Despite worldwide unrest and human nature being tested to its conceivable limits, 2017 remains a blessed year in that we the multitudes are to receive another dance-opus from Australian Pop Princess, Kylie Minogue.
I have always loved Rufus Wainright’s apt and delightfully oversimplified summary of La Minogue as the “gay shorthand for joy,” and it is now more than ever that we need her uncompromising effervescence to cast light over these pallid, troubling times.
And so, in anticipation of new Kylie, and in observance of Minoguemas (May 28, Kylie’s 49th birthday) I celebrate Kylie’s studio albums, ranked in ascending order for their potency in lifting the spirits of an otherwise anxious 2017.
12. Enjoy Yourself (1989): Preceded by the poptastic “Hand on Your Heart,” Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s swift follow up to Kylie’s self-titled, career-catapulting debut album expands on the same ingredients that brought the famed ’80s production house success with Bananarama, Dead or Alive, and Divine. Peppered with agreeable singles (“Never Too Late,” “Wouldn’t Change a Thing”), Enjoy Yourself maintains a skipping and youthful air, but lacks the locomotive momentum of 1988’s Kylie. Having said that, I absolutely adore the titular track, which feels jubilant, carefree, and so very Minogueish. While in no way dour, Enjoy Yourself’s upbeat smile seems less genuine than the rest of her catalogue, but serves as a sugar-rush when in a pinch (and we’re in a pinch, America!).
11. Let’s Get to It (1991): Though still under the guidance of Stock, Aitken and Waterman, Let’s Get To It sees Kylie stretching in her gilded, girl-next-door cage with a petulance visible in the album’s cover art. As far as singles go, the standout here is “Finer Feelings” (which drips with a sulky steadfastness), but it is the guilty-pleasure album tracks that buoy Kylie’s fourth studio album; “Too Much of a Good Thing,” a non-Giorgio Moroder “Right Here, Right Now,” and “I Guess I Like It Like That,” really amp up the early ’90s fun and lend brightness to Let’s Get To It, culminating in a nerdy hip-hop-lite album that frankly makes me giggle.
10. Kylie Minogue (1994): Signing with Deconstruction Records in 1993, Minogue began earnestly dismantling her cute-Kylie persona so ardently cultivated over her first four albums. Kylie Minogue is an important record in Kylie’s canon, not at all for its potential to cheer, but for housing the brilliantly saturnine singles “Put Yourself in my Place” and “Confide in Me.”
“Confide” is an elegant mini-masterpiece, arranged with forbidding strings and a Portishead-esque drum pattern that, with Kylie’s youthful naïveté, casts an intoxicatingly sexy spell. As a kid, I’d press my hands on the TV screen when prompted by the cleverly colorful dial-a-therapist music video, and as an adult I swoon every time Minogue escalates to the stunning soprano heights required of "Confide" in her live performances.
Referencing Jane Fonda’s Barbarella, ”Put Yourself in My Place" offers one of Kylie’s most provocative videos, depicting the singer in a wistful striptease aboard a lonely spacecraft. Beautifully sung, and re-recorded in French for Canadian release, "Put Yourself in My Place" makes for a poignant soundtrack to breakups, and is one of Kylie’s best ever ballads.
9. Kiss Me Once (2014): Overseen by Sia, Kiss Me Once houses flashes of fun (“Les Sex, and “Sexy Love”), and bore Kylie’s raciest video (for kind-of single), “Sexercize.” Kiss Me Once’s titular track is a romantic, cascading delight, and lead single “Into the Blue” is a joyous assertion of autonomy, while the playfully delivered “Million Miles” showcases Minogue’s smiling, forward-placed “mask resonance” perfectly. I just love when a smile is conveyed through musical recordings (think Diana Ross and Janet Jackson), and Minogue’s sound bounces effortlessly in a silvery soprano throughout Kiss Me Once.
Reportedly (RuPortedly?) RuPaul’s favorite song of 2015, “I Was Gonna Cancel” is akin to a musical anti-depressant with its insistent get-out-of-bed-dammnit positivity and Pharrell-produced disco pulsations. Though the accompanying music video is bewildering when held up against the rest of Minogue’s formidable trove, Kylie’s autobiographical recounting of a bad day in the studio serves as an inspiring tool for combatting Mercury whenever it slides into mothertucking retrograde.
8. Impossible Princess (1997): Referred to (by me) as Kylie’s “dark album,” Impossible Princess was released as Kylie Minogue in the UK following the death of Princess Diana. She herself wrote great swaths of this intimate record and I rank it here ahead of more conventionally bouncing fare like Kiss Me Once and Enjoy Yourself for its courtship of what the Germans call ”Smerzliebe,” or a love of emotional pain and aching.
Two of Kylie’s most interesting compositions to date, “Too Far” and “Dreams” bookend the album in orchestral, gasping turns, and these fan favorites are always artfully performed in concert — except maybe that one time during her post-cancer return to Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena when Kylie got the giggles so bad during “Dreams” that she abandoned the song to join the audience in four minutes of tittering hysterics. It was a beautiful thing to see her not only live, but alive and teeming with health!
Resplendent in well-crafted lyrics, Impossible Princess mines Minogue’s emotional landscapes with standouts like the sexy and odd “Cowboy Style,” the minimalist “Say Hey,” and loungy “Through the Years,” all of which lend this moody masterwork generous lashings of glitter and introspection.
7. Body Language (2003): Bubbling positivity was never the sole intent of Kylie or her collaborators on Body Language, Kylie’s much-anticipated follow up to 2001's earth-shattering Fever. What we have in Body Language is a showcase of playful vocals, womanly sophistication, and themes of sexuality, sexiness, and sex (Ernest). Body Language sees Kylie in her elegant, self-assured element, proffering that joy doesn’t materialize only in sweaty rushes of serotonin — as is made perfectly clear in chart-topping lead single, “Slow.” Remixed to perfection by the Chemical Brothers and glorious in its original come-hither minimalism, "Slow" is a Kylie classic, and in its lazy, electronic voluptuousness sets the pace for a sensual album taking its time with the listener.
The swooning melt of “Chocolate” slinks into the the late-summer contentment of “Loving Days,” which in turn swells into the busy, borrowed hip-hop flavors of “Red Blooded Woman” (gilded with winking, self-referencing la-la-las). “Still Standing” is charming and boastful, and I positively squeal with delight over Kylie’s lady-rap in the Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam-sampling “Secret (Take You Home).”
6. Rhythm of Love (1990): Stepping back in time (forgive me) to 1990, Rhythm of Love opens with the dancefloor-annihillating “Better The Devil You Know,” immediately assaulting the listener with emotional lyrics and stratosphere-brushing vocals. Blissfully electronic and blithely energetic, Rhythm Of Love is packed with some of Kylie’s best collaborations with Stock, Aitken and Waterman; “Step Back In Time” bursts with fun and silliness, “Shocked” is full of punchy attitude, and the soaring “What Do I Have To Do” is said to be Kylie’s favorite song to perform. Littered with old-Hollywood references, the video for “What Do I Have To Do” sees Kylie as a tattooed Elizabeth Taylor, a pouting hausfrau (laboring over an ironing board), and bewigged blonde femme fatale, with eyebrows so sharp they could slice a ham.
5. X (2007): Kylie’s return to the studio after her terrifying (for all of us) brush with death is less an album proper and more a tour of planets, alien to one another but for the giant star they orbit. Populated with visitations from past-Kylies, X touches at times on the intimacy of Impossible Princess, the coolness of Fever, and the exuberance of her Stock, Aitken and Waterman years, culminating in a series of danceable vignettes.
Allegedly Madonna’s favorite Kylie track, "Speakerphone" is a robotic, Missy-quoting call to drop one’s socks and grab one’s mini-boombox. Elegantly produced, with an underlying tone of sexual menace and invitation, "Speakerphone" was made even more magnificent by Steve Anderson (Kylie’s chief music director), when extended into sci-fi extravagance for the opening of the X2008 tour. The same tour saw Kylie perform the intoxicatingly sexy “Like A Drug” flying astride a giant, golden skull in a triumphant “fuck you” gesture to cancer. The buoyancy of “In My Arms” and "Wow” level the tenderness of "Cosmic," and the most romantic moment on X is also my favorite; “The One” sends out a glimmering S.O.S. signal from one lonely heart to another, somewhere in a galaxy far, far away.
4. Kylie (1988): Resplendent in newness, youth, and the sheen of Stock, Aitken, and Waterman’s bubbly signature sound, Kylie is a late-eighties daydream of girl-next-dorkiness, and features a dizzying promenade of hit singles. Capitalizing on the international success of 1987’s “Locomotion” (rerecorded for the album and retitled “The Loco-Motion”), Kylie is brimming with now-classic Minogue confections, like “Got To Be Certain” and the adorable “Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi.”
“I Should Be So Lucky” is a triumph of subject and singer and, for me, an expedient highway to happiness; I was gifted a vinyl copy of Kylie on my sixth birthday and have spent hours uncounted prancing (prance, I say!) and posturing to I Should Be So Lucky’s sunny-yet-yearning sentiment. Personal nostalgia aside, Kylie is a fabulous album, free of self-awareness and composed almost entirely of smiles and stardust.
3. Aphrodite (2010): Like Kylie herself in the video for orgiastic lead single "All the Lovers," Aphrodite seems to burst from an amorphous sea of bodies writhing in love-drunk ecstasy. Produced by Stuart Price, Aphrodite casts a cohesive aural enchantment with excellent mid-tempo tracks "Illusion" and "Everything is Beautiful," while the breathy electronic Bacchanal of “Closer” promises dark corners and tight embraces.
“Get Outta My Way” is an exuberant march toward emotional emancipation, accompanied by a fabulous music video — which to my mind totally references Michelle Pfeiffer’s masquerade-ball-attending Selina Kyle (Selina Kylie?) in Batman Returns. Though bossy, “Put Your Hands Up” is cleverly nostalgic with its throwback Stock, Aitken and Waterman remix, and title track “Aphrodite” is a strident declaration of unveiled majesty.
The expensive and utterly fabulous “Aphrodite Les Folies” tour (2011) celebrates this heavenly album with an abundance of sequins and spectacle, but it is the ambrosia-laced siren call of “All the Lovers” that defines and distills Kylie’s incarnation as the goddess of love into a single, euphoric summons to the dancefloors of Olympus.
2. Fever (2001): I don’t really subscribe to the idea of perfection, but here in 2001’s Fever we have a synergistic masterpiece of design, composition, and performance. From its sexy, simplistic artwork, to Minogue’s expert cooing, down to Rafael Bonachela’s choreography for the ageless videos (and eventual tour), Fever is pure, pop perfection.
My heart soars with the opening strains of “More More More,” which feels like a Physical-era Olivia Newton John deep-cut, and I positively transcend reality when the Dopamine-drenched “Love at First Sight” launches into emotional technicolor. Fever is further galvanized with Grammy-winning “Come Into My World,” and the flirtatious neon phantasmagoria of “In Your Eyes.” Balancing the human condition with an electronic 1980s landscape, Fever reaches dangerous temperatures with the truly magnificent “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.” The song that took over the world (and brought renewed attention from American audiences) synthesizes insecurity, desire, and obsession in its inviting and melancholy la-la-la’s, and unlike Marlene Dietrich (who loathed her career-defining tune “Falling in Love Again”), Minogue seems to thrive when performing her signature song. In particular, her 2002 Brit Awards performance (a cunning mashup with New Order’s “Blue Monday”) offers a portrait of a woman astride the world, confident, and at the height of her powers. May she reign forever and ever and eveeeeeeeeeeer.
1. Light Years (2000):
“Please, fasten your seat belts.
My name is Kylie — I will be your purser.”
Like its brilliant title track, Light Years courses through the spectrum of joy like an escap(ist) capsule jettisoned from care and worry. With its hypnotic, sci-fi-Moroder arpeggiations and breathy countdown from 10 to fabulous, “Light Years” (which became the stylistic launchpad for 2001's Fever), drips with fembotic pheromones and in my imagination forms a futuristic deep-space Kylie triptych with “Speakerphone” and “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.”
A return to her pop roots, Light Years was a rebirth for Minogue (after the glitter and doom of Impossible Princess), gifting the world with invigorating lead single "Spinning Around" and its fleshy music video (showcasing her instantly iconic gold hotpants). A statement of newness and self-propulsion, "Spinning Around" sets the scene for fleeting romance with “On a Night Like This,” the ABBA-esque bell tolling of “Disco Down,” and cool, cocktail soaked campiness with both “Loveboat" and “Kookachoo.”
The sun-dappled atmosphere of Light Years ascends to the swirling, operatic heights of what is undoubtably Kylie’s most vocally athletic undertaking; from its beefy baritone chorus to the stratospheric soprano climax, ”Your Disco Needs You” is both hilarious and uplifting, culminating in an impassioned French spoken-word moblilization of the lonely and disenfranchized:
Vous êtes jamais seuls
Vous savez ce qu'il faut faire
Ne laissez pas tomber votre nation
La disco a besoin de vous
Whispers suggest that Minogue’s next album is to be a huge, pop masterwork, and Kylie herself has promised her “heart and soul” in it — whether it materializes as another benevolent Aphrodite, or a galaxy-treading Light Years II, we are all lucky (lucky, lucky) that new scripture is on the way. In the meantime, I heed the summons to dance through global unrest with Light Years, Kylie’s most uplifting and joyous album — my disco needs her, your disco needs you, and we could all stand to celebrate a very merry Minoguemas this year.