We just can’t get Kylie out of our heads
In pop music, reinvention is the key and timing is everything – and Ms Minogue has never missed a beat
Kylie is pop. She defines the very word. Over the past 25 years, she has been a hairbrush-miming Friday-night friend, a hotpants-clad fantasy girl, a pop star that even grannies are aware of and find utterly adorable.
It takes more than just possessing a pert behind and some glorious gnashers to be a lasting pop icon however. Beneath the permanently sunny demeanour lies a calculating soul brimming with determination – Little Miss Minogue has navigated her way through pop-dumper lows, personal catastrophes and critical maulings with the steely spirit of a well-seasoned showbiz war horse. No Daily Mail Sidebar of Shame for her, nor Twitter spats or ugly tabloid headlines. Kylie masterfully cultivated the image of the Garbo of Pop living by the “never complain, never explain” maxim, creating an alluring mysteriousness around her seemingly everywoman persona.
Timing is everything in pop and the Kylie of yore never missed a beat. The sultry siren frequently materialised at just the right moment, created something unforgettable and electrifying then disappeared again leaving us wanting more. Whether it was teaming up with dark lord of dour Nick Cave, spinning around and pirouetting right back to the top of the charts or creating one of the most sublime moments in pop ever with Can’t Get You Out of My Head , Kylie bewitched for those quicksilver seconds.
Unlike her more aggressive contemporaries who tend to promote their latest albums in a grindingly belligerent style creating maximum exposure at all costs, a Kylie Moment never felt like a drawn out affair. Like the savviest of party guests she seemed keenly aware not to be the girl dancing on her own till dawn. She never outstayed her welcome.
Now Kylie is everywhere. With her hemisphere-straddling turn as a coach on The Voice in both Australia and the UK, she is beaming into tea-time living rooms across the globe like a tiny pop dictator. Being a talent-show judge on prime time telly every week guarantees the all-important BBC Radio One airplay and a connection with a younger audience – but at the price of destroying that old-school beguiling mystique. The enduring allure has dissolved in a series of blandishments and empty chit-chat. The Kylie of The Voice is not the feisty, chart-busting innovator of pop. She is the cutesy nation’s sweetheart, cheerily breezing through the static, glacial-paced shows like a giggling Barbara Windsor crossed with an excitable show pony. Spending Saturday nights faux-flirting with a Kaiser Chief may be acceptable for Jessie J and her ilk, but for someone of Kylie’s musical stature, it’s a travesty.
This bizarre, drastic turnaround is born of quiet ambition. Last year, Kylie made a colossal change in personnel with the shocking decision to ditch her long-time manager (the unfortunately, almost Dickensian, surnamed Terry Blamey) and sign up with Jay-Z’s ubercool Roc Nation management team. Kylie’s last release under Blamey’s stewardship was The Abbey Road Session s, a distinctly MOR-marketed, cosy acoustic re-working of her hits. It sounded like the dainty diva was winding down for good, hanging up the head- dresses, ready to move into a future of being a heritage act in a sepia-toned era of semi-retirement.
What the diminutive one seems to have been plotting, however, was an end to all that, keeping the door firmly shut on the past 25 years and starting all over again. There could be no louder declaration of this new desire than the release of the club-banger Skirt last year – a tune which blew the dust off any notion of retirement and replaced her usual campy gloss with some seriously bruising beats.
The decision to choose Roc Nation was a conscious one, to choose youth, opt for relevancy, to head back into the savage landscape of the current charts and wage war against the zygotes. Roc Nation, with its roster of fresh-faced youngsters such as Rita Ora, Grimes and Haim, has placed Kylie firmly back into the youth market and this ill-judged move sees her embarking on the kind of gruelling promotional schedule befitting of a desperate newbie.
The media campaign for the new album (the tragically titled Kiss Me Once ) has been a bludgeoning sledgehammer affair, with poor Kyles even popping up in a gym to serenade a bewildered, sweaty fan in a teeth-grindingly awkward Mastercard Brit Award promo. This constant promotional bombardment – from Facebook hangouts to taking over radio stations and doing endless, pointless interviews – feels dated and cheap compared to the sophisticated surprise-attack album launch made by Beyoncé last year.
Beneath all this unnecessary fluff, the actual album is becoming forgotten. Musically, Kiss Me Once is bursting with new ideas, not least recent single Into the Blue ; a solid gold hands-in-the-air dance floor firecracker. Also, with the involvement of Sia and everyone’s favourite giant-hat fan Pharrell, there are encouraging signs that some vibrancy and contemporary flair is being injected back into the Minogue machine. This album makes her decision to remain in the pop world and compete against the Disney-princesses- gone-wild a triumphant one.
A true pop idol of Kylie Minogue’s calibre shouldn’t have to keep reminding people she still exists, or desperately attempt to appeal to the Tweeting teens’ goldfish attention spans. The bite-sized Queen of Hotpants should know by now that in order to stay on top in pop, less is always more.