Keep the “Fighting Spirit”: The Empowering Gem Hidden in Madonna’s ‘Confessions’
They say that if you’re going through hell, keep going — and pick up a copy of Confessions on a Dance Floor on your way.
Madonna, Queen of Pop™, is considered an inspiration for myriad reasons, be it her lifelong commitment to using her platform to speak on social injustice, or simply her expert ability to find the right lighting for a selfie. (Her grasp of the cry-laughing emoji, however, still needs some fine-tuning.)
She’s shuffled her stilettos through nearly every genre over the past three decades (still waiting on that klezmer album, Esther), but there’s a connective lyrical tissue buried underneath that holds the whole body of work together: perseverance, in particular, is one of her most recurring themes.
“Don’t ever tell me to stop…”
“Don’t need to catch my breath, I can go on and on and on…”
“I’m gonna carry on…”
On Wednesday night, whilst cruising down the East River with a boatload of Madonna stans (none of that is a euphemism, oddly), I was reminded of one song in particular from Her Madgesty’s catalog that came blaring over the speakers early on, which I honestly haven’t heard in about a decade. In fact, I forgot it even existed in the first place.
“Fighting Spirit,” which only officially appeared on a limited deluxe edition release of Confessions on a Dance Floor, was co-written with Mirwais, M’s constant collaborator throughout the Music, American Life and Confessions on a Dance Floor eras during the early-to-mid ’00s.
Drifting along a hypnotic four-on-the-floor pulse, accented by electronic flourishes a la Music and some of the disco bells and strings that colored Confessions, Madge throws us right up against the wall.
“What you gonna do when your love is gone? / Who you gonna play when the game has ended? / Where you gonna go when the bird has flown? / How you gonna pray when you’re all alone?” (I’m pretty sure it’s “pray” in that last line, despite lyric sites suggesting it’s “play” again. Also, that third line is totally a nod to her own “Hollywood” from just a few years before. “This bird has flown…“)
Ever the assertive #UnapologeticBitch, Madonna wants to know: what you gonna do when the world comes crashing down? Don’t worry if you don’t have an answer right away. She’s got one prepared: “Keep the fighting spirit of love.”
It’s a simple, straightforward, optimistic and oh-so-Madonna call to arms; one that continues to echo throughout her work up to Rebel Heart. (The post-apocalyptic “Ghosttown,” for instance: “We’re gonna shine like gold in this mad, mad world…“)
“There’s a lot of madness in the world around us, and I want people to be happy,” she told MTV during the time she was promoting Confessions. Girl, if you thought the world seemed off a decade ago…
“Fighting Spirit” is cool musically, if only because it sounds like a demo that perfectly bridges the gap between the politically woke, introspective American Life and the escapist love letter to the dance floor that is Confessions.
The message, however, stands out — maybe now more than ever.
Beyond the bullshit plaguing our world, past personal dramas you’re dealing with, and despite whatever clever trickery your inner saboteur might playing (as RuPaul would call the devilish voice inside), just remember: keep the fighting spirit alive, baby.