After 30 years of bothering charts around the world, Kylie Minogue is one of those rare things: a pop star with longevity.
Key to her ongoing success is her constant reinvention, which has helped her clock up 50 UK Top 40 singles, bag multiple awards from Brits to Grammys, sell out tours across the globe and earn National Treasure status in the process. Not bad considering she’s not even a Brit.
But when it comes to her musical output, Kylie often doesn’t get the credit she really deserves. So as she releases her latest single, ‘Dancing’, ahead of her 14th studio album ‘Golden’ later this year, we take a look back at the times she pushed pop to the limit.
1. The ‘Rhythm Of Love’ singles
With her ‘Neighbours’ character Charlene having upped sticks to Brisbane, Kylie became a full-time proper popstar in 1988.
After two mega-selling albums penned entirely by Stock Aitken and Waterman, the 20-year-old Kylie went from girl-next-door to the-girl-everyone-wished-lived-next-door, thanks to a seriously sexed-up image overhaul.
Kylie has credited her relationship with INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, who she had begun dating, as being hugely influential in giving her the confidence to take more control of her image and music. The result saw (ahem) SAW up their game with what is arguably Kylie’s best collection of singles from one album. ‘Rhythm Of Love’ spawned ‘Better the Devil You Know’, ‘Step Back In Time’, ‘What Do I Have To Do’ and ‘Shocked’. What a time to be alive.
2. ‘Confide In Me’
After enjoying years of success as part of PWL’s Hit Factory pop conveyor belt, Kylie craved more creative control and credibility. When she signed to dance label Deconstruction, she got both, and gifted us with the stone cold classic ‘Confide In Me’ in the process (UK No.2, 1994).
The first single from her eponymously titled fifth studio album was a huge departure from her previous Stock Aitken and Waterman-penned hits, both musically and visually, and signaled the moment Kylie was embraced by the cool kids and fashion mags.
3. ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’
Aussie goth rocker Nick Cave has always been a huge fan of Kylie (or to quote the man himself, he’s “obsessed”), so all of his Halloween’s came at once when she agreed to duet on ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ in 1995. The ‘murder ballad’ is essentially a dialogue between a killer (Nick) and his victim (Kylie) and culminates with her getting her head bashed in by a rock. ‘Spinning Around’ it is not.
They continue to be great friends, with Nick declaring Kylie as “the greatest thing that has happened to Australian music”.
4. ‘Impossible Princess’
Kylie’s ‘difficult second album’ (for Deconstruction at least) is by far her most daring and experimental. There’s rock, there’s trip hop, there’s electronica, there’s even flippin’ drum and bass.
Portishead, Bjork and Massive Attack were all enjoying huge success when this was released in 1997, and Kylie was evidently a fan. However, the album failed to light up any chart outside of her native Australia, and Kylie, whilst acknowledging the important part it played in her career, says she wouldn’t create another album like it again. But it wouldn’t be long until she bounced back…
5. *Those* gold hot pants
With her career teetering on the edge of the pop dumper, Kylie returned to her pure pop roots after signing a new deal with Parlophone in 1999. Her comeback single ‘Spinning Around’ was shiny, smiley Kylie at her best, and with a little help from a now legendary pair of very short, very sparkly gold hot pants, returned her to the summit of charts around the world.
6. ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’
Iconic song. Iconic Video. Peak Kylie.
7. The ‘Fever’ Tour
The moment Kylie proved she was more than a match for Madonna in the live stakes. Kylie made her appearance on stage encased within a silver cyborg suit, setting the scene for a flawless show.
See also her show-stopping performance at the 2002 Brit Awards where she debuted a mash-up of ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ with New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ atop a giant Kylie CD (remember those?).
Possibly Kylie’s most leftfield release, it showed she isn’t averse to pushing the pop boundaries and taking a risk. It paid off, rewarding her with a seventh UK No.1 single. The stripped back electronic jam still sounds as fresh today as it did upon release 15 years ago, and we’ll never get bored of watching that gorgeous, sun-drenched video.
9. (Almost) headlining Glastonbury
These days, nobody blinks a mud-crusted eyelid at pop acts like Beyonce and Katy Perry performing at Worthy Farm, but when Kylie was announced as the headline act in 2005 it had the Glasto purists up in arms.
Sadly, Kylie never got to realise her dream when she had to pull out of the planned performance after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She made a brief guest appearance with the Scissor Sisters in 2010, but still isn’t giving up hope of headlining. “I can’t tell you how much I would have loved to be there,” she says. “One day it would be sensational to have another female headline.” Over to you Mr. Eavis.
Kylie’s latest incarnation is perhaps the most surprising yet: Country Kylie. New single ‘Dancing’ (released Friday 19 Jan) is a country/dance/pop hybrid, not a million miles from Aviici’s ‘Wake Me Up’ with a little bit of Rita Ora’s ‘Anywhere’ thrown in for good measure. Both surprising, but also distinctly ‘Kylie’, it’s also notable for the lyrics, which she co-wrote. On the one hand it’s an ode to shaking your stuff on the dancefloor, but look a little deeper and could Kylie be singing about her own mortality?
The forthcoming parent album, ‘Golden’, was recorded in Nashville last year, which Kylie describes as a “collision of some elements of country and dance, made at the altar of Dolly Parton, standing on a dancefloor”. Industry types who have heard it are already describing it as “career-defining”. Only time will tell.
‘Dancing’ is out now, and available to stream on all digital streaming platforms. The album, ‘Golden’, is released on 6 April.