A lesser blog or website than our own may usually start a review of a new Kylie Minogue album by listing the numerous tags she’s had to her name over the four decades she’s now been at the top of the pop tree: ‘Cute Kylie’, ‘Sex Kylie’, ‘Dance Kylie’, ‘Indie Kylie’, ‘Disco Kylie’, ‘Kraftwerk Kylie’ etc etc. But as Cher once said: ‘It’s all me. Just in different wrappers.’ There’s a certain kinship between those words of one pop icon and the career moves of another such as Kylie, a chameleon and yet a unique diamond at once, shining regardless of the time or trend of the present day.
Owing to the fact the majority of ‘Golden’, her thirteenth studio album was recorded in the mecca of Country and Western music, Nashville, the new ‘wrapper’ that’s been (slightly lazily) applied to her is that of ‘Country Kylie’, as if it’s there to just be disposed of until her next album appears in three or four years’ time. And yet, when you listen to the album, her move towards the slightly more organic sonic components of this style of music within her own trademark sound makes complete sense, and doesn’t feel in the slightest bit calculated.
From the moment our former #SongoftheWeek, the still brilliant ‘Dancing’ kicks off the album, it’s a good starter place for Kylie’s next chapter musically. As we touched on in our review of that song back in January, her last full studio album, 2014’s Kiss Me Once felt like the sound of her second imperial phase in the 00s, which gave us such saucily divine numbers as ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’, ‘Spinning Around’ and ‘Slow’, finally running its course and not necessarily fitting her anymore or making sense of who she was as an artist in today’s climate.
‘Golden’ is as majestic as it’s name implies. It’s an album that is the sound of a woman growing into herself with grace and maturity, moving on from heartbreak, but still not being afraid to have a good time and get her dancing shoes on when she feels like it, and woe betide anyone if they stop her. It’s also probably her most lyrically honest album since 1997’s criminally underrated Impossible Princess project. Current single ‘Stop Me From Falling’, and tracks like ‘A Lifetime To Repair’ touch on this theme best of all, and marry the bluegrass influenced guitars and slap drums that are indebted to her inspiration for this album, Dolly Parton, with floorfilling melodies as lyrically, she talks with tenacity about how it’s been ‘too many nights crying that it’s not fair / If I get hurt again, I’d need a lifetime to repair’.
What also strikes you, listening to the album, is what a great vocalist Kylie really is, and how much the songs treat that voice with the respect it deserves. Underneath the numerous wrappers applied to her, the source of her public stature – her singing – is oft overlooked. But the simplicity of the production on the tracks really allows her to shine, particularly on the album’s slower paced numbers which, I would argue, are some of the best she’s ever recorded – specifically, ‘Sincerely Yours’, and ‘The Music’s Too Sad Without You’, her collaboration with folksy singer-songwriter Jack Savoretti. Both songs are – and I love this word dearly – wistful in nature, and the vulnerability of her vocal delivery is so believable and moving, to the point it actually makes you a bit emotional listening to it.
The other underlying theme of living one’s life to the maximum is also prevalent throughout, particularly once the middle of the album gives us songs like the aptly named ‘Live A Little’ and the gloriously retro sounding ‘Shelby ’68’. In the lyrics of the former, when she sings ‘I wanna pack up, set myself a sail / New life, never gonna fail / No matter what stands in my way, I wanna find love / Make a great escape’, you hear the sound of that reclaiming of the better times and good people, and focusing on the here and now. One imagines this is the sound of the gap year traveling Kylie never gave herself when she worked like a trooper from her initial post-Charlene, S/A/W backed days in the late 80s.
As a concept album on all of the above themes, lyrically and musically, it’s undoubtedly one of Kylie’s strongest releases for some years. Yes, she’ll have her hiccups from time to time, personally and professionally, but no matter what’s thrown at her, she remains a force of nature in the pop world, and she’ll be damned if anyone tries to stop her bouncing back in the way that only she knows best. A golden album? You’d better believe it.
STREAM THESE: ‘Live A Little’, ‘A Lifetime To Repair’, ‘Sincerely Yours’, ‘The Music’s Too Sad Without You (feat. Jack Savoretti)’
‘Golden’ is available to stream and download now via BMG/Liberator Music. Kylie begins her latest UK tour at Newcastle Metro Radio Arena on 18th September. Twitter: @kylieminogue