Kylie Minogue - Kiss Me Once
Kylie's 12th studio album displays ambition: territorial, musical and commercial
There are some artists – Rihanna, Haim, Alicia Keys, Kanye – whose albums serve as a sort of pop music AGM keynote, an appraisal of 'where we are now' in ambitious contemporary music. These are releases concerned little with the personality, vision or authenticity of the auteur, or increasingly with the album format itself, but that instead cherry pick from the best up-and-coming writers and producers around to craft new work optimised for maximum effect. If we accept Kiss Me Once, Kylie Minogue's twelfth, as one of these albums, it's arguable that we're in a pretty good place.
Like anyone with existing success launching a new product, retaining core audience while attracting a new one is key, and this 11-track collection strikes this balance pretty well. If couching the discussion in commercial terms seems odd, it's because Kiss Me Once, her first release for Jay Z's Roc Nation management, although it could never fairly be described as ruthlessly calculated, is certainly well-judged, specifically, aimed at making inroads into the US, a territory in which she's never enjoyed sustained success – a fact easily overlooked from a European vantage point.
The euphoric, swoony bangers that you'd expect to find here are all expertly done. 'Million Miles' and 'Sexy Love' (both featuring the writing team behind 'Get Outta My Way') do something new with the Hall & Oates twist that has flavoured so much recent pop, and alongside closer, 'Fine', contain an expertly distilled essence of her previous work. And opener 'Into The Blue' – sounding for all the world like it emerged fully formed from the studio of Aphrodite collaborator Stuart Price – is hard to argue with, despite the debts it owes to Scandipop and Coldplay.
Existing territory reaffirmed, there's plenty of room left for innovation, some delivering better results than others. The Sia-penned 'Sexercise' is a detour into trap territory, one with its eye firmly on the US market and which genuinely features the refrain 'bounce bounce bounce bounce' (and a steamy video to match). Versatility isn't a quality you'd normally attribute to Kylie's voice, but not everyone could get away with the frankly ridiculous 'Les Sex', and it's worth wondering what quality it is that means that she does. Second single, 'I Was Gonna Cancel', co-written with man of the moment Pharrell Williams, is one of the least interesting tracks here, despite a generic catchiness and some production flourishes. Even the potentially misguided Enrique Englesias collaboration, 'Beautiful', isn't awful, despite being a play for mushy 14-year-olds worldwide.
You could argue that Kylie Minogue doesn't need to explore new directions; that with the good stuff on Kiss Me Once being so great, coupled with the fact that there are arguably others out there doing different styles better, she should stick to what she's best at – or to put it another way – coast. However, there was a spell a while back – when she released an album of torch song interpretations of her back catalogue and began her stint as a judge on The Voice – when it looked like she'd entered a stage of her career no-one felt she was ready for. Conversely, Kiss Me Once displays ambition, both territorial and musical. It's good to have her back in the game.
Out now on Parlophone.