Although Dance Fever was made through successive lockdowns, it isn’t another pandemic disco record, exactly. Choreomania – a track that comes early in Florence Welch’s fifth album – is named for a medieval epidemic of involuntary movement, a “dance fever” understood then as a form of possession, and now as more of a mass stress response. So while Welch channels Into the Groove-era-Madonna on Free – “when I’m dancing, I’m free” – the emphasis on these very grownup, self-aware songs is on exorcising, rather than exercising.
Welch’s last album, High As Hope (2018), was candid in its treatment of this artist’s internal turmoil, but Dance Fever has you crawling around, a fly on the wall in her therapist’s office. Like Adele’s 30, Dance Fever has a lot to say about being female, about self-sabotage and compromise; it strums the pain of her listenership with its fingers, grappling with a muse that is sometimes more albatross than ally.
With production started by super-producer Jack Antonoff but finished by Dave Bayley, the album takes a step back from the vast productions of Welch’s most famous work, with nods to the Rolling Stones (Dream Girl Evil) and plenty of unexpected chiaroscuro, the better to foreground her luxuriant voice.