Kylie and disco go together like glitter and sequins. No other genre of music so closely matches her particular brand of classy but saucy, so this should be a triumph – and it very nearly is.
There is nothing particularly inventive or startling in this album but I’m not sure that’s what anyone wants from Kylie anyway. Past attempts to stray too far from brand have mostly led to disaster and she is at her best when producing the kind of music that feels familiar, comforting and safe but without being cynical or phoned-in. The 3am cocktail that you cry into or that one pair of heels that look sexy as hell but don’t make your feet ache.
DISCO, on the whole, fulfils this brief but while a few of the tracks (Miss a Thing, Supernova, Hey Lonely) knock it out of the park there is a general feeling of too much filler and not enough killer. Most of the album was recorded during lockdown and at times there is also a slightly demo-ish feel to some of the songs that makes me wonder how they would have fared in more normal circumstances.
Nothing on this record is terrible and most of it is very enjoyable but like much of her post-Aphrodite output it falls squarely in ‘good but not great’ territory. There is enough quality here that it should keep her fanbase happy and her career ticking over but it is unlikely to be the boost that I would love her to have.
ARTIST: Kylie Minogue
TOP TRACKS: Supernova, Miss a Thing, Hey Lonely
MOOD: Dancing under the mirrorball in your living room
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.
A Kylie moment is when a bit in a song inspires a slightly unexpected surging emotion, and happiness but also some sadness, with a sense of being slightly close to tears for no real reason. It is a bit like Christmas.