Twenty years ago, a young Australian woman stopped being content as a “track girl”. Granted, she imbued those Stock-Aitken-Waterman songs with an innocence and intensity that elevated them from banal to beautiful―but it was time to move on to other pastures.
Kylie Minogue (1994) completely changed the course of Minogue’s career and evinced that she was a player in the pop genre. Since that time, Minogue has cut a swath of records that balanced art and commerce with few equals.
It is with this knowledge that certain Kylie Minogue fans will approach Kiss Me Once, Minogue’s 12th long player, with trepidation. Her third record in a seasoned streak, beginning with the kink of X (2007), Kiss Me Once should have repeated her sonic juggling act of chance and expectation. Instead, listeners are given a shiny production bauble courtesy of the knob twirlers Minogue enlisted for Kiss Me Once.
The fault isn’t completely in their hands as Minogue’s autonomy in her career has been clear for sometime. It makes the reality of Kiss Me Once even more of a bitter pill to swallow.
Rather than working with her production crew, Minogue lets them channel her themes exclusively through a Logo TV prism. Whether it’s a zombiefied recast of the spiritual pop mined on 2010’s “All the Lovers” with the lead single “Into the Blue,” the mechanical clunker “Sexercize” or the aimless schmaltz of “Beautiful” (with Enrique Iglesias), Minogue sounds coerced and detached.
Elsewhere, great ideas on paper just wander without direction―“A Million Miles,” “Feels So Good,” “Fine”.
The bright spots include the retro-n-contemporary blasts of neo-disco heard on “I Was Gonna Cancel” and “Sexy Love”. “If Only” and “Kiss Me Once”―through lush ’80’s ballad soundscapes―grip the emotional resonance sought on “Into the Blue” and “Fine”. It is “Sleeping With the Enemy” however that stands toe-to-toe with “I Was Gonna Cancel” as the undeniable highlight of the LP. Musical, expressive and mature, it is an absolute winner.
“Into the Blue”
Directed By: Dawn Shadforth
This isn’t the first record where Minogue’s writing input had been reduced. In fact, on the previously mentioned Kylie Minogue LP she only wrote on one song. The difference? Minogue seemed more engaged 20 years ago with pushing back against the public perception of her being a “pop puppet”; here she becomes one after years of shedding that skin.
Also, the pop genre has become the victim of an era where craft has been removed from its DNA. What made her creative climax Body Language (2003) so addictive was how it struck a deal between the natural and the artificial. In short, like her best records of the past, Body Language was something created, not made.
Minogue’s new record will no doubt please the sizable section of fans who simply look to Minogue for shallow pop pleasure. For those that desire more than that―something Minogue had done so well before―Kiss Me Once is a disappointment and decline. Ranking: Transitional
[Editor’s Note: Kiss Me Once is available; see online and physical retailers for availability information. Kiss Me Once version reviewed here was the American deluxe edition. For more information on Kylie Minogue, visit her official site.]