The deceptively shrewd Kylie Minogue bottled her pop star formula years ago – a light, quaffable concoction of feelgood dance pop tracks, the occasional sultry intervention, dressing up doll costumes, a sweet spirit and a moratorium on anything remotely edgy or controversial.
Kylie: Kiss Me Once
* * *
Almost four years since her previous album “event”, it is time to pour another glass.
Seemingly, however, it takes a lot of hard work to sound this carefree. Kylie has hinted that making Kiss Me Once was a relatively tricky process, which is about as much background colour as you will get from this guarded celebrity. She has offered the usual vague platitudes about progressing while maintaining her musical identity, blah, blah, but essentially Kiss Me Once plays it safe from the undeniably catchy trancey pop of opener Into The Blue through to the serviceable optimism of I’m Fine.
Along the way, she offers three sex songs, including the pop R&B of Sexy Love and the mechanical workout of Sexercise in which Kylie affects getting all steamed up while trying not to ruin her hairdo. The bright NY electro funk of Les Sex, written by MNDR and indebted to MDNA, is the most fun – “les love, les sex, les hand upon les leg” is a line worthy of Girls Aloud hitmakers Xenomania.
I Was Gonna Cancel, written and produced by the ubiquitous Pharrell Williams, is as close to biographical insight as Minogue will allow. Penned as a pick-me-up when Kylie was having a hard day in the studio, it is a lightweight but loveable electro funk track with Chic chimes, shuddering disco synths and a blithe tune.
But her girl-next-door charms can’t enliven Beautiful, a wet lettuce of a vocoder duet with Enrique Iglesias, nor her straight cover of Tom Aspaul’s vanilla electro pop ballad Indiana, retitled Feels So Good. In grittier hands, Million Miles could have been a rock song; instead, it’s anaemic, in-one-ear-and-out the-other filler.
The title track has the best chance of entering the canon of fan favourites, with its quintessential Kylie uplift, while If Only is what passes for quirky in this cautious company. The cut-up, rhythmic vocals and clattering tribal drums driving the chorus recall writer Ariel Rechtshaid’s work with Haim – hardly groundbreaking, but at least a new ingredient to spice up that trusty formula.