1991: You can’t wriggle out of this – 30 years of “Word Is Out”
Each Kylie era begins with a song that is unforgettable. Everlasting. Memorable. “I Should Be So Lucky” in 1988, “Hand On Your Heart” in 1989 and “Better The Devil You Know” in 1990. So what went wrong with the opening single from Kylie’s fourth studio album, the “Let’s Get To It” era and why is it not remembered as well as its predecessors?
Kylie had barely put the “Rhythm Of Love” era to bed when just two months on from “Shocked”, she brought out a brand new song, “Word Is Out”. Much had changed behind the scenes at PWL Records in that period of time that perhaps precipitated a new song and a new album so soon. The most notable being the departure of songwriter Matt Aitken from the award winning hit makers, leaving just Mike Stock and Pete Waterman to continue to write, produce and develop their artists. They too were changing by the week. Sonia had gone, Jason was leaving and both Yell and Big Fun had fizzled out after barely a year in the limelight.
The one constant presence was their biggest artist, Kylie, who still kept the water running and the lights working. She was the only one still achieving top ten singles and albums and still collecting Silver and Gold discs for each release. So perhaps it was with momentum to keep the Hit Factory churning out hits that the reduced production team turned to their best asset for the next chapter. A new chapter and a new album, less than twelve months on from having released one. In retrospect, there were at least three tracks that appeared on that album that could have served as superior and strong lead singles. Songs that could have joined the illustrious list previously noted. But “Word Is Out” was chosen as the standard bearer.
The song itself felt fresh and new. Building on the maturity in sound of the “Rhythm Of Love” album, “Word Is Out” was funkier, sassier, sexier. As Kylie herself left her teens and went into her early 20’s, her own appearance and attitude changed and the sound of “Word Is Out” reflected that. She was now well established and had proven she was not a one-hit-wonder. That confidence deserved a song that represented her standing in the music industry, whether a fan or not. In the beginning, “Word Is Out” made that connection. Heavy use of backing vocals and a quick-fast beat together with horns proudly trumpeting their fanfare over the middle-eight and the final choruses, what more could you want to herald in Kylie 1991 and the future sound of Stock/Waterman?
The video shot was Kylie’s most risqué yet. Decked herself in fishnets and looking even more saucy than in her previous video for “Shocked”, Kylie walks the streets and alleyways ‘touting for business’ as the men looked on eagerly at what was being offered. The video has become noteworthy for the ‘debut’ of future TV presenter Davina McCall as one of Kylie’s entourage. Studio manager David Howells later said he felt things went “too far with ‘that’ video”. It seems tame today and certainly not inoffensive, but perhaps this did alienate much of Kylie’s teen fanbase back in 1991 as she attempted to attract an older audience to her music and her image.
“Word Is Out” was released in the UK first at the end of August 1991. The many negative aspects of its production, the video coupled with the fact that Stock (Aitken) Waterman music was at that time in decline as well conspired again the song. It entered the chart at number eighteen, certainly the lowest for a Kylie single since the very beginning. More worrying was the fact the seven days later it only went up two more places, the songs peak chart position in her greatest sales territory. “Word Is Out” broke a record run of thirteen UK top ten hits that Summer as it sank and left the chart just two weeks later. More successful was the ‘Summer Breeze’ mix of the song that was released in her native homeland four months later. This tamer version of “Word Is Out” peaked at No.10, although interest in the song in other countries was minimal and certainly not on par with previous first singles.
It would take a duet, “If You Were With Me Now” with US singer Keith Washington, to restore the equilibrium back in the UK chart, but perhaps the damage had already been done. Sales of “Let’s Get To It” were poor compared with her three previous long players. Perhaps some of the blame can be put in the selection of “Word Is Out” as the lead single? Would this era have been different had “Too Much Of A Good Thing” been the first cut?
The single was accompanied by another new recording, the down-tempo “Say The Word, I’ll Be There”, co-written with Kylie herself, which was not included on the final track listing of “Let’s Get To It“. A bit of a chalk and cheese combination on offer to begin with. “Word Is Out” is a good song. A very good song. It just struggled to find air space in a highly competitive climate. One that was becoming more and more anti-PWL. It was no “Sunshine On A Rainy Day” and it certainly was no “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)“!
What are your memories or thoughts on “Word Is Out”?
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