Twenty five years ago: Dial 1-555 and Confide – Kylie Minogue breaks out.
How do you leave assured success behind to enter the unknown? A question many artists and groups have wrestled with during their careers. In 1992, Kylie had been with PWL for five years, released two dozen hit singles around the world and four studio albums that collectively had sold thirty million copies globally. Only the brave would walk away from such security, but that is precisely what Kylie did at the beginning of 1993 when she signed with Deconstruction Records. The Euro-beat, factory pop that had established her and made her famous was left behind as many wondered exactly what she would do next.
Production was long winded with many songs written, some even recorded, most were just binned, others scrapped along the way as an army or writers came and went with their own interpretation of what the new Kylie sound should be. At first they did seem to resemble exactly what she was walking away from. Tracks like “Aston Martin”, “Love Is Waiting”, “Gotta Move On” and “Difficult By Design”, some of which would later surface in hard format, seemed to be too easy an offering, whilst “At The End Of The Day” and “Living For Your Loving” put Kylie in direct competition with the likes of Eternal. “Love Is On The Line” and “For All I’m Worth” didn’t help matters, it all sounded the same. And wasn’t that why Kylie left PWL in the first place?
A year in music is a long time, so by the Spring of 1994 expectations were either at a loss or aching to know exactly what was happening. Kylie made an appearance at The Brit Awards in London in February 1994, promising that ‘new music’ was “only a matter of weeks away”. The truth was that recording was still incomplete and many tracks that had been moulded had already undergone reproduction and reconstruction on more than one occasion. It wasn’t until mid-August that rumours began of an impending release and that, finally, the new Kylie album was finished and ready for all to judge. It was on BBC Radio 1 that the first broadcast of this new material occurred with an exclusive airing of her new single, titled “Confide In Me“. The next six minutes that followed had tens of millions of listeners agog and dumb struck. This was NOT Kylie music. This was something very, very different.
Smash Hits magazine would later describe it as “the weird one on the album”. Adding that it has “Eastern wobbly bits and breathy, pervy lyrics about sticking and twisting. SIX MINUTES LONG!”. But at last, judging by the response from listeners and critics, it seemed that a Kylie song (BTDYN excepted) had found universal acclaim and genuine intrigue all at the same time. When the single was released on Monday 29th August 1994 it didn’t fall off the shelf, it was grabbed before it hit the shelf of record shops in both the UK and Australia. But there lay a challenge ahead. Wet Wet Wet had been at number one in the UK for fourteen weeks with “Love Is All Around”. All For One, Big Mountain and Let Loose had all challenged to knock them cleanly from their mantle but failed, despite strong sales and a worthiness to be a bonafide chart topper under any other circumstance. Could Kylie, who was much better known than all three groups, be the one to topple The Wets?
Sales of both records were strong as August slipped into September as everyone turned on their radio on Sunday 4th at around 6:30pm to hear Bruno Brookes countdown the final five songs on the official UK top 40. She wasn’t number five and she wasn’t number four. Number three went to Neneh Cherry and Youssou N’dour with “Seven Seconds”, so there were only two songs left. Kylie was definitely the highest new entry by a long margin, but how high? After a couple of seconds left in suspense, we soon found out. In at number two. So The Wets got a fifteenth week on top. It was a different story on the other side of the world, where “Confide In Me” would give Kylie her fourth chart topper in her home country. Kylie had already had four in the UK, “Confide” could of been her fifth. But it wasn’t and it never happened. The following week, a total unknown would knock “Love Is All Around” from the top. Her name was Whigfield.
The single not only reawakened interest in Kylie’s music career but also opened her to a new audience, one that had previously overlooked her as a performer as well as gaining strong critical support for her bravery and new found vocal style. Kylie had been working with Steve Anderson and Dave Seaman better known as Brothers In Rhythm on the song and indeed, much of the new album’s production. They had won favour two years earlier when they remixed “Finer Feelings” from the “Let’s Get To It” album for its single release which received praise from fans and many in the industry for the new re-energised production and feel of the track. BIR had taken on the task of reworking many of the songs that would make the final cut of Kylie’s upcoming, new album, together with Terry Farley and Pete Heller, American producer Jimmy Harry and even Mpeople’s Mike Pickering and Paul Heard. A distinctive mid-90’s sound was fashioned blending dance and club anthems with epic, power ballads, all designed to accentuate Kylie’s voice for all its worth.
But what to call this album. Why not after the artist herself? After all, it was a new beginning. A fresh start and a fresh, vibrant direction. “Kylie Minogue” was released amid a flurry of simple, plain, minimalistic posters and adverts, all in black and white, all stripped back using just the cover picture, her name and the date of release, 19th September 1994. This was ‘Art’ in itself. With photography by Rankin, featuring Kylie in a business suit wearing glasses, this added to yet more anticipation and mystery about what the album sounded like. Back in those days the internet was unheard of so there was no chance of it leaking anywhere. It would only be on that first day that record buyers would get to hear a full album of new Kylie music. All fifty seven minutes of it. Track by track you were taken on a journey well away from anywhere you had been before and it could be that you picked out your own standout track from the album on first hearing? Either way, the album would prove an immediate hit, entering the UK album chart the following Sunday at No.4, Kylie’s highest position since “Enjoy Yourself” five years earlier. In Australia the album would hit No.3, she had only made it higher with her debut release in 1988. The album would chart in Japan, South Africa, Sweden and Germany, although sadly not in America or in other territories that had previously been ‘kind’ towards Kylie.
The “Kylie Minogue” era should not be written off or forgotten by any means. It saw a rebirth and my most standards, a totally new debut for a confident and promising singer and songwriter. Perhaps for the many who hadn’t accepted her or ignored her before, this was a strong debut, an album full of exotic and ‘dangerous’ tracks that pushed the boundaries and certainly the vocal chords wider and higher than ever before. 1994 would end with another outstanding single release, “Put Yourself In My Place”, for many the standout track on the album. A powerful, electro down-tempo number, not quite a ballad, but the most sophisticated offering yet from Kylie, complete with soaring vocals and a brilliantly conceived video, ensured that “Put Yourself In My Place” gave Kylie a second hit from the album, if not quite on the scale of “Confide”. It seemed the project fizzled out somewhat in 1995, sadly. Rumours and plans for releasing “If I Was Your Lover” and “Time Will Pass You By” came and went and it wasn’t until that Summer that a reproduced version of “Where Is The Feeling?” finally surfaced as the third and ultimately final single from the album.
By now, momentum and interest had subsided and the KM1994 era was over. New buds were blooming, first with fellow Aussie Nick Cave and beyond to new material and a second album. But twenty five years on, Kylie’s first ‘experiment’ away from the confines of Stock Aitken Waterman still stands tall and ranks up there with her best and finest moments. Easily “Confide In Me” and the album remain in high affection by die hard Kylie fans, both still sound as fresh and strident as they did a quarter of a century ago and certainly deserve a regular airing or maybe a long overdue revisit, particularly as we celebrate a time when Kylie wasn’t PWL or hadn’t yet become Parlophone. This was the middle-eight and boy, what a glorious section that was and still is!
For a full track-by-track appreciation of “Kylie Minogue” (1994) click here.
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