Kylie Minogue – “Rhythm Of Love”
1990. The Stone Roses. Happy Mondays. Vanilla Ice. That long hot summer of dance. The start of a new decade marked a huge shift in music style and taste. Just where would Stock Aitken Waterman fit in to this and moreover, would they be able to keep up with the pace of change?
Their biggest star ‘shocked’ everyone in the first month of the decade by stepping out to the premier of her debut film ‘The Delinquents’ wearing a wig and clutching the arms of one Michael Hutchence. Was this just too much, and was this the beginning of the end of Kylie or indeed for that matter PWL itself? Sometimes, it’s just better the devil you know!
If there has been one album that defines Kylie’s career more than any other, it is “Rhythm Of Love”. Today we are “Golden“, but that album could not have happened if it were not for this one. There’s only one way to discover how or why, and that’s by stepping back in time. So turn your volume loud and prepare to be shocked!
1. Better The Devil You Know
An album can often be judged by it first track and no album begins with a more magnificent song than this. For many Kylie fans, the wider music world and even the most hardened of critics, this is the song that towers above all others. Kylie had forged a huge career in 1988 and 1989 with a string of bubblegum pop classics that appealed to teenage ears the world over. Forget that. In May 1990 we got a new sound and wow what an entrance! From the first few seconds, this was definitely something very different. It’s still a pop song, but it crosses so effortlessly over to a hip dance tune with a marked change in Kylie’s vocal strength as she crests over each of the choruses and finally builds to that almighty “saaaaaaaaaay yeah”. It had an impact on all us teenagers then and it still does now. Timeless and utterly,utterly brilliant. “Better The Devil You Know” was met with huge critical acclaim and was a big chart hit for Kylie around the world. Many believe it has yet to be topped. They could be right!
2. Step Back In Time
Do you wanna funk? Do you wanna funk? Do you wanna F-F-U F U N K? We already are! Take a thumping 90’s dance track, add some guitars and a liberal dose of 70’s music references and what do you get? This. A joyous panache tribute song that was the precursor to this albums release. After a quiet summer recording in LA, New York and London, Kylie returned in the Autumn of 1990 with this absolute classic that is loved so much today as it was back then. The Second single was a top five hit in both the UK and Australia as well as across Europe while the song would eventually give its name to the title of a Kylie anthology nearly thirty years later.
3. What Do I Have To Do?
Just as you thought it couldn’t get any better, then song number three winds itself up and explodes in your face! With a backdrop of concert cheering, this euphoric dance anthem should have been the follow up to BTDYK, but that crown was passed to “Step Back In Time”. “What Do I Have To Do?” features sultry vocals in each verse but soon Kylie dominates the chorus asking us “how can I prove that I really love you, love you?”. The track was reproduced when released as a single in January 1991 to critical acclaim, but I think the original album version is the better. Its fast paced and never lets up from its first note to the third chorus fade. “What Do I Have To Do?” is yet another Kylie classic that remains an all-time favourite for many and is more than welcome at every concert Kylie chooses to dust this glorious crowd-pleaser off.
After three banging dance anthems, the tone is taken down slightly with “Secrets”, but certainly the quality does not subside. It could so easily have been put on the previous album “Enjoy Yourself”, but we’re grateful it’s here as Kylie informs us that “there are secrets that you never knew”. Oooooh do tell… The song was recorded by British soap actress and sometime singer Sophie Lawrence but it wasn’t a hit. Perhaps as Kylie had blessed us with this version, it was hard to shake off the appearance that it was just another Kylie song that PWL had given to another artist in the hope that it would lead to chart success.
5. Always Find The Time
Back on the pop/dance again and “Always Find The Time” is such a great song that works so well on a bright sunny day. Again, more great vocals from Kylie as she definitely seems more at ease and relaxed with each recording session for this album.
6. The World Still Turns
So here it is. The first of four songs written by Kylie for this album, and what a song! A tender heartfelt pop ballad with a very grown up sound, strong vocals from Kylie and an awesome saxophone middle-eight. “It’s easy to survive, now that I finally realise” maybe this is Kylie confirming to us that she can work out of the ‘PWL box’ and write a great tune on her own…? “The World Still Turns” is a standout track for me and a first insight into Kylie’s own abilities as more than just a recording artist.
It’s not often that an album can spawn four unforgettable hit singles, but “Rhythm Of Love” does and here is single number four. When first released, many critics cited “Shocked” as the standout track of the album. Harder-edged than anything else Kylie had released prior, the long intro into the vocal builds and builds until eventually electric guitars elevate it to a new plain. And that’s how it stays for its near five-minute length. Kylie was shocked by the power and so were we. We still are. The song was released in the Spring of 1991, twelve months on from “Better The Devil You Know”, yet it maintainted continuity with a top ten placing in the UK and her home country.
8. One Boy Girl
So here’s another track written by Kylie and produced by Keith Cohen and while many people at the time we slating her for copying Madonna, “One Boy Girl” is quite clearly leaning into Janet Jackson territory. Replete with Kylie rapping before the final choruses. And it’s actually quite credible. This is more New Jack Swing meets pop/dance but up’s the tempo of the album from her two previous studio releases.
9. Things Can Only Get Better
Back to the tried and trusted Stock Aitken Waterman formula for this song which follows on so well from the ‘big four’ tracks of this album. Electric guitars are sprayed all over this song which is also full of great handy hints about life and growing up. “It’s in your hands now to change your fortune, to change your future, be proud of yourself”. Forget the D:Ream song of the same name, Kylie’s “Things Can Only Get Better” will lift you up when you’re feeling down or have been through tough times and remind you that everything will actually be alright in the end.
10. Count The Days
The album closes with the two remaining tracks written by Kylie and produced by Stephen Bray (“Into The Groove”, “Express Yourself”) and it shows with this song that could almost of been recorded by Madonna herself. Kylie tells her man that he will be “her only lover”. It’s just a shame that he wasn’t.
11. Rhythm Of Love
Another great slice of funky 90’s pop and more sax over the middle-eight, together with more self-assured vocals from Kylie, and this is the perfect closer to a perfect album. Oh, and Kylie uses a word I don’t think has ever been used on any song before or since. Syncopated. Try getting that into “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”!
The cover of this album says it all. A sexy young woman who is very aware of herself. Even the name ‘Minogue’ has been dropped. Kylie had taken control and this is what things were going to look like and sound like. “Rhythm Of Love” was released in November 1990 and for the first time a Kylie album received positive reviews from critics across the world. Every Kylie album there has been since, exists because of this one. Its production was more dynamic and refined.
By taking more control of her image and her destiny, Kylie, together with PWL, produced an absolutely magnificent album that probably saved her from the bargain bin and eternal silence. For many die-hard Kylie fans, “Rhythm Of Love” has yet to be topped, and listening to it again 30 years on, it still sounds as fresh today as it did in that big year of change that was 1990.
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