In our post listing artists/bands returning with new music in 2018, Aussie pop princess Kylie Minogue was at the top of that list. In a music career that spans almost 30 years, Kylie Minogue has not necessarily been known for consistency in terms of commercial success. She has most definitely had her share of lackluster years interspersed between periods of larger than life success in the limelight. In the face of a series of commercial highs and lows, and a battle with cancer in her mid-30s that she thankfully triumphed over, she has definitely won over at least some skeptics and critics that wrote her off as a purveyor of disposable ear candy. These critics (me included) have least acknowledged her tenacity to keep going and her ability to challenge herself artistically and not stay confined to a specific sub-genre of pop music. Her first break from bubble-gum pop was with her fifth album (titled “Kylie Minogue“). On her 1998 album “Impossible Princess” she graduated to a sound that made it almost difficult for critics to reconcile this radical sonic shift with her SAW era (an era dominated by the sound of songwriter/producer trio Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Peter Waterman) breed of manufactured pop. No one would have guessed that this Indie-sounding album would be a precursor to Kylie’s commercial prime – one that yielded a string of unforgettable hits such as “Spinning around“, “Love at first sight“, and “Can’t get you out of my head” (this song peaked at #8 on the US charts and opened the highly impenetrable US market for Kylie). Her recent offerings suggest a creative well that is running dry. Fortunately, Kylie Minogue is back to remind fans and skeptics that the assertion of a creative decline is far from accurate. On her new single “Dancing” (the lead single for her soon to be released album titled “Golden“), Kylie has re-embraced her propensity for stylistic reinvention and has given fans yet another surprising twist in an artistic journey that has lasted almost three decades.
“Dancing” is both stylistically schizophrenic and thematically ambiguous. The song opens with a guitar intro that is typical of a country music ballad and quickly slips into a verse propelled by a rather pedestrian melody. The lyrics on the first verse leave the door wide open to interpretation with lines such as
No one wants to stay at home
Nobody wants to be alone
When you come knocking
I’ll be at your door
I don’t ever wanna stop
I’m gonna give it all I’ve got
And when they ask me, who could ask for more
The lyrically minimalistic pre-chorus serves as the song’s transition from a down-tempo country ballad to something more mid-tempo. It is also the precursor to an undeniably catchy uptempo chorus reminiscent of the carefree frivolity (“When I go out, I wanna go dancing”) captured in songs such as “Get outta my way” (from her 2010 “Aphrodite” album). That being said, the lyrics of the song’s Middle 8 suggest that Kylie might be talking about death when she sings “when I go out”. Here is a snippet of the lyrics in the middle 8:
Everybody’s got a story,
let it be a blaze of glory,
burning bright never fade away
When the final curtain falls
We can say we did it all
The period leading up to Kylie’s cancer diagnosis qualifies as a “blaze of glory” and she really could say she did it all. It is not uncommon for anyone suffering from cancer to confront the idea of demise. But Kylie’s tenacity and zest for life had her “dancing” away from as opposed to towards demise. One cannot help but think that the lyrics in this song are a nod to that period in her life. Therein lies the song’s thematic ambiguity.
From a melody perspective, “Dancing” is unlikely to rival some of Kylie’s memorable hits such as “Get outta my way” or “Love at first sight“. Whether or not the song will be a Kylie essential is something only time will tell but it will definitely serve as yet another stylistic inflection point for Kylie – and to that end the song has significance. It seems timely that she would indulge in an artistic experiment of this type to coincide with a chronological milestone (her 50th birthday in May of this year). “Dancing” is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for Kylie and it has intensified my enthusiasm for her upcoming album “Golden“.
STAR RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars
In case you did not pick up on this earlier, the blog you are reading is affiliated with Radio Creme Brulee – an online radio station that features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. The music of Kylie Minogue (both old and new) is a regular staple on our radio station. Alongside newer artists, we also play plenty of newer music by bands that rose to prominence in the 80s and 90s. Noteworthy examples include Simply Red, Wet Wet Wet, Tears For Fears, Suede, The Corrs, Dubstar, Duran Duran, Camouflage, Spandau Ballet, INXS, Depeche Mode, Johnny Hates Jazz, Simple Minds, and Culture Club.
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