Kylie Minogue’s “Kiss Me Once” – better late than never.
You could almost hear the flaming eruption across Australia earlier this year when Melbourne Royalty and all-round pop princess Dame Kylie of Minogue released her twelfth studio album Kiss Me Once. The record marks the first feature-length release from Minogue since 2010’s Aphrodite, and also marks her first release under a new management team, helmed by Jay-Z and placing her under the extensive RocNation umbrella. Theoretically, jumping to RocNation was a move that would perhaps open more doors for her in the US and see her cracking that hard-to-conquer market once again. Theoretically.
The problem with Kiss Me Once works almost as a double-edged-sword, particularly when you take Kylie’s persistence when it comes to cracking the American market into the equation. But whatever way you look at it, from whatever side of the sword you stand in front of, it all looks bleak. On one hand, a lot of these songs are so dated, dire and bland that it’s hard to imagine the US buying into any of it, yet on the other, this is exactly the kind of dated, dire and bland shit that charts quite well in the United States and could be viewed as the big, bland break Kylie’s been looking for.
With all of that said, there are some truly great moments to be heard on Kiss Me Once, it’s just a shame that those great moments only make up a small portion of what is undoubtedly an over-stuffed record.
If the saying “you’re only as good as your last album” were to be applied to Kylie and Kiss Me Once, it’s a given that 2010’s mainly Stuart Price affair Aphrodite was the superior release; something has been ‘lost in translation’ with this RocNation relationship. It feels as though certain parts of Kylie we’ve all come to love over the decades have been eradicated, whilst other parts seem overtly exploited, so much so they don’t feel like Kylie at all. The boring-as-all-fuck “Sexercize” was written by Sia and drips along with a dated dubstep backdrop and lyrics that make you absolutely cringe with embarrassment, making for a song that’s about as sexy as a Woody Allen sex tape. “Mr President” follows a similar style and, because of this, sounds like a soulless, random pop song that could have been anybody’s: back in 2012. “Sexy Love” sounds like something that was left off 2001’s Fever LP, which is perhaps exactly where it should have stayed. Then there’s heavily-vocodered moments like “Fine” and the Enrique Iglesias duet “Beautiful”, both which seem like over-manipulated afterthoughts.
Not all of Kiss Me Once plays like a rubbish bin of sound, with the Tom Aspaul cover and MNEK produced “Feels So Good” serving as the best moment here. The track is a luscious excursion into dreamy electropop and makes you wonder what a completely-produced-by-MNEK album from Kylie would sound like (it would sound Bloody Fantastic, that’s how it would sound). “If Only” – the other complete gem here – also follows a similar style-pattern of “Feels So Good”, throwing in the most scenic chorus on the entire record as Kylie wistfully croons away. The Pharrell Williams-penned “I Was Gonna Cancel” is also great, if not a little predictable a sound to come from Pharrell, but is probably the absolute best (and only?) choice for Single #2. “Million Miles” and title track “Kiss Me Once” almost see Minogue channel Classic Kylie but, sadly, just manage to fall short, particularly so with “Million Miles” which boasts a chorus that isn’t really as flashy as its verses. This problem extends itself into another song on the album, fan-favourite “Les Sex”, which has all the makings of a truly Iconic brick in her discography had it not been for that awful chorus.
Seemingly “Into The Blue” was a smart choice as first single, especially when listening to it in context with the rest of the album. It’s turned into quite the grower and gives us the Classic Kylie Chorus we so badly crave; a style of chorus that Kiss Me Once is, for the most part, severely lacking in.
With over 20 of the best pop music producers from all over the world involved in this release, and Sia as Executive Producer, how did Kiss Me Once go so diabolically off track? Is the involvement of RocNation – who perhaps have no real understanding of Kylie’s true legacy – cause for concern? Or is it the simple fact that there really were one too many cooks in Kylie’s proverbial kitchen as this was being conceived, leaving everything so identifiably Kylie lost under the sheen of an abundance of producers?
Kiss Me Once isn’t a terrible album, but it isn’t one of Kylie’s best either and certainly sheds some light on how great Aphrodite was as a cohesive piece of work. And how she expects to translate some of these songs into a tour is beyond me; some of these tracks don’t sound like the kind of songs you want to hear period, much less live in concert. That in itself is going to be a task.
I spent most of my listens to this record wishing Kylie would find a happy medium between her trademark, whimsical electropop, her forthright PWL pop-days and the indie-darling days of her DeConstruction years. There’s real possibility for greatness once again should she focus on going back to those undeniable basics, but aside from a few, truly warm and brilliant moments, Kiss Me Once smells like the kind of record America might have expected her to release ten years ago. Which makes me think, once again, that her new management team have no idea what to really do with her. So is American domination really worth it in the end?
Kylie is and always will be our National Pop Queen, but as somebody who has bought every album release throughout her incredible 25+ year career, this is the first time I’ve been left with more to dislike on one of her LP’s than I have to enjoy. Less than 40% of this record feels re-listenable, and as a long-term fan that breaks my heart.
A friend made a joke online recently where he retitled Kiss Me Once to “Play Me Once”, because, he said, that is exactly what he’d be doing with it. I wouldn’t necessarily go that far, but somewhere on this record you should be able to find a solid 6 track EP, as opposed to the finalised, 13 track shambles we’ve ended up with.
This is probably a three-stars-out-of-five album so that is the final grade I will award it, but – to be honest – I was very inclined to give it two-and-a-half-stars-out-of-five just because it’s Kylie, and we all expect a lot better from her.
3 Neon Nights out of 5
Key tracks: “Feels So Good”, “If Only”, “I Was Gonna Cancel”, “Into The Blue”.
If you like this, try: Kylie Minogue – Aphrodite, Dannii Minogue – Neon Nights, Kylie Minogue – Fever.