October 7, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 50°F


Review: New release from disco queen entertains despite staleness

"Kiss Me Once"

Kylie Minogue

Since the beginning of her career, Kylie Minogue has often been compared to another pop-diva who got her start in the mid-’80s, Madonna. While their musical styles and public personas are very different, the real debate has always been why Minogue has never been able to truly dominate the U.S. market like Madonna has. Her new album, “Kiss Me Once,” shows that even when she is operating on autopilot by playing it safe, Minogue is a force to be reckoned with.

Minogue has never been one to shy away from taking a risk. On her 2003 album “Body Language,” she dabbled in rhythm and blues, while the 1997 album “Impossible Princess” elevated unpolished indie-rock tracks into radio-ready guitar anthems.

“Kiss Me Once,” which comes as a surprise given Minogue’s past history as a musical trailblazer, is incredibly predictable. Lead single “Into the Blue” includes a kick drum and prominent string section that sound like warmed-up leftovers from Minogue’s last album, “Aphrodite.” Meanwhile, “I Was Gonna Cancel” describes having a bad day in the studio over a soulful funk guitar and a chorus of echoing bells, though the backtrack sounds slightly outdated. In a sense, all of these throwbacks make for a passably enjoyable listen, but they don’t captivate or excite.

While repetitive and not necessarily new for Minogue, the pulsating disco beats, provided by executive producer Sia Furler, are a welcome change from the build-ups and bland synth lines that have come to dominate the radio. Lyrically, Minogue’s songwriters have offered her a variety of emotions on this album, from campy to sexy and even inspirational. “Sexercize” fulfills the first two descriptions and begs a lover to “bounce, bounce” and “feel the burn,” while the lighthearted “Fine” instructs the listener that “you don’t have to worry/ turn your face into the sun.”

In the tradition of disco and most of Minogue’s back catalogue, there are meaningful messages spread throughout the lyrics on “Kiss Me Once,” however, they are often buried by the production values. “Beautiful,” for instance, is a duet with Enrique Iglesias that masks both singers’ voices in an uncomfortably Cher-like auto tune that is not fitting for a ballad. What works for the space-age pop of acts like Daft Punk clearly does not translate into a winning formula for Minogue, which makes this album sound like it is trying harder than it really needs to remain relevant.

What is so charming about “Kiss Me Once” is that Minogue and her producers have yet again filled the gap for modern disco without alienating her core audience, making it easy for this album to please devout Minogue fans. However, using the same blueprint may not capture the same American viewership as her contemporaries — most notably Madonna. The sense of adventure that made Minogue a worldwide icon on the charts has been neutered in exchange for what she does best: bringing disco back to life over and over again.