Kylie Minogue – “X”
Reviewed by Christopher Smith
17th May 2005. The world awoke to the shocking news the Kylie had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Goodwill messages poured in from across the showbiz world, including a heartfelt email from Madonna. Fans poured sympathy across social media and those who had never followed Kylie sent messages of hope and encouragement. Her Showgirl world tour was cancelled as Kylie went into treatment, chemotherapy and the unknown…
A year and a half later, on 11th November 2006, Kylie walked out on stage in front of a crowd of 12,000 in Sydney to a standing ovation that lasted ten minutes. She was back. She was better. And she was shining. It marked the beginning of a new chapter in her career. The Showgirl Homecoming tour moved to the UK at the end of that year and played to 100% capacity audiences into the beginning of 2007.
At this same time, writing and recording began for her ‘comeback’ album. Her tenth studio album. What would we get? How would the pain and triumph of the previous two years affect its production? One thing was for sure, like a pure white diamond, Kylie would shine. On and on and on and on and on!
1. 2 Hearts
Our first taste of this new album came in October 2007, and it was very different. “2 Hearts” is more pop/rock than anything Kylie had recorded previously. At under three minutes, it’s quirky and takes some getting used to. The video sees Kylie performing the song on stage with a band behind her, like a rock anthem, and it’s great to see her so vibrant and alive. The single topped the chart in Australia and peaked at #4 in the UK. But as an opening track, it feels at odds with the rest of the album, as we shall see…
2. Like A Drug
The beat, the crackle and the sizzle of “Like A Drug” begins this album properly. We’re in more familiar territory now, this is pop/dance Kylie and it’s sublime. This girl wants to dance, and it’s ‘like a drug’ being on the floor. And how superb this would be when Kylie performed it live the following year, arriving on stage on an enormous jewel encrusted skull!
3. In My Arms
The synths and ‘boards at the beginning of “In My Arms” fill your head with blazing vibes, “how do you describe a feeling?” asks Kylie, then…POW!…musical explosion. This is it! Glorious electric energy and abundance of sounds that coat you in joyous ecstasy. “Dj’s spinning up my favorite song, hurry up and get a groove on” commands Kylie, and with Calvin Harris’s effervescently cool production, we are guided through three and a half minutes of pure pop perfection. This was released as the second single worldwide with the exception of the UK, where it succeeded “Wow” as the third commercial release. It proved a huge hit in all territories, making the top 10 in 13 countries and top 20 in a further six.
“Music makes you lose control” identifies Kylie at the very beginning of the next stomping tune, courtesy of Bloodshy and Avant (‘Confessions On A Dancefloor’). And if you play this through your speakerphone, that track repeat will go on and on! It’s another fresh, new sound to this already growing mix of superb pop/dance numbers. “Drop your socks and grab your mini boom box”. Done!
Who could of thought a dog barking would turn out to be one of the standout tracks of this album? “Sensitized” is a brilliant, groovy dance tune, full of passion and funky tones, and it could, nay should of been released as a single! Kylie vibrates with every verse and chorus as she breathlessly repeats “I’m sensitized tonight and you can watch me come alive” again and again. It doesn’t get much better than this!
6. Heart Beat Rock
More funky dance now as Kylie tells us “I’ve been around the world, but I’m not those other girls, I’m feeling special do you like what you see?”. And she will make your ‘heart beat rock’ with this jammin’ hot tune!
7. The One
Described as Blonde meets “Better The Devil You Know”, “The One” commands and stands high above its surroundings. With this one song, Kylie was back. It’s familiar, it’s comforting and above all it’s Kylie at her absolute best. Angelgic and power vocals dominate the final minute of this four minute epic, which perhaps, should of been the lead single of this period in her career…? It was ultimately given a superb remix by Freemasons in 2008 and released together with glorious black and white video that continuously winds and moves towards you. Perfection.
8. No More Rain
The tone goes down with the beautiful “No More Rain”, but it’s certainly no ballad. It does however shimmer and radiate with class and style, and is very autobiographical of everything that had happened in Kylie’s recent life. “Sun coming up on another day, got a second hand chance gonna do it again” she positively tells us. And there are “rainbow colours and no more rain”. Anthemic and emotional, this is yet another standout on an album of ever increasing brilliance.
9. All I See
New jack swing meets R&B now with the low-key “All I See”, which grooves along much like “Chocolate” did, but without the sensuousness or floatiness of that song. Kylie’s vocals, nevertheless, are smooth and soothing as she explains “doesn’t matter what’s going on, or who’s around us, all I see is you”. She’s clearly focused on one man, and that’s all that matters. This was released in the US in early 2008 and reached No.3 on the hot play dance chart, and as part of the marketing of the song and the album, a video was made with dancer Marco da Silva.
Gorgeous Balearic dance rhythms now as “Stars” returns us to more recognisable chilled pop/dance. It’s as laid back as a hot summer day on the beach, while being as lively as an evening at the club…”go tonight, go tonight, go tonight”!
“You got it, you’re wow, wow, wow”! And this song has got ‘WOW’ in buckets. Right from the fast keys the open this song to the rush of synths prior to the opening of the first verse. “Wow” is a glorious window to the past that harks back to the best of S.A.W., but coated in twenty-first century glitz and magic. It also has a very Eurovision feel to it, and perhaps if Kylie was to of represented the UK in that competition, this is the song that could of won it…?! It was released in the UK as the second single and peaked at #5, but hung around the chart long enough to sell shed loads of copies. For the rest of the world, “Wow” followed “In My Arms” as the third single, but was no less a hit than its predecessor.
Oh! “Time to strip down, just pop that zipper for me” sings Kylie! It doesn’t last long, but “Nu-di-ty” is blunt and to the point. Depends if you like your sauce hot or cold…!
The album closes with the soulful tone and beat of “Cosmic”. “I wanted to write a song called ‘Cosmic'” and she did, with Eg White (“Leave Right Now”, “Shiver”)! It’s heartfelt and wistful and often very touching. “I put these things aside for years, ’til laughter took the place of tears, it’s like I was asleep yet now I’m here” Kylie concludes. And we’re so grateful she is.
With the working title “Magnetic Electric”, it was decided that as this was her tenth studio album, it would be much clever being called “X” – the Roman numeral for ten. For the first time since the deconstruction years, a large number of songs would be written and submitted for this album. At least 30 were recorded, most never reaching the final version. Some were used as B sides for singles. But many were simply discarded and left to internet posts on free media websites. Those lost included “Taprobane” (an Indian ocean island where Kylie spent much of her recovery), the intended title track “Magnetic Electric”, “Everlasting Love/Ruffle My Feathers” (which would later be performed on the X2008 tour) and the Boy George penned “Survival (I’m Ready)”.
“X” was released in late November 2007 and was just what Kylie’s audience had been waiting for and wanted more than anything else. Her first studio album of new material for four years topped the Australian album chart, her third release to do so, and her first since “Fever” six years earlier. It also proved a big hit across Europe and the Far East. In the United Kingdom the album charted at No.4 and went on to be platinum certified, yo-yo-ing up and down the UK album chart for nearly a whole year. It also charted in the US at No.139 and No.4 on the Dance Electronic chart.
To date “X” has sold over 1.2m copies worldwide, no doubt helped by the X2008 world tour in which Kylie played to nearly half a million fans, and almost all venues being sold out completely. With song writing, recording, promotion and touring, Kylie spent a total of two and a half years with “X”. At the beginning of 2009, attention would turn to the next project for the pop goddess of love and beauty(!)
As a footnote, “X” is an album of immense personal meaning for me. At the time of its release, my Mother was diagnosed with double lung cancer. She underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy in the early months of 2008, and whilst we both had been due to see Kylie perform on the X2008 tour, my Mother’s health would preclude our attendance. She sadly passed away a few days before Christmas. Today, whenever I attend a Kylie show, I always look up and know my Mummy is watching the concert from a seat money cannot buy.
I wish, therefore, to dedicate this review to her.
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