I really do like Madonna's “Hung Up”. I was hesitant at first – not because, as Tim pointed out to me, it’s entirely structured around the ABBA sample (I might even be willing to dispute this, actually) – but because it seemed a little flat, with no heightening or even change in intensity the whole way through. But then I felt it: not so much a contrast as a threat, lying between that thin confession, “every little thing that you say or do” and the galloping, heavy, relentless, drive of the beat. It’s not quite the delicious will-to-self-effacement of “Deeper and Deeper” or “Die Another Day”, but it is something very similar: the menacing danger of being enveloped, engulfed, swallowed up. Like watching a tiny surfer on a monstrous wave. The track swells up around those fragile, desperate vocals – and breakdown is imminent.
Furthermore, it’s dystopian and futuristic, which is but one of the Thin White Duke / Jacques Lu Cont / Stuart Price signatures that I’m so taken with at the moment. Among these also are the obsession with time (tick-tocks are wonderfully urgent here) and that all-encompassing, intoxicating beat. It’s like a surging, pulsing hail storm from all sides.
And finally, the references aren’t cheap – it’s Madonna, so they have the effect of reassuring us that this is the next episode of the story. “Don’t cry for me…”, she sings. And ABBA gets more than a nod in theme and lyric, outside of the famous sample: “ring ring ring goes the telephone…” One could almost imagine that it’s half-past twelve in her flat all alone!
By the way, I have noticed recently that anytime a female vocalist uses some generic term of affection in a song – here Madonna with “baby”, but also Kate Bush’s “come on angel, come on, come on darlin’…”, Tori Amos’ “honey you bet your life…” – and countless others that I can’t think of now – I get weak at the knees. I think it’s something to do with the openness or intimacy of the lines – will have to give it more thought.