Kylie Minoue: Golden review – it's like Dolly Parton does full disco

Review: Musically Golden is a bit like a chain of Texas steakhouses – fun but with a slightly ersatz, almost cheap, feel

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Artist: Kylie Minogue
Genre: Pop
Label: BMG

Country music is officially having a pop culture moment. These days every other starlet from Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus to Kacey Musgraves and even Drag Race's own Trixie Mattel are donning stetsons and saddling up.

The cynical out there may judge the glitz and guitars of Minogue's 14th album as hitching her wagon to this winking star, but Kylie and country are not such an odd fit. With her devoted fan base, clever camp knowingness and diminutive diva presence, she is already the Disco Dolly Parton. Golden is an extension of this role.

From the days when Stock, Aitken and Waterman put words in her mouth in the Hit Factory through to her artistic freedom on the Impossible Princess album, the trademark Minogue trait has always been vulnerability.

So it's no surprise that in this time of transition for the pop icon (who is reeling from her recent heartache) that the sour milk of reality that classic country songs are soaked in, from Dolly Parton's Jolene to Patsy Cline's Crazy, would be an influence.


Her obsession with the melancholy ache of being alone – that rich pop pathos that makes her so relatable – is still in place but, since her last album, Kiss Me Once, there has been a cautious shift in her songwriting, a reflection on what life would be like minus the bruising rough and tumble of love.

Now, on Golden, a new layer of toughness has formed with tracks such as Stop Me From Falling, which acts as a whooping warning siren about the dangers of idealising relationships; and the heartbreaking A Lifetime to Repair, with its foot-stomping beat and skylarking chorus, which mask the searing pain of its raw lyrics ("too many nights crying that it's not fair, if I get hurt again I'll need a lifetime to repair") – it's the adult full stop of realisation to the girlish forgiveness of Better the Devil You Know.

With input from Taylor Swift songwriters Liz Rose and Nathan Chapman and country pop merchant Steve McEwan, musically Golden is a bit like a chain of Texas steakhouses – fun but with a slightly ersatz, almost cheap, feel to some of its banjo noodlings and hoedown high jinks.

Nowhere is that more apparent than on the title track, which features an ill-advised, part-yodelling reworking of Morricone's The Good, The Bad and the Ugly theme.

It's when the more obvious gimmicky elements are dialled down and the cowboy boots are kicked off that the album's simple countrified balladry shines through. The sublime Shelby '68  is a looping ode to escapism, a portentous paean to romantic risk and the repeated gamble of the glory of love, while Radio On is a downbeat version of the Minogue manifesto, the belief in the healing power of pop, as she wistfully sings about "saving myself in a song".

Although the impossible princess will always season her sadness with a grain of hope, on a song such as L.O.V.E., even with its memory-strewn lyrics about "lying in your lover's T-shirt", an undeniable breezy air of enthusiasm unfolds.

Kylie will forever be the beaming lighthouse navigating the despairing back to the dance floor. For all its desperation, Golden retains that glow of optimism. Raining Glitter, the album's most euphoric moment, successfully manages to marry the country sound to her disco roots.

With its bleats and Moroder-style beats, it has all the familiar thematic hallmarks of a Kylie classic: the liberation and salvation to be found spinning around in the darkness of the club, the unifying moment under the glitter ball.

Her heart may be slightly tarnished but she’s not giving up, on happiness, on love, on magic. Our sweetheart of the rodeo is ready to ride off into the horizon again. Kylie will survive.