress in our best flower crowns and fringe as we, too, become part of the choreomania of her unmatched live presence. See full dates below:
Listen to Dance Fever below, available on all major streaming platforms: