Kylie Minogue – ‘Kiss Me Once’
Reviewed by Christopher Smith
In February 2013 Kylie signed a new management deal with US record label Roc Nation, encompassing marketing and tour promotion. Having spent nearly thirty years with Terry Blamey, who had watched her grow up from a child actress to a global singing star, the move seemed to indicate Kylie’s desire to reignite the US flame once more with her next studio recording. Writing and recording for this, the twelfth album, had already begun with such diverse name as Australian singer Sia Furler, US rapper and songwriter Pharrell Williams and US songwriters Kelly Sheehan and Greg Kurstin. Mich Hansen aka Cutfather who had contributed “Get Outta My Way” on the “Aphrodite” album returned as did Karen Poole who had worked with Kylie since the “Body Language” album. Recording predominantly took place in Los Angeles and New York, with some additional mixing occurring in London.
On 28th May 2013, Kylie’s 45th birthday, she released a taster of what was to come with the song “Skirt”, a fast moving electronic-dance track co-written with DJ and producer Chris Lake and US songwriter and rapper Terius Youngdell Nash aka The-Dream. The song was positively received and topped the US dance hot play chart when released the following month, a further indication that the US was indeed the epicentre of this masterpiece. Kylie had been here before after the huge success of “Fever” in 2002 and its follow up “Body Language” which had not fared as well either Stateside or in other parts of the world. Releasing “Skirt” was planned to launch this exciting phase of her career and prepare the world for a new album. As 2013 turned into 2014 a pair of red lips began to appear to herald its arrival. Just how would this eagerly awaited new direction turn out?…
1. Into The Blue
Soon after those big red lips appeared came the announcement “#KM2014 ❤️💋❤️#IntoTheBlue”. What was this? An album title? We would soon find out with video clips and audio tasters of a new sound and what would become the lead single from this new project. And what a sound! Strings, synths and drum programming, this was an epic, outstanding return. Kylie vocals soar over the massive double chorus, giving strength and unashamed majesty to this magnificent song. Kylie also acknowledges that it doesn’t always have to be about status to record sheer brilliant music. Her words “I don’t care if the world is mine, cause this is all I know” couldn’t be more true of an artist now in her fourth decade of performing, who simply loves recording and giving new music to her fans and the world at large. “Into The Blue” was released in stages across the world from January through to March, topping the US dance hot play chart yet again and reaching the top ten in six countries throughout Europe and the Far East. Sadly, It only reached No.12 in the UK and No.46 in Australia, her lowest charting lead single since “Some Kind Of Bliss” in 1997. Nevertheless, “Into The Blue” has become a real crowd pleaser at concerts and live shows as a show-stopping finale extravaganza. Bathe repeatedly in its majesty.
2. Million Miles
Balearic beats and a distant sound of “Stars” now as “Million Miles” kicks off superb pop/dance rhythms and Kylie’s effervescent vocals. Written and produced by Cutfather (“Get Outta My Way”) this is power pop at its very best and oh so should of been a single, a worthy Summer anthem if ever there was… Kylie states at one point “can we love just a little bit harder, my heart’s beating to this drum” (vaguely reminiscent of “Sweet Music”) on her quest to catch her man, but as ever, he seems too far away. A “Million Miles” away. Brilliantly cool and definitely a top track as this album shapes up, so far, to be a great one.
3. I Was Gonna Cancel
So here comes the Pharrell Williams song! It’s a typical Pharrell upbeat song that Kylie handles with virtually no effort whatsoever. “Go, go, go, gooooo, go go go girl” she sings as she realises ‘he’ ain’t the one. And that’s why she was gonna cancel! This was released as the second (and ultimately final) single in April 2014. The lyric video is actually more interesting than the video proper for this song, which sees Kylie singing as various people walk on by. The lyric video uses multi-coloured words as they twist and turn through each verse and chorus. Whether it was poor marketing or a dislike of the song itself, “I Was Gonna Cancel” was not a commercial success and received only a limited release. It reached No.59 in the UK and eventually made No.5 on the US dance hot play chart, breaking Kylie’s run of No.1’s on that chart she had achieved since 2010.
4. Sexy Love
Sounds of “Wow” now from the sexy “Sexy Love” that bounces along then opens up wide into a bright and joyous chorus. Kylie hits those high notes again and again both in verse and chorus. The song itself is a riot of funky sounds and intense drum programming. It was planned to make this the third single in the Summer of 2014, but it was not to happen. Instead Kylie’s charity single “Crystallize” was put out, reaching No.60 in the UK charts.
R&B meets dance now with the passionate, sexual “Sexercize” that sees Kylie using erotic posture as part of her daily fitness routine! You can almost hear the gyrating of the hips with each verse and chorus particularly with repetitive lines like “let me see you bounce bounce, bounce, bounce”! This is the first track on the album written by Sia Furler. An X-rated promotional video was made of this song to get the album noticed across the globe, and although never released as a single, it has an ever climbing YouTube count in the tens of millions. Depends how sexy you like or want your Kylie…
6. Feels So Good
Kylie reworks Wolverhampton-born songwriter Tom Aspaul’s song “Indiana” now as an electro-dance number retitled “Feels So Good” and things get back to an even keel. The track builds and builds with each verse and chorus as Kylie’s voice gets stronger and more dominant. Kylie reminds us over and over that it “feels so good” and this song sure does. Perhaps a missed opportunity for a Summer single that would of crossed over so well to the clubs and dance charts around the world.
7. If Only…
Rousing and epic-aspiring sounds now courtesy of US producer and engineer Ariel Rechtshaid, ensure diversity and difference with each and every track on this long player. The chorus is awash with superb drum programming only bettered by Kylie’s dramatic vocals. She muses “If only two hearts were not left to be lonely, If only true love was waiting in the wings only, if only…” And just as you stand upright and salute this mini masterpiece, it fades completely away! Just like that. Another contender for a potential single, if only…(!)
8. Les Sex
If you’ve not had “Sexy Love” nor “Sexercize’d” then it’s time for “Les Sex”! How much sex can you take on one Kylie album? And it’s littered with lines like “les love, les sex, les lo oh” again and again, and if that’s not enough for you, then have some “les love, les sex, les drugs, les touch”! This is all getting a bit heated now. The song is an uptempo number courtesy of American/Finnish production team William “GoodWill” Rappaport and Henri “MGI” Lanz and fits in with its surroundings with enough ease.
9. Kiss Me Once
Sia Furler returns for her second track which begins with an anthemic ringing chant and quickly moves into the first verse with a trippy-beat, and like “Sexy Love” and “If Only…” before it, bursts into life at the chorus. Kylie and her fella have got it on at last and she’s making him some big promises: “kiss me once, and you will watch me fall, kiss me twice, and I will give you my all”. Let’s hope he doesn’t let her down! Its short and sweet and bows out just as it arrived with that anthemic ringing chant. Perhaps another missed opportunity for a single that could of worked well with the album’s promotion…?
Duet time now as Kylie gets together with Latin hitmaker Enrique Iglesias so they can tell each other how “beautiful” the other is. The song opens with “You, you are so beautiful” and peaks with “and now I, I just want you to know, that after all this time, you’re still the one”. Lashings of lovely love abound in this piano ballad with powerful vocals from both he and she. Another example of a missed opportunity for a big single, particularly Stateside. It was, however, released in Australia instead of “I Was Gonna Cancel” and reached No.47 there. It was included on the international edition of Enrique’s album “Sex And Love” which has sold over four million copies worldwide.
“Fine. You’re gonna be fine”. Thanks for that! We all need a little reassurance from time to time, so pop this track on repeat and all your cares will cease to exist. And how odd that we’ve come towards the end of the album before we get a Kylie penned song?! Together with Karen Poole and producer Chris Crowhurst aka Chris Loco, “Fine” often sounds like a PWL B side from the “Let’s Get To It” era but is very welcome indeed after such a varied and eclectic mix of tunes that have preceded it. If its sunny, happy sounds you’re looking for then “Fine” is perfect, uncomplicated ear candy. It’s a great dance number as well!
12. Mr. President
Ok so Kylie sees herself now as the new Marilyn Monroe. “Hey, hey Mr. President, I’ll be ya Marilyn” she purrs. Co-written by Kelly Sheehan and produced by Australian DJ and mixer Thomas Olsen aka Tommy Trash, this is a R&B influenced electro-dance number with lots of sampling and programming with Kylie’s voice, particularly during each verse. It’s breezy and almost a novelty record that only appears as a bonus track on the expanded edition of the album. And for that, we’re grateful. Enough said.
13. Sleeping With The Enemy
The album closes with this hauntingly beautiful number written and produced by Greg Kurstin. For anyone that’s a fan of Massive Attack’s 1991 hit “Unfinished Symphony”, you’re in for a treat. Again, it’s a bonus track but more than worthy of having been included on the album proper. It’s dark and bruising lyrics paint a very clear picture of what the song is all about. “Was it not enough that I love you, but you’ve been giving her your kiss, and it almost makes me sick” sings one very hurt lady. Kylie’s vocals are both mesmerizing and touching set against the racy drum beat of this quiet epic, that is quite possibly one of the most fascinating and outstanding songs ever recorded by her.
Once those big red lips had been revealed, we got a title. “Kiss Me Once”. A hot cover picture for what was shaping up to be one hot album. What immediately becomes apparent is the absence of “Skirt” from the final track listing, despite it topping the US dance hot play chart and receiving more than favourable comments from critics and fans alike. It wasn’t the only great song not to make the final album. “Waiting For The Sun” (another track produced by Tommy Trash), “Voodoo” (produced by Bloodshy And Avant) and the B side to “Into The Blue”, “Sparks”, were all forsaken for the eleven or thirteen tracks (depending on which version you bought) above. At the same time, Kylie co-wrote and recorded four tracks with an American producer and DJ, Fernando Garibay, which although never made the album, did however get released as an EP later that year under the title of “Sleepwalker”.
As “Into The Blue” began to filter through, expectations for “Kiss Me Once” were high. Fatal mistake number one, Roc Nation’s marketing of the album was almost non-existent. For Kylie’s fanbase, this was confined to her Facebook page and her revamped website, but no television, magazine or hardly any other poster/billboard advertising took place. “Kiss Me Once” was actually released on March 14th 2014, but for most of the music buying world, it went unnoticed. Fatal mistake number two, the full album leaked on social media and YouTube a week prior to release, gaining tens of thousands of views and hearings, depriving “Kiss Me Once” of potentially big sales.
In the UK the album went up against George Michael’s new release “Symphonica” and despite good sales from both albums that week, “Kiss Me Once” could only make No.2 with just under 30,000 copies sold. It would eventually attain a Silver certification there, her lowest performing album since “Impossible Princess” in 1998. It did, however, top the Australian album chart and make the top ten in a further eleven countries. In the US it entered the chart at No.31, her third highest chart placing there, but sank without trace soon after. It seemed that so much bad wind was bedeviling “Kiss Me Once”. Poor marketing and promotion, leaking and some not to kind critical reviews.
The schedule for the ‘Kiss Me Once Tour’ later that year was drastically revised away from the album and became more of a greatest hits tour with Kylie playing a total of 35 dates across the UK, Europe and Australia. If ever there has been a lost opportunity for a great and glorious Kylie album, then “Kiss Me Once” is it. Unforgivably bad promotion and marketing coupled with poor security prior to its release will hang round the neck of this album forever more. “Kiss Me Once” would become her poorest selling long player for sixteen years and would raise questions about Kylie’s future with Parlophone and indeed her very own existence as a top recording artist. Kylie would take control of things in the wake of “Kiss Me Once’s” demise and steer the ship on a much calmer waters.
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