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Kylie Minogue - Kiss Me Once

Rating: 8/10
Us Australian's are a territorial bunch. We love our country dearly, and there's nothing we love more than a true Aussie who has made it big overseas. Hugh Jackman is like a mythical creature, Russel Crowe could break the nose of the Queen with a well hurled Blackberry and we'd still worship the ground he walks upon. And Crocodile Dundee? That bloke hasn't paid for a beer in nearly 30 years. So Kylie Minogue is royalty in this country. Whilst most in the public life can expect every inch of fat they possess to be critiqued and analysed, every relationship broken down and spun, every word they say picked over with a fine toothed comb, Kylie is immune. Her diagnosis of cancer in 2005 was met with national mourning, and everytime another of her relationships ends we all breathe a frustrated sigh. Why oh why can she not find love?!

She may be 45 now, yet Kiss Me Once is as far removed from her approaching menopausal blues as Miley Cyrus' latest. In the same way that Madonna and Cher have managed to remain timeless, Kylie clutches at youth with both hands. The fact that she is the right side of 50 means her surgical bill is quite humble compared to her previously mentioned contemporaries, yet if ever there was a time for her to make a big statement about life, love and ageing, now would be the time. Releasing The Abbey Road Sessions in 2012 was such a stylistic diversification; a 22 piece orchestra was enlisted to play "All The Lovers" and "On A Night Like This" before she announced the project, that you felt there may be a more concrete shift in focus. It was a beautiful, dynamic record that showcased her staggering vocal talent, more so than anything she'd previously worked on, and that sense of re-hashing old songs, fleshing out emotions and long forgotten inspirations might have uncovered a sentimental, or possibly even confronting reality for her.

There's little of those sessions to be found on Kiss Me Once. Despite splitting with the man who did most of the production leg work on 2010's Aphrodite, the overall feel still remains. This is pop music, and there are hundreds of writers and producers lining up at her door, shoving beats and lyrics through every orifice. Opener "Into The Blue" is the most nostalgic and introspective moment on the record, as she explodes in to a powerful message of strength and hope, casting off previous shackles and looking brightly to the future, I'm not ashamed of all my mistakes / 'Cause through the cold / I still kept the fire burning / These memories that I can't erase / Always remind me I'm on an endless journey". It's a strong opening, and a real call to arms, an old school technique designed to rouse the hairs on your neck and prepare you for battle. A true underdog-come-warrior tale, and it's a persona that has probably been thrust upon her by the Australian media rather than something designed by herself, yet she embodies it nicely. The opening three tracks are quite stunning actually. Million Miles starts with this odd indie rock riff, and you're forgiven for thinking she may just sink in to some dark crooning. That is until the drum machine hits and the dancefloor beckons. She may not have written or produced the song, but her influence is ingrained in that catchy as hell chorus that wiggles in your head and stays stuck there for days. The way in which she sings "million miles away" is testament to knowledge and experience.

What is pointed and interesting about this record is the deal she has now inked with Jay-Z's juggernaut Roc Nation. In splitting with her former manager of 25 years, Terry Blamey, there were whisperings and rumours that maybe, at 45, she had decided to slowly wind her stellar career up. Not so. The added clout and cred of Jay's imprint has directly accounted for the third track, "I Was Gonna Cancel", a true-to-life throwback to those rose tinted 80s, concocted by none other than Mr Pop Music himself, Pharrell Williams. This song is a real burner, the most bubblegum of all pop music it smacks of wistful memory, with Minogue's voice cutting through the sparse synth and keyboard riff, acting as a beacon. There's even an operatic backing track and something resembling a keytar, evoking images of Jean Michel Jarre smoking his fingers along the historical instrument. That call to arms from the first track appears again here, with Minogue dispatching a depression that is lying in wait for her with positive affirmations and a simple yet potent message, "Just get up and go, / What's on the other side? / You will never know unless you, / Go, go, go, gi-i-irl"

Yet there is always love.. Minogue's numerous and ultimately failed relationships are certainly not tabloid fodder, they are cautionary tales, spoken of in hair salons by women who cluck their disapproval at the men who have so hurt 'our Kylie'. In this sense she is very similar to Jennifer Anniston. We want her to get married, to have kids, even if she herself admits these may be unattainable goals. Sex is still a huge part of her creative process, though, and she is still the right side of 50 to avoid the naughty nanna curse that Cher and Madonna have become tangled in. Names like "Sexy Love", "Sexercize", "Les Sex" and "Feels So Good" leave you in little doubt as to what occupies a great deal of her time and mental warehouse. "Sexercize" is her most charged song since "Nu-di-ty", a throbbing dubstep number that's as racey as a weekend in Spa. "I wanna see you beat all your best times / And if you're lucky I'mma teach you". It's not quite "Let's Get Physical", but it's not creepy, as you'd imagine a 45 year old woman talking saying "Strech it up baby / You take your time though / I'm burning, push in me" would be. She's that woman at the club, the one your eyes are drawn to immediately. Slightly older, but the most experienced. The man who goes home with her is the true hero of the evening, even if he is only 21.

You could be hyper critical of Kiss Me Once and pass it off as nothing more than an expensive dating profile. But you'd be exposed as someone who only took a cursory glance and made a snap judgement. On "If Only", her barely concealable anxieties about that which she seeks yet somehow alludes her, true love, are revealed. "If only, true love, spreading in the wings, if only". The woman knows how to love, she knows how it feels and yearns for it to be hers again. Some say that she never fully recovered after the death of Michael Hutchence, and that it was with him her heart truly lay. This is possible, and the link up with Enrique Inglesias, "Beautiful", could be used in a case for this, "
And now I / I just want you to know / That after all this time / You're still the one", yet this could be written about numerous past lovers. Much more depressing is the flacid nature of the track. Inglesias, heavily auto-tuned, spews sap, and fans of the brilliant pair up of
Nick Cave and Kylie in 1996 will be disappointed she didn't spend her money on a more interesting collaborator.

You can't wallow in past love or future spinster hood too long though, Minogue ensures a healthy dose of positivity is always ready, and like a good mug of hot chocolate it floods your system with warmth. On the stunning closer "Fine", she reboots her message from "I Was Gonna Cancel", and thankfully obliterates any notion of the passive aggressive way in which girls usually use the term. A bright and bubbly beat is relished by Minogue. Again she delves in to a part of herself we wish wasn't there, but is becoming harder and harder to mask. There seems a depth of sadness that exists, yet she provides us with a confident and practical solution every time. It is still disquieting when she sings "Even the sweetest things are bittersweet" and "The brighest colors are the black and white / You wanna dance but you don't trust your feet". Repeating that we will be fine is bittersweet in itself, yet strangely believable and steeling. She's a master, our Kylie.

As is sometimes the case, I began the review with a rating in mind and had to throw that out the window the more I delved and analysed. Kiss Me Once is one I couldn't stop writing about. I've heard a lot of recent pop music, yet this is by far the best. It surpasses Cher's 2013 record Closer To The Truth, and is far superior to today's modern pop purveyors, Beyonce aside. Her honesty and integrity is never once questioned, and tracks like Sexercize" only strengthen your love for her. It may be produced to within an inch of its life, it may be artificially enhanced, there may be a slew of songs about sex, yet this is, amazingly, Kylie. She can't do it any other way. I said she could've taken this opportunity to stake a claim in the next stage of her career and focus on a more grown up approach to production and lyrics. Yet I needn't have worried, she's already done it, with aplomb. Kudos. Brilliant.

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