It’s No Secret
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Kylie Minogue
this year - more on that a bit later. I guess it takes a while for critics to warm up to iconic artists but there were a few, back in 1987, who were not 100% in love with Minogue. Her first singles, Locomotion and I Should Be So Lucky, gained great reviews but there were some who were not too hot. The latter track was released in 1987 but redone for a 1988 release – The Loco-Motion did not chart in her native Australia but was a hit around the world (her 1987 version was a number-one in Australia). It may make her sound old but I remember listening to her debut album, Kylie, when it came out. Granted, I was born in 1983 so I was only five when the album was released here in July 1988. Her songs had been out in the world the year before but the 1988 release was the first album from Minogue. The cover sees a young-looking and cherub-like artist who was sporting some rather nifty 1980s hair! I connected harder with Minogue’s music by the 1990s but one cannot overlook the Pop brilliance and catchiness of her early songs. I am in two minds whether her debut is her strongest early work or if that honour belongs to Enjoy Yourself. One of the things that galls me most is the sort of reviews the sophomore album received.
IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images
A lot of snobby critics were harsh about the record and felt there were too many lightweight songs. I love both of her first two albums and there are plenty of cuts from the debut that stand up. I love I Should Be So Lucky and The Loco-Motion. They are some of the biggest hits of her career but you can throw It’s No Secret and Got to Be Certain into the mix! It is a solid record and one that announced this rare and wonderful talent. The Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman-written songs provided a perfect platform for Kylie Minogue to shine from. The young artist was hungry and instantly popular and while it would be a few years before her finest album came along, she was producing these fresh and memorable songs. If some critics felt the songs on the record were a little light and simple; the sheer personality and verve of Minogue sold them. The follow-up album provided more hits and, in my view, saw Minogue strengthen as a performer. I listened a lot to the songs from Enjoy Yourself when I was a child and heard a lot of the songs, strangely, on family holidays in Britain. We would holiday abroad but it was the local holidays that introduced me to Minogue’s great songs. I would hear her songs on the radio and share them with friends but, by the time her second album came along, I was hooked.
I would not necessarily listen to songs like this now – the more sugar-sweet Pop songs of today are more aimed at young girls and a different audience – but Minogue’s music remains universal. I love the subtle changes between her first and second albums. The covers are similar – by the second album, Minogue is a bit more confident on camera but sports a similar look. With big hits like Hand on Your Heart, Wouldn’t Change a Thing and Never Too Late starting the album in fine style, Enjoy Yourself is an appropriate direction to the listeners. I love the charm and the sense of fun through. The songs have a distinct personality and are not merely retreads of what was around in the late-1980s. Kylie Minogue sells and delivers everything with aplomb, style and grace. Rhythm of Love opened the 1990s in style and, in a year when the likes of Deee-Lite were adding a new spin to the scene, it was refreshing to hear Minogue taking some of the 1980s with her! That is not to say her third album lacks modernity and progressiveness. If anything, Rhythm of Love is my favourite album from the early stage of Minogue’s career. Soon enough, she would evolve once more...but I shall get to that soon. The Stock, Aitken and Waterman machine continued to crank out the solid hits!
What Do I Have to Do and Better the Devil You Know are instant classics but the song from my childhood I associate with Kylie Minogue is Step Back in Time. It is hard to compare her with any other Popstar at the time – including Madonna – and that is a good thing. Minogue kept Step Back in Time in her tour repertoire for quite a few years after its release and, with its infectious video, the song struck a chord and captivated the masses. As she moved through the decade – Minogue was producing an album a year – the songs became more diverse and the performances more solid. Let’s Get It On (1991) showed she could switch between emotions and the album saw a more soulful and interesting production shine through. Disappearing were the colour covers with Minogue smiling and projecting innocent. From 1991, her album covers were sporting black-and-white images where she was moodier and more alluring. 1994’s Kylie Minogue arrived at a time when music was at its strongest and most varied. Another Pop idol, Madonna, was ready to release her most mature and important album, Bedtime Stories, and Kylie Minogue was embarking on a new chapter. Minogue was stepping into new genres by 1994. Middle Eastern grooves and darker tones mixed alongside her usual disposition. 1994 saw her with a new label, Deconstruction, and it allowed her more creative freedom.
IN THIS PHOTO: Kylie Minogue in 1994/PHOTO CREDIT: Rankin
The Stock-Aitken-Waterman magic had dried up and she was looking for a new lease. Deconstruction allowed her to step more into Dance territory and songs such as Confide in Me sound completely foreign to the work she was putting out a few years earlier. A stylish, slick and experimental track; Confide in Me saw Minogue blossom and move in a way we had never heard before! It is a risk for any established artist to take a big step but others would – 1998’s Ray of Light was Madonna’s Minogue-like reinvention into Dance territory. I think Minogue was unhappy with her label prior to 1994 and felt that there was little room to move left and right. PWL were not willing to give Minogue the options and freedom she needed: things changed with Deconstruction and this meant her second phase was underway and a bigger critical success. Impossible Princess of 1997 had to adapt to the changing musical styles happening. Britpop was ending and guitar music from the U.S. was coming in more. Minogue’s sixth album kept the Dance template but there were softer moments and some Britpop-esque numbers. It was a perfect bridge between her older roots and what would arrive soon enough. Some were not instantly taken to the new direction but retrospective reviews were kinder and more open-minded. I think the fact Minogue co-wrote the entire album meant it was a more personal and natural recording.
When Minogue stepped into the 1990s, she was rising in fame but there were still a bit of her 1980s sound around. She would throw off those layers and increase her confidence soon enough but I was glad to see some of her debut magic remain in 1990. As she moved in 2000, she needed to release an album that started things off with a bang – Light Years remains one of Minogue’s finest and most daring around. We all know the Spinning Around video and those famous golden hot pants. To guys of my age – I was seventeen at the time… – it was a bit of a fantasy and I must have played the video to death. I love the song as well and it is a sort of left-turn back into Pop. One could detect the embers of her experimental albums and Dance but Light Years is a breezier and more airy offering than the previous two records. With Parlophone as her label, Minogue was joined by new writers and collaborators – including Guy Chambers and Robbie Williams – and she was (again) a co-writer on all tracks. Maybe there was some commercial disappointment before Light Years’ release but an artist like Kylie Minogue was not going to be deterred. Maybe it was timing or the fact the music industry had changed; whatever the reason, Minogue was at her most assured and consistent. There are plenty of highlights on the record – including Spinning Around and her duet with Robbie Williams, Kids – and the songwriting is solid.
In terms of genres, you get some softer tones and Dance groove; there are Disco and House splicings and it is amazingly strong record. The reviews that met Light Years’ release were among the most passionate and positive of Minogue’s career. AllMusic assessed the album like this:
“In 1998, Kylie Minogue was dropped by dance label DeConstruction, and some thought she had committed career suicide. Obviously the backlash of 1997's Impossible Princess taught the diminutive Aussie one important lesson. Sometimes you have to just go with what you know -- go back to basics. And that's just what Minogue has done with 2000's Light Years. Symbolically dropping her last name from the cover, she re-enters the territory that made her great. Granted, with the teen pop movement at its strongest, one could say she just has good timing, but this work is leaps and bounds better than her Stock-Aitken-Waterman work. Light Years is not just another Minogue dance-pop record, but a great collection of disco stylings and Europop kitsch. "Spinning Around" is a fun and string-laden declaration that she may have made a mistake back in 1997, and the Robbie Williams/Guy Chambers-penned "Your Disco Needs You" is probably one of the best dance songs of the '90s. Arguably one of the best disco records since the '70s, Light Years is Minogue comfortable with who she is and what she's good at”.
IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images
One would forgive Minogue for taking some time out but the popularity of Light Years – combined with touring commitments – meant there was little room for breath. One of the defining characteristics of Kylie Minogue is her warmth in interviews and her radiance. If she was under any strain you would not know about it. She is a constant source of sunshine and warmth and keen to promote her new album. Light Years was barely out of sight before 2001’s Fever arrived. The world was strained in October 2001 – this was a few weeks after the terrorist attacks on New York – and it was a hard time to release new material. If the 1980s albums covers from Kylie Minogue projected a singer sweetly smiling and in playful mood; by the 2000s, Minogue was this confident, in controlling artist – much more a complete product and star than a merely promising artist. Fever’s cover finds Minogue with microphone aloft, in the throes of a passionate song. Fever boasted plenty of epic hits. Not only was there Love at First Sight and Come into My World; Can’t Get You Out of My Head and In Your Eyes made it a truly essential album. Whilst Minogue did not co-write all of the songs, there were fewer cooks in the kitchen and, as a result, Fever seems like a more accessible, instant and simple album.
Over six-million copies of Fever sold worldwide and one can see the popularity of the record and how it changed Pop. From Britney Spears’ new dynamic to Madonna embracing Dance/Disco on Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005); it remains an influential album to this day and the very best from Minogue. I am not sure what was happening in Minogue’s life around the time of Fever but she sounds more comfortable, happy and inventive. Perhaps it was fresh love or new writers; a momentum that would continue or a moment when she felt truly safe in her own skin. Gone were the days of being directed by a label and having to fit into the charts. The legendary Pop artist – only thirty-three at the time – was showing the new breed how it is done! Maybe there was not as much depth as one would hope on some songs but the icon was in her thirties and she was determined to have fun and cut loose – able to show maturity and keen intellect on a number of tracks. Post-Fever albums would become less dancey and more sophisticated. There was no artist who could touch Minogue by 2003’s Body Language. X arrived in 2007 and the gap was explained by the fact Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. Again, this news and setback would floor many but Minogue battled and was back in sparkling form by 2007.
She was still carrying emotional scars but the music popped and sparkled. Savvy and passionate throughout; Minogue was committed to the material and invested in every breath. With a new lease of life and determined to keep on top of the world, 2010’s Aphrodite was a success. All the Lovers and Get Outta My Way are classic Minogue cuts and, with every album, she was embracing new sounds. AllMusic, again, nailed Minogue’s intentions and were very positive about Aphrodite:
“This ability to tailor her performance to the song is a rare quality in the pop world of the early 2010s. It may lead people to underestimate Kylie's artistry but really, Aphrodite is the work of someone who knows exactly what her skills are and who to hire to help showcase them to perfection. She and her team have crafted an album that’s both full of songs that could/should hit the upper reaches of the charts, and also a collection of songs that hang together as an album. One of her best, in fact”.
Kiss Me Once, in 2014, was filled with songs about freedom, empowerment and new beginnings. Whilst not as big a shift as some of her previous albums, Kiss Me Once is another solid album and proof that there is no slowing Kylie Minogue. Perhaps the biggest shift of the past couple of decades came between Kiss Me Once and last year’s Golden.
IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify
That may be a bold claim but Minogue’s latest album saw her record a lot in Nashville; co-write all the tracks for the first time since 1997 and adopt new sounds into her music. There are Country and Folk touches and considering we were used to Dance, Pop and Disco, it was quite a strange thing hearing Golden. Minogue is always moving and exploring so it should have shocked few when she announced Golden. Minogue described the songwriting for Golden as a form of therapy and, whilst there are Pop and Dance moments, it is the new Nashville influence that results in some of the most tender and interesting songs of her career. I have been a bit narrow regarding Golden: there are plenty of styles working away and the record is a smart and assured offering. Minogue, once more, was leading the field and standing out in a disposable scene. A lot of new artists are generic and bland but, with Golden, here was an artist who could have compromised and played it safe – Minogue was always shifting and looking to break new ground. Dancing and One Last Kiss are songs that hit you when you hear them once but you will keep coming back. There were some great reviews but this one, from musicOHM, is glowing.
“Radio On is a ballad about coping with heartache by listening to the radio, while the album’s final track – Music’s Too Sad Without You, a duet with Jack Savoretti– also touches on the importance of music as a place marker in life. Both tracks are downbeat and show a rare weakness, as her voice lacks the depth to carry them off with any great impact. Sad Kylie is much more effective when she’s dusting herself down and dancing her cares away…
Just in case you weren’t sure who you were listening to, Raining Glitter is not only in the running for the campest song title of all time award, but also a career defining key change – it’s THE sound of Kylie. But on the whole her vocals are relaxed and she sounds at ease, at home. This is pop for the whole family. She’s done a Take That; created a grown-up, Radio 2-playlist, guitar-driven, dance-flecked album with a warm glow.
Golden stands alongside her classic records; in a world of disposable music, Kylie’s return is welcome and shows how slick, smart pop music should be done”.
That is a bit of a whistle-stop tour through the complete work of Kylie Minogue. I wanted to write this for a number of reasons. Not only has she been releasing music for over thirty years and continuing to shine; she is an icon who should act as a guide to new songwriters. She is still only fifty and there are many more years to come from Minogue. The Pop scene is becoming less interesting and more homogenised and a lot of artists are unwilling to dare.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Kylie Minogue
Minogue started her days with a distinct songwriting team and, to an extent, controlled and directed by her label. As she stepped into the 1990s and continued to grow, Minogue would start taking more control and bringing about these huge evolutions. I feel there are very few icons around but Minogue is one of the last survivors. She has managed to adapt to the changes in the music industry and,, although there have been some minor albums and bumps, her popularity is unchanged and there is always demand for new Minogue material. I also wanted to talk about her upcoming slot at Glastonbury. She will play the ‘legends’ slot this year and it will be a great occasion for her to perform a career-spanning set. It might sound a little insulting calling someone a legend – if it age-related or dismissive – but the compliment is pure and just. There are few musicians around today who can be seen as a legend but Kylie Minogue definitely warrants that tag. There is huge ageism in music and the mainstream wants things to be shiny, accessible and undemanding. It is great having artists like Kylie Minogue to show how things should be done and rebelling against stiff demands. Now she is in her sixth decade, one wonders where she will head next and what her next album will contain. She has a lot of tour dates around the world and heads to Australia fairly soon.
Life has changed a lot since her 1987 debut but the hearts she has won...they cannot be counted! I remember listening to her as a child in the 1980s and early-1990s and was captured by these exceptional and catchy songs. Watching her grow and embrace new genres opened my eyes to new worlds. I was not sure whether a Pop artist could do that and had seen few evolve so consistently. The music side is impressive but Minogue constantly impresses in interviews. She has so much warmth and time for people and, if she has been uninvolved and distant at times, it does not show. So few artists manage to win you with their music and personality but Minogue strikes on both fronts. She is a fashion icon and her looks have wowed; her musical development is unabated and she is always looking to keep things moving. I might not be able to make it to Glastonbury but it will be a big gig for her and chance for thousands to celebrate a music legend. At a time in history when music is becoming more throwaway and we are always looking for that new thing and sensation...having Minogue as a constant and rock is refreshing. We might get bored of other musicians and not stick with them but, when it comes to the decades-ruling Pop queen, there is no way...
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Kylie Minogue
PEOPLE will ever grow tired of her.