There’s a new dawn on the horizon for Kylie Minogue. On the verge of unleashing her 12th studio effort, enticingly entitled Kiss Me Once, the Aussie pop princess is noticeably more determined than ever. Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem as though Kylie is particularly putting her energy into making a return to the top of the pop charts, but instead making a record that she can fully stand behind. After parting ways with her long term management team and signing a high profile deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, there was an air of excitement and anticipation around just what her next move would be. It was safe to assume that with a management backing this legit, she’d be making a bid for some sort of commercial explosion, but instead, all we’ve gotten is Kylie doing Kylie. For a pop star of her caliber, that’s a particularly difficult concept to grasp. Whether or not she’s intent on competing with a much younger, much more watered down pool of pop stars is hardly relevant anymore. I think Kylie knows as well as we do that her over-25 year career, as it stands, is more than most artists could ever hope to accomplish, so now it’s time to have some fun. If it lands, awesome. If not, she’s still Kylie F-ing Minogue, right?
Out first glimpse into Kiss Me Once was naturally its lead single, “Into The Blue” (Review HERE.) The track is a fitting opener to the record from both a music and lyrical standpoint. Beginning a record with a lead single is rarely a good sequencing decision, but in this case, it actually works. See, Kylie’s at the point in her career where she can either be making records of old standards (a talked about possibility for her some 5-10 years ago) or actually going forward with new music with the intent of competing commercially. Choosing the latter seems obvious, but it isn’t always wise. Pop music is hard to keep up with, and very few have actually survived as long as she has. But that’s just it. She has survived! Opening with “Into The Blue” comes across as one big statement exclaiming, “I’m going to do whatever I want, because it’s my career and I’ve earned it!” It may not be boundary-pushing pop music, but it’s a risky move for someone in her position. The song is absolutely spectacular, embodying everything there is to love about Kylie Minogue the artist and Kylie Minogue the pop star, so it’s abundantly clear that she’s made the right decision.
Now, to bring this back into perspective, Kylie Minogue isn’t old or washed up. Kylie Minogue is a legend. For a term so endearing, it actually becomes a hinderance when you’re christened with it. Artists tend to have a more difficult time keeping up with their commercial relativity after being lumped in with that class. Some artists, take Madonna for example, can plow right through, but even she’s struggling to find her footing at the moment. Kylie’s decision to move forward is this capacity is risky, but undeniably noble. Track #2, “Million Miles” instantly seals the deal that this was the right path. The track is textbook “euphoric dance floor” Kylie. Her voice sounds noticeably stronger than most producers have dared to allow. If you take a look at the credits, though, it’s the pop star who sat herself in the executive producer chair for the first time ever. Who’s sitting along side her? Just Sia Fuller, one of the most sought after producers and songwriters in the game at the moment. Two tracks in, the music is what you’d come to expect from Kylie Minogue, but the quality is audibly better; this is Kylie’s album.
The opening trio is rounded out by one of the most anticipated tracks on Kiss Me Once, “I Was Gonna Cancel,” written and produced by none other than Mr. Pharrell Williams (if you’re unaware about what this man can do, let’s just take a look back at last year.) This track is a let down in the sense that it isn’t on par with his contributions to “Get Lucky” or “Blurred Lines,” but it isn’t a bust. Remember, we’re listening to Kylie’s record now, and this is a track that showcases that when she’s having fun, we’re not going to be able to resist joining in. The party continues right through the worth-highlighting, funky, bass-tastic “Sexy Love,” the first of three tracks with “sex” in the title. Things really start to get interesting when we land on “Sexercize,” though, the first of two Sia compositions. The dub step-infused piece is intricately produced with just the right amount of sleaze infused to the mix, but I’m not sure that it particularly works. This could be the album’s guilty pleasure, momentum killer, or maybe even it’s biggest asset. Undeniably, it will get stuck in your head.
Excitingly (and rather unexpectedly,) this is when we reach the point in Kiss Me Once where all of the puzzle pieces begin to fall perfectly into place. The second half of the record is noticeably stronger than the first half, an extremely rare occurrence in pop music. “Feels So Good,” an MNEK production, isn’t the kind of song you’d expect Kylie Minogue to roll out, but it is, quite simply, flawless, while the Ariel Rechtshaid produced “If Only,” could have fit in beautifully on HAIM’s Days Are Gone, but, instead, elevates Kylie’s record to the heights she’s finally daring to reach. Then comes “Les Sex,” easily one of the catchiest tracks on Kiss Me Once. This third and final “sex track” sits perfectly in between the pervious two; it’s as fun and euphoric as “Sexy Love” and as naughty as “Sexercize.” The closing trio kicks off with the title track. “Kiss Me Once,” co-penned by Sia, is that moment that explodes with a goosebump-inducing bust of emotion we’ve been waiting for up to this moment. It sets the stage perfectly for the overly simple, heavily vocal-effected, Enrique Iglesias-assisted “Beautiful,” which somehow manages to work brilliantly. Without blinking, we’re reached the closer, “Fine.” With an amazing sample woven throughout, this uplifting piece is the perfect way to wrap up the record. For being only 11 tracks, by the time Kiss Me Once is over, we’re left feeling strikingly complete.
So what’s the verdict? Well, it all really comes back to this truly being Kylie’s album. From start to finish, it’s clear that she had more control over this record than she has in quite some time. Her vocals are noticeably stronger than on her previous effort, 2010’s Aphrodite, and that makes a world of difference in the overall quality. There’s not really a track you could call “filler” here, either, which is truly astounding. The record’s less commercial moments (“Feels So Good,” “If Only,” “Fine,”) are actually its greatest. When we’re given that “textbook” moment (“Into The Blue,” “Sexy Love,” “Les Sex,”) it’s still guiltless and moves a step above what we’ve gotten recently. Overall, there’s absolutely nothing to complain about here when you really consider the context you should be considering. No, Kiss Me Once isn’t going to change the world or progress pop music in one direction or another. What it does is solidify a legendary career by an artist not willing to throw in the towel. This music is leaps and bounds above what you’re constantly hearing on the radio, and even if these tracks don’t make an impact on top 40, Kylie Minogue still wins.