Ok, so straight off the bat I’ll fess up that I’m a covers junky. I have a real thing for finding interesting reworkings of songs and I had already loved Kylie’s Live Lounge session so I was probably more up for this than most to start with.
There is a long tradition of artists stripping down and re-inventing their hits, most notably during the height of MTV Unplugged in the mid 90s. In recent years there have been a lot of (often ‘ironic’) reworkings of pop songs by more ‘credible’ artists. Sometimes this delivers something wonderful, sometimes something that makes you want to slap the artist for thinking they are so much bigger and cleverer than pop.
When a pop artist decides to do this to their own songs the desire can often come from a surprisingly similar place – to imbue it with something new, something different or to try and prove that it is ‘real’ music after all. Much as I love her Gaga’s recent Thanksgiving EP is a perfect example of the kind of po-faced schmaltz that often consumes stripped-down pop. (Although she has done similar things much better elsewhere – so I’ll give her a free pass on that one.)
So which is this? Well, thankfully it’s more of the former than the latter. Had she attempted this during her indie-Kylie period it would almost certainly have been an exercise in cred-flexing. Thankfully at this stage of her career she is far more comfortable in her own skin and approaches the project with just the right mix of humor and melancholia.
She’s had her fair share of chart bangers and OTT pop moments but I’ve long suspected that it’s the breathy mid tempo roboto-porn songs that have formed the backbone of her appeal. Kylie can sing almost anything and make it sound at once salacious and oddly refined. For a singer who’s voice has never really been considered her strong point it seems the closer and more intimate it gets the more enjoyable it becomes. And in that sense this album is a sidestep rather than a volte-face. The overall feel of the arrangement is stripped down in the sense that it’s not electronic but it’s certainly not girl-and-an-acoustic-guitar noodling and teeters on the edge of big-band but, Locomotion aside, remaining more reigned in and less ‘retro’ than that.
The standout tracks on the album for me are Finer Feelings, Confide In Me and Can’t Get You Out Of My Head – the latter two becoming so obsessionally seductive in tone that they start to sound, frankly, quite threatening.
Other highlights include On A Night Like This, All The Lovers (a 24 carat classic through and through), I Believe In You, Wow, Better The Devil You Know and I Should Be So Lucky. It’s also nice to hear Locomotion after becoming progressively dirtier and dirtier over the years re-instated to something more joyfully like, if not the original Little Eva version, then certainly Little Eva meets PWL.
It perhaps could have done without a couple of tracks here and there and, beautiful as it is, the new(ish) song Flower does feel a little out of place but all in all it’s a lush, mellow and slightly saucy affair with some beautiful instrumentation and backing vocals that help give it warmth and depth.
Clearly this album has a fairly specific demographic as you will have to enjoy both Kylie and these kind of easy listening/MOR arrangements – but it hit the sweet spot for me.
All words by Susan Sloan.