Kylie Mingoue Flirts Fiercely With 'Kiss Me Once'

Monday, March 24, 2014


What kind of Kylie Minogue am I? According to some super scientific research, I'm 'Loco-Motion Kylie' and since I'm full of happiness and energy (and with the best fashion taste imaginable, ha-cha!) then I should be energetic over Minogue's latest sound venture, Kiss Me Once.

I'll be honest. I wasn't really excited about Kiss Me Once. I even plum forgot about it's release date.

Crazy and irresponsible, right? I mean, it's Kylie Minogue. With over 25+ years in the game, I have always trusted her to bring the glitter and the gleam of inhibited aural frolics. So what was the issue? Rather let's plural that issue. After indulging in orchestral covers of her signature cuts on The Abbey Road Sessions in 2012, Minogue decided to test pilot promotional singles, "Timebomb" and "Skirt", and they were well, kinda crappy and really beneath her skills. A switch to Jay Z's Roc Nation family tree didn't ease the discomfort as was the announced studio time with Will.I.Can't Will.I.Am. Oh, and that album title? Blah. Things just seemed 'off' and my excitement for Minogue to follow up 2010's Aphrodite began to wane. But oh pop, fizz what a relief it is that my doubts are crumpled up as Kiss Me Once has Minogue back on track, and being the flirty and thriving damsel of pop whimsy I've always rooted for.


Kiss Me Once could've of gone many ways. As a veteran practitioner of pop, Mingoue is in a position where she's competing with those she's influenced, but even as she hits 45 years of age she has often steered away from the "cool mom-ness" and attempts to recapture past glories as some of her peers. Her chameleonic abilities, as well as the smarts to not work with the same producer twice on each new project, have added merit to her catalog. Even when she has had many producers and writers whispering in her ear, Minogue has always retained a sense of herself in her music.

It's hard to hate a majority of anything on Kiss Me Once because Minogue is so aw-shucks sincere about it all. She spins away from the baroque Euro-pop that embodied 2010's Aphrodite, and whirls into Americana pop, recapturing the spirit of 2007's X, which was a soft nudge towards the US finally recognizing Minogue beyond that of a two hit wonder. Like X, Kiss Me Once is stark, and uneven, but purrs with sex kittenish frisk. Going from frothy disco swirls to R&B workouts back to firework crackling electro-pop, without much regard on trying to compete or cut an edge, and all of this is glazed over with her signature coos to make an album that is so uniquely her. Minogue knows she's making pop music, knows her audience, and she's not putting on airs to deem herself above everyone (see Lady Gaga). Minogue is in on the fun, and she's having it on her own terms. Is this her best work? Not really, but in times of political correctness and the fear and selfie-lothing culture, the embodiment of Kiss Me Once reminds one of the innocent nostalgic times when pop music didn't need to be taken to serious heights to be considered listenable.

Highs

*First single, "Into The Blue" pulls back the shimmering curtain on solid pop song assembling. In any other guise it could be just a generic pop song, but going through the glitter mesh of Minogue she brings a class to its wave crashing pulse, and leaves us awash in a refreshing twist on the EDM narrative produced by Kelly Sheehan of Beyonce "Grown Woman" fame.
*"Million Miles" is a superb gem, and should have no problem being a single, maybe even a hit one. It has the second track momentum as "Get Out Of My Way" from Aphrodite, but it's less perky cheerleader, and has a chorus that is flu-catching and drives with punchy persistence.
*We all know that Pharrell is on a roll, and he gives Minogue the feisty, "I Was Gonna Cancel". It's pure Pharrell with crunchy retro rhythms and cheeky lyrics, but it doesn't try to be "Get Lucky" as it fits Minogue like a new pair of Louboutins. Strutting is optional, but urged.
*I don't want to like "Sexy Love" but there are funky guitars, and that is a weakness of mine. Showering down with all the spirit as roller disco charmers like "Spinning Around" and "Love At First Sight", "Sexy Love" is a dizzying freewheel that you can't help but get caught up into.
*Producer on the rise MNEK is someone whom I've been rooting for ever since I heard him refix such youth classics like Sade's "No Ordinary Love" and Kelis' "Get Over You" and my all-time favorite Minogue song, "Put Yourself In My Place" --- and he did this all on his cellphone, mind you. Now he's penning possibly the best track here as "Feels So Good" is Minogue doing futuristic R&B right (think back to the Fever days), and she keeps up with the percolating bubbling beat and hugs it lovingly.
*If you disregard "Sleeping With The Enemy" as a bonus track, it makes for the lone ballad here, and really it hasn't a right to be an afterthought. Greg Kurstin knows how to craft a pop number, and this is one that has Minogue floating in a sea of string radiance that haunts long after it dissolves.

Lows

*Sia
has been gnawing on too many paychecks from pop starlets, as she's slowly being drained of the stirring cerebral intimacy and quirkiness that made her such a compelling singer and songwriter, and she thuds hard with Minogue on "Sexercise". With such poetry as: "Make you beat to the core/ Tomorrow you’ll be sore /Let me see you sexercize" and skittish vocalizing that haven't been done since Twista in 2004 it's disheartening what a check clear can do to people. Not to mention this "exercise as a metaphor to sex" stitch came from none other than Millie Jackson, who has a whole hot trash album revolved around this concept --- and that happened 30 years ago. And while I'm all for women being liberated in their sex appeal, the video just doesn't do it for me and dismisses my whole "Kylie is not competing with younger starlets" argument. Just everything about this single is about as unsexy as hearing your great-aunt rave about her rejuvenated sex life just because she read the Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy.
*1998 called and it wants "Beautiful" back. Hilariously this ballad was billed as "surprise" collaboration last year, but when was Enrique Iglesias a "surprise" duet partner? Give me D'Angelo or conjure Janis Joplin from the grave --- now those are surprises. Nothing is really wrong with "Beautiful", it's harmless really and does melodically flow well, it's just that the auto-tuned renders it so damn out-dated that its not even nostalgically good.
*Thank goodness "Mr. President" is a bonus track as Minogue in the guise of a sloshed poor man's Marilyn Monroe is so icky bad that it provokes one to suds up after hearing it. Just awful.

Middle Road

*The 'Sex Suite' narrative throughout Kiss Me Once really serves little to no purpose. I'm no prude, but it makes one think that Minogue is a Blanche Devereaux who has to talk about sex all the time to where it was fun over a couple of slices of cheesecake, but gets annoying after awhile. By the time you get to the flaunting runway strut of "Les Sex" you're spent, making the song less enjoyable than it is.
*"If Only" possess heavy hitting tempo and vocal shifts that have Minogue crooning off the beaten path and regally surfacing over epic tribal beats. Though the glitching vocals can grate, it's guided by producers of HAIM's Days Are Gone and Sky Ferreira's Night Time, My Time (Ariel Rechtshaid and Justin Raisen) and it's ambitious for sure.
*There are some interesting things going on between "Kiss Me Once" and closer, "Fine" but they are indeed filler. The former chimes and swells into a love letter that fits Minogue well, though she sounds a tad strained, while the latter, is better and has a Rudimental ideal behind it to where I can see this getting its due on some proper remixes.

2 comments:

  1. This record has really put me through it, you can read my review for further details. I will say that these established pop voices need to think long & hard before they orbit such shameless commerciality. In the end, it only damages said singer's reputation and the kids still don't buy the record. In her case, after spending 20 years proving her worth, it only took one record to undo it all. Sidenote: Have you seen the 20th anniversary essay I did on KM '94 (and "Bedtime Stories") for PopMatters?

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  2. I read both reviews :-)

    I think the problem w/ 'Kiss Me Once' is the singles that are being released. Releasing "Sexercise" was just a huge mistake. There is nothing wrong with an established artist going commercial, in fact, Kylie has been quite commercial for the longest, but the cards weren't played right with the single releases. This album reminds me of "X" as Kylie is attempting to reach American audiences again. Her signing to Roc Nation told me all I need to know, and I'm okay with that, over it really, but if she was looking for trying to get chart and radio action and get the kiddos pumped, "Sexercise" shouldn't have been released --- "I Was Gonna Cancel" should have been. Pharrell is HOT right now, and it would've gotten folks interested right there. Kylie isn't a big enough name in the US to pull off "Sexercise" esp. when we've got Beyonce flaunting the "sexy n' grown" stitch right now. It all does make Kylie look desperate, when the rest of the album doesn't tell me that. Her teaming with Pharrell was smart, but underused and would've gotten people to pay attention the album to where I think "Million Miles" would've been another great single choice. I agree w/ you on the thinking thing and pushing this "sex" agenda when she's done it before, but saying this album will undo all of what Kylie has done is too doom and gloom for me. She'll be fine. Her fanbase allows her this mistake, in my opinion.

    I also hate to bring this up, but I always feel that like the hip-hop industry, women who do pop music have expiration dates stamped on them. Women, esp. pop entertainers like Kylie just don't get the privilege to age "gracefully" in the business like men do. Kylie isn't like, say Cyndi Lauper, who has shown with the 'Kinky Boots' success she can spread herself and her music to newer plains, Kylie, even though I love her, has always been limited in what she does which is why what she's doing right now is what I expect of her --- to make solid pop albums and put on a fantastic costume show by tour time. She's proven sound versatility before, but this isn't her trying to break away from bubblegum pop circa 1994, Kylie doesn't have to prove that now, that job is for newer pop artists, and I'm rooting for people like Betty Who, Ellie Goulding, and Katy B to do that at the moment. Kylie can just keep me interested with what she's capable of doing. Actually I applaud her for working with diff. producers for each of her albums as I love that MNEK is behind "Feels So Good" and HAIM's producers are behind "If Only", and those songs are some of my favorites on here. I know how you feel, we are precious about our faves, but after being upset for too long with Mariah Carey and her Disney Princess routine and coming to realize that Madonna bungled 'MDNA' by bad single choices just so she could stay afloat in Gaga Land, I kind of give up and hunt and peck in their recent albums like I'm looking for cherry Skittles among all the lemon ones.

    Gosh, I didn't realize I was writing an essay, so sorry about that...lol!

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