Kylie – Just how good a singer is she really?
Much has been written over the years on the subject of whether Kylie can sing or not – to a boring degree! But what then are her best songs or performances? It is true to say that when she really lets her voice go, it is to a down-tempo song or a ballad, but there have been some amazing notes reached on a few Pop/Dance/Disco tunes as well. This is potted, perhaps not definitive history of when Kylie has surprised those who have previously put her down as a singer.
Two very early entries in Kylie’s discography highlight this. “Tears On My Pillow” and “Tell Tale Signs” from her second album “Enjoy Yourself” in 1989 showcase her vocal ability in a time when she and most other Stock Aitken Waterman acts were generally not taken seriously or derided for lack of talent. When Kylie blasts the final “Caused by youuuuuuuuuuuuuu” note from the former, she proves her voice is strong and capable of holding a high note for some time. Equally, the Broadway-esque sounding “Tell Tale Signs” is another surprise recording on an album that delivered the Pop hits “Hand On Your Heart” and “Wouldn’t Change A Thing”.
With age, experience and above all confidence, Kylie has continued to belt out some standout tracks amongst the Pop pleasers and the Dance floor fillers. “The World Still Turns” is another superb example, self-written from her next album, “Rhythm Of Love“. Away from the confines of PWL, Kylie worked with producer Michael Jay on this slower number and with the added bonus of a saxophone backed soundtrack, this all adds up to one very classy and brassy song. Yes, the ballads are where Kylie did excel herself and this continued into her final album for PWL in 1991. “No World Without You” is an acoustic ballad not previously attempted by her but the song is dominated by her voice and quite rightly so. It comes just before the end of an album that blends early 90’s dance beats, New Jack Swing harmonies and even techo beats, but offers a welcome rest bite.
On Kylie’s first album away from Stock Aitken Waterman, there are any number of shining vocal examples, from the sexy “Surrender” to the dramatic “Automatic Love”, but it is the big down-tempo song of the album, “Put Yourself In My Place”, that Kylie really holds her own. The song became and remains in her fans eyes as her most accomplished and she has proven this when performing it live, most notably as part of her Kylie television show in 2001 and on her Fever2002 tour, in the ballads section, with “The Crying Game” – another stunning performance.
Kylie entered the 21st century with another hidden gem that was crying out for a Christmas 2000 release, “Bittersweet Goodbye”. Seasonal, and as if it had fallen from a movie soundtrack, “Bittersweet Goodbye” finds Kylie’s angelic vocal soaring over the orchestral climax of this gorgeous tune amid bells ringing, and once again, sandwiched between Pop and Disco-Pop tunes on her “Light Years” album. “Light Years” featured the promised second single that never materialised, “Your Disco Needs You”, which gave way to “On A Night Like This” at the last minute. Nevertheless, “Your Disco Needs You”, with all its “I Will Survive”/”YMCA” camp appeal, has also provided Kylie with a showstopper when performing it live. Her Summer2015 tour gave her vocal chords a good workout as did her Christmas shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall demonstrated. Kylie does Opera over the final chants of “your disco, your disco, your disco needs you” and raises the roof in doing so.
Kylie put in an awesome comeback performance in 2008 to promote her “X” album, only months after recovering from cancer treatment. She was the star guest of Jools ‘Squeeze’ Holland’s annual hootenanny television programme and stunned the studio audience with her piano-topped performance of “Come On Strong”, once again with power and sound above the assembled orchestra and towards the end, with grit and gravitas – why Kylie hasn’t recorded an album of show tunes yet is anyone’s guess. One day, perhaps…! Kylie continued to impress with her own rendition of her very first hit, “I Should Be So Lucky“, with Jools at the piano as she relates the lyrics of the song in Judy Garland style, with innocence and with yet more West End/Broadway appeal.
Other vocal highlights of the Parlophone years include “Loving Days” from the 2003 album “Body Language“, “Into The Blue” from 2014’s “Kiss Me Once” and “Flower”, recorded for the “X” album, but left off. The song would later be given a heart-warming airing on the X2008 world tour and would, happily, be included on “The Abbey Road Sessions” album of 2012. Kylie also turned in a number of superb live performances with songs from her “Christmas” albums of 2015/16. A memorable pairing with Rod Stewart prior to that in 2012, sees Kylie purr and writhe around the ‘old boy’ as they sing “Let It Snow”, Kylie allowing her vocal to shine, once again in a historic setting, and overpowering Rod himself!
In more recent years, it has been Kylie herself in knowing what she is capable of hitting, that has helped her in writing the songs in which to show the world that she can sing. “Radio On” from the “Golden” album is a case in point. When performed live for a BBC prime time early evening show, Kylie let herself go in an old converted railway shed and sent her voice sky high and proud for all to hear as she recalled the sad words of this song about parting love. Kylie’s 2020 album “Disco” provided another vehicle for some sensational vocal moments, not least the lead single, “Say Something”. It was in her acoustic version of the song that Kylie showcased how this song should sound and that was enlarged when she performed the song as part of her Infinite Disco online show that same year. Clearly at ease with herself and the song, Kylie gains stature with each “this is loooooove oooh ooh” at the end of the song.
“Disco” provided a rare example of an outstanding Kylie vocal on an uptempo song. “Supernova” truly is an out of this world experience. It is 70’s Disco in 2020, and could have been released in either decade, but what makes this song so special and so deserving of mention is Kylie’s vocals in the middle-bridge of the song, most notably on the extended version as heard on the later released “Disco – Extended Mixes“. Intergalactic and outergalactic is the only way to describe where she takes her voice, hitting notes never before thought possible or achieved. Kylie also demonstrates this when performing the song on the Infinite Disco recording, that this is not a digitally created vocal, but her own.
With her sixteenth studio album ‘promised’ in 2023, what will she have in store for us and which tracks will see her sending her voice to even greater heights? We may have to wait for a tour or a live performance to find the answers, but her confidence as a songwriter and as a singer, and with 35+ years in the industry, those moments are becoming more and more a part of the Kylie experience and the Kylie magic. And remember, you don’t stay at the top that long without some talent!
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