Waiting for KM15 be like…
by Mark Cunningham
With the wonderful news that KM15 is on the way as Kylie works on the production of her next album through zoom lessons and her at-home recording studio, I thought it was the perfect time to reflect on her iconic album discography from her thirty-three years in the game (Yep, it has really been that long).
In this longread review of her thirteen studio albums (I’ve not included the Christmas album for obvious reasons), I’ll review the highs and the lows of her colourful record collection. From the high-pitch early 80s bubblegum pop all the way through to her country-tinged 2018 comeback, lets take a trip down memory lane!
# 13 – ‘Let’s Get to It’ (1991)
Kylie’s near forgotten fourth studio album from her final days with PWL usually sinks to the bottom of most Kylie album rankings, and being perfectly honest, it’s understandable why. Unlike her first three albums which whittled off teenage bubble-gum pop and high-NRG dance tracks like they were going out of fashion (which they kind of were) Let’s Get To It just doesn’t have that classic Kylie dance-floor anthem.
It was around this time that Kylie’s inner virtuoso was finding its feet, wanting to break free of the formulaic way she was making music, but this didn’t really work against the backdrop of the somewhat contrived PWL production. The sultry and soulful ‘Finer feelings’ is a standout track and one of her best efforts from the early 90s period. This track and others such as ‘Word is Out’ show off the albums urban and swingbeat influence, a clear nod to Janet Jackson who was the It girl at the time, and even appears on the record in the form of interpolations and samples. There are interesting moments of experimentation with New York City club music that sonically thrusts her music in to the 90s on ‘I guess I like it like that’ and ‘Too much of a good thing’, but ultimately most of it failed to stand the test of time, sorry Kylie.
Favourite: Finer Feelings
Least favourite: Live And Learn
#12 – ‘Kylie’ (1988)
Its hard to criticise the one that started it all, even if it is a little cringe. On her debut album, Kylie was nothing if not fun-loving, cheesy, and lucky lucky lucky, with a little teenage heartbreak thrown in for good measure.
‘Kylie’ somehow became a PWL classic despite sounding a bit outdated at the time of its release, like a bad hangover from the early eighties, but the charmingly youthful sounds of bells, synths and claps make it a guilty pleasure worth going back too. While she could certainly do with putting Locomotion to rest for a few tours, ‘Turn it into love’, ‘Got to be certain’ and ‘Je ne sais pas pourqouoi’ are gems that surely have a place in the softspot of all Kylie fans.
Favourite: Turn It Into Love
Least favourite: I Miss You
#11 – ‘Enjoy yourself’ (1989)
Kylie’s second album is another 80s Kylie classic that sounds remarkably similar to her first, being released only fifteen months later, it features the same high-pitch vocals and disco-synth melodies that failed to update her sound or image, and unfortunately earned her the infamous ‘singing budgie’ title.
‘Hand on your heart’, ‘Never too late’ and ‘Enjoy yourself’ score points for being frivolous, happy-go-lucky singalong anthems, but most of the album is forgettable filler, and some of it aged like milk left outside on a warm day. She just hadn’t found her muse yet, but that’s okay when you’re only 21!
Favourite: Never Too Late (particularly the Abbey Road version)
Least favourite: My Secret Heart
#10 – ‘Kiss Me Once’ (2014)
When Kylie’s twelfth studio album came out in 2014, the pressure was on. Its predecessor, 2010’s Aphrodite had done really well, but the single releases saw her starting to struggle to compete in a competitive market of Gagas, Katys and Keshas, who were also releasing dance-pop music but were twenty years her junior. To put it lightly, Kiss me once missed the mark by a longshot. Its stagnant lyrics, stale production and hypersexualised visuals felt cheap, and Kylie’s distant and unenthused supervision just wasn’t the artistic flex we knew Kylie was capable of. It’s not that songs like ‘Million miles’ and ‘Sexy love’ are awful. They were bland, near carbon-copies of her previous hits that had been done to death.
In the past Kylie had pioneered new music styles and set the standard in pop, but Kiss me once showed an ageing popstar trying to chase the Pharell and Sia hype of the time while failing to offer anything new stylistically. Lead single ‘Into the blue’ was divisive among fans, and while some loved it for its euphoric optimism over an EDM beat, others quickly learned to skip it for its noisy and dated composition. The second and final single release ‘I was gonna cancel’ was so poorly received by fans and charts that Kylie didn’t even perform it on the tour, and the vocoder-on-acid duet ‘Beautiful’ with Enrique Inglesias was met with a similarly cold reception, and faded into obscurity after the tour. That being said, ‘Fine’, ‘Kiss me once’ and ‘Feels so good’ offer an enjoyable nostalgic trip to the breezy feel-good pop of her early career, like little pockets of sunshine on an otherwise dull record.
Least favourite: Beautiful
#9 – ‘Kylie Minogue’ (1994)
Her fifth album marked the beginning of the much beloved ‘Indie’ Kylie which, while not always the most successful period, was certainly indispensable to her artistic growth and visual reinvention, as well as for proving the critics and naysayers wrong about some misconceptions they had of her. The result was a slightly eclectic mix of ballads, orchestral anthems and dance tracks with influences of 90s piano house, R&B and even middle eastern music. Yet, somehow it all comes together quite nicely and Kylie sounds alluring and intimate throughout what is a really great record, despite a couple of forgetful mid-tempo tracks.
‘Dangerous game’ is a perfect example of how Kylie does vulnerable really well, and ‘Surrender’ is a dreamy house-ballad with a sensual, rhythmic production akin to Madonna’s Erotica record. ‘Put yourself in my place’ is a moving and tender ballad, a real showcase of her vocal talent. However, none of these tracks quite come close to the crown jewel of the album, and undoubtedly of Kylie’s career, lead single ‘Confide in me’. This orchestral masterpiece is six minutes of eerie, atmospheric indie pop. It has a tension that is constantly released then redrawn again, and boy is it epic. Nearly thirty years later, it is still regarded as a peak of her artistry, and recently finished in third place on a fan vote for the best single of her entire discography. Truly iconic.
Favourite: Put Yourself In My Place
Least favourite: Time Will Pass You
#8 – ‘Rhythm of love’ (1990)
Rhythm of love is a Kylie classic and her best from the PWL days, offering a more mature ‘girl next door’ image. ‘Better the devil you know’ is a camp, timeless dance bop, and the first of the many gay anthems she would go on to make throughout her career. Both devil and ‘What do I have to do?’ finished in the top 4 of her best singles as voted by fans, at #2 and #4 respectively. ‘Shocked’ and ‘Step back in time’ are joyous disco-influenced dance numbers that have aged really well, something Kylie knows herself as she rotates them on her tour setlists. Although the album had an iconic single run, it’s one of those albums that where its good, it’s really good, but much of the album tracks sound a bit samey and blend into the background. Nonetheless, it remains a fan favourite particularly among her older (or shall we say original) fans.
Least favourite: Count The Days
#7 – ‘Body language’ (2003)
Body Language isn’t really a classic but a fan favourite for many. Its cool, shady appeal makes it feel like Fever’s older sister, and its fresh sound earns it its spot among her iconic early noughties’ albums. As far as albums go, she drifts away from her usual disco-dance lane the most on this one, instead opting for an R&B and electrosmash pop influenced sound. With sassy and flirty lyrics Kylie’s breathy vocals sound really great against the sleek electronic production, a style she would later embrace on ‘X’. ‘Slow’ is pure genius, minimalist pop.
Kylie herself has singled this one out as her favourite Kylie song! ‘Red blooded woman’ and ‘Chocolate’ are excellent singles that show her innovative ability to experiment with different genres, and ‘Loving days’ is a bluesy, elegant showcase of her excellent song writing. The album tracks have their moments here and there, and though the production throughout is stellar, what ultimately holds this great effort back from achieving a higher ranking is that a lot of it just isn’t anything special. Despite this, the chic Bridget Bardot inspired look remains the best visual reinvention of her career. What a serve.
Favourite: Loving Days
Least favourite: I Feel For You
#6 – ‘Golden’ (2018)
For most fans, when it was announced that Kylie’s thirteenth studio album would be country-inspired, their hearts probably sank. However, Golden quickly became a fan favourite and was rightfully critically acclaimed as a return to form. Kylie’s time recording and writing in Nashville taught her to adopt a more storytelling style approach to song writing, which allowed her to get some of her more personal hardships on to the record. Something about golden feels nostalgic. The country influence sounds vintage and rustic, but this is intertwined with her usual touch of dance-pop, and surprisingly she pulls it off well. ‘Dancing’ was the perfect induction into this glitzy new world of Tennessee pop, and it’s everything a lead Kylie single should be – catchy, uplifting and euphoric. There are some beautifully raw moments on ‘Radio on’ and ‘Lost without you’, ‘Stop me from falling’ is a perfect summer anthem, while ‘Shelby ‘68’ and ‘Golden’ prove that wild-westerns and pop music can play together. But in the same breath, it does feel like she’s resigned from making music ahead of the times, there’s nothing innovatively fresh or pushing the boundary here.
There are a few moments where the country-lever is turned just a little bit too far up, and occasionally she indulges in the cheese-factor we thought she had long moved on from, but that’s all forgiven for delivering what is her most authentic and personal album in two decades.
Least favourite: Low Blow
#5 – ‘Impossible Princess’ (1997)
By the time that Impossible Princess came out, Kylie was a decade into her music career, turning thirty, and in dire need of a hit. Her 1997 album was both the peak of her indie moment and what led to its own demise, preceding her rebranding back into the world of dance pop. While it was a commercial failure outside of Australia, its experimental sound incorporating everything from electronica to drum and bass earned it lots of respect from the fanbase as the years went on.
It’s often said that if we were ever to get an insight in to the “real” Kylie, it was on this record’s more raw and personal moments of matured spiritual expression. “Dreams” and “Breathe” are standout tracks where Kylie’s song writing shines through, and it was moments like this that proved she had a lot more substance to her than people often gave her credit for. “Too far” and “Limbo” showed us a disturbed, agitated Kylie – the one and only time we ever got to see this side of her – and the suspenseful production on these tracks transcends her usual flirtatious, inviting nature. Ultimately, Impossible Princess allowed Kylie to shed the skin of her hit factory days and delve into her psyche more than ever before, with both sophistication and naivety, and for that this album deserves a lot of credit.
Least favourite: Through The Years
#4 – ‘Aphrodite’ (2010)
Fierce and mighty, Aphrodite is a classic Kylie album that goes back to basics. According to Kylie herself, her aim for this album was a more cohesive sound that “felt like a moment in time”, and its fair to say that she more than achieved that by having Stuart Price as executive producer of the record. It’s a clean-cut, colourful, summer breeze of a record that gave us yet some more gay anthems like ‘Get outta my way’, and her #1 fan favourite, ‘All the lovers’. The latter truly does feel like a culminative moment in time, as though the different audiences and fans she had pulled together throughout the different odds and ends of her career could finally come together to unite and rejoice under the banner ‘Lovers’.
The album gets its steam from most of its dance and club orientated tracks like ‘Cupid boy’ and ‘Put your hands up’ which are glorious, Ibiza beachclub anthems. The synthtastic ‘Can’t beat the feeling’ is a standout track that feels both outrageously vintage and contemporary at the same time, and the militant title track ‘Aphrodite’ was the empowering, feminist moment we had long waited for from Kylie. Aphrodite is undoubtedly one of her best albums – many would even say her best – but it stalls ever so slightly in its strive for engineered pop perfection, and any hope that it may offer something new sonically becomes improbable on tracks like ‘Better than today’ and ‘Looking for an angel’ which, as uplifting an frothy as they are, don’t make enough love to your ears to keep you coming back years later. The album was made even better by its incredible big-budget tour, Aphrodite Les Follies, which many Lovers have fond memories of being splashed by gigantic Vegas-style water cannons. What an era that was.
Favourite: All The lovers
Least favourite: Looking For An Angel
#3 – ‘X’ (2007)
‘X’ was the post-cancer comeback album, and after recovering from her illness and completing the Showgirl tour, Kylie was curious to experiment with a whole range of new sounds. The finished product was a chaotic, inconsistent bash of different genres ranging from glampop to R&B, but mostly X is an electro-dance album. But make no mistake – inside this cheeky, somewhat chaotic record are some of Kylie’s most bizarrely creative moments, even if the album campaign was managed piss poorly by her label. The Goldfrapp-esque ‘2 hearts’ just wasn’t the right lead single she needed to catapult her into this new era of her career, and a couple of tracks could have been swapped for the excellent B-sides and unreleased tracks from the recording sessions. Nonetheless, with a progressive production team as forward-thinking as to debut the likes of Calvin Harris before he was even popular in the mainstream, this album is a compelling statement of her return to the Princess of Pop. Always one to stay ahead of the curve, the addictive ‘Like a drug’ and the dreamy ‘The one’ are thumping dance tracks that predicted the popularity of ‘darkpop’ in 2008 (think Lady Gaga’s debut album ‘The Fame’).
Listening to ‘In my arms’ feels like sticking your wet finger in an electrical socket and dancing through the ensuing explosion of light, and for that reason its probably one of the best dance tracks of her career. This record is full of bops that have aged incredibly well, from jaunty electro-disco track ‘Wow’ to the weirdly wonderful and abstract ‘Speakerphone’, that its lack of cohesion is actually what makes it so stimulating and packed with attitude. ‘No more rain’ and ‘Stars’ offer softer, more reflective moments on her illness, and balance out the albums more boisterous moments. Kylie has had many “comebacks”, but X has to be the boldest and most daring of them all.
Favourite: The One
Least favourite: Cosmic
#2 – ‘Light Years’ (2000)
The one with the gold hot pants, the Sydney 2000 Olympics performance, and where she hung up the embarrassment of her youth and finally reembraced her roots. The one that saved her career. ‘Light years’ is a slice of camp, disco influenced Europop, and what a fun-loving, carefree slice it is. Recently voted as the fanbase’s favourite album, I did have to really think about whether ranking it second was justified, after all, this was the record that produced the undeniably timeless bangers ‘Spinning around’ and ‘On a night like this’, so iconic in their own right they’ve made it on to all of her arena tours, and still fill the ever-nostalgic dancefloors of gay discotheques twenty years later. On gay anthem “Your disco needs you” she channels her inner Freddie Mercury delivering a level of over-the-top flamboyancy that no other female popstar could dream of pulling off.
The hypnotic title track ‘Light years’, a tribute to Donna Summer and the world’s first intergalactic pop song, has to be one of the boldest album closers in music history. If this record was a drink, it would be a sex on the beach cocktail, slowly sedating you with its bodacious charm as the sun sets on a Balearic island, and is surely remembered as one of the most loveable pop records of the early 00’s.
Favourite: Light Years
Least favourite: Under The Influence Of Love
#1 ‘Fever’ (2001)
Fever is that girl. Its effortlessly cool concoction of nu-disco and Eurodance has aged like a fine wine, sometimes its hard to believe this record is almost twenty years old! The sleek and futuristic production was incredibly ahead of its time and set the standard of what pop music ought to sound like for a 00s female popstar. Its monumental success cemented her as the one to watch for years to come and opened up new markets for her in all corners of the world. There’s not much that can be said about ‘Can’t get you out of my head’ that hasn’t already been said – it was a moment in pop culture. The sexy, minimalist singles ‘In your eyes’ and ‘Come into my world’ are excellent cyborg-Kylie tracks, and fan-favourite ‘Love at first sight’ is a feel-good, euphoric headphone banger.
Fever is much more than its incredible singles however; it is an album to be played from start to finish. Even on the album tracks, Kylie presents a fierce femininity alongside more tender moments of delicate yearning. In this electronic dancetopia universe that fever is set, Kylie flaunts her robotic seductress on ‘Burning up’ and title track ‘Fever’, provides us with moments of tranquil on tracks such as the atmospheric ‘Fragile’ and stripped-back ‘Your love’, and compels rhythmic pulsating on ‘More more more’ and the techno influenced should-have-been-a-single ‘Love affair’. Everything from the iconic music videos to the legendary tour earns this musical masterpiece and blueprint for modern dance pop the top spot.
Favourite: Come Into My World
Least favourite: Give It To Me