Nine years is a considerable stretch of time by most standards. In pop music, that span might as well be an eternity. It’s been an eternity since Kylie Minogue was anywhere on the American pop cultural landscape.
Can’t Get You Out of My Head was the track that enjoyed considerable success way back in 2001, but Minogue, for whatever reason, couldn’t or didn’t capitalize on the brief flicker of Stateside visibility.
Instead, Minogue was content to merely become a bona fide icon in every other corner of the globe. (In fact, she only mounted her debut American headlining tour just last year.)
Her output continued steadily throughout the ‘00s, and the comparisons to Madonna haven’t ceased. For all intents and purposes, the Australian-born vocalist has proven rather prescient when it comes to anticipating pop music’s ever-wily whims.
Although her U.S. fan base is of the cult variety—that headlining tour wisely confined itself to the coasts—nothing Minogue is doing on Aphrodite, her latest long-player, feels out of step with what’s clogging Top 40 radio at the moment. “Illusion,” “All the Lovers” or “Better Than Today” would fit snugly alongside tracks from Rihanna or Beyonce.
If anything, there’s a sleekness and a freshness to these songs, overseen by (surprise!) frequent Madonna collaborator Stuart Price and a veritable galaxy of cutting edge co-writers, including Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears, Keane’s Tim Rice-Oxley and Calvin Harris.
The multitude of cooks doesn’t spoil the broth; Aphrodite is chic, melodic and effortless, giving itself over to the dance floor with an abandon many American pop acts are too self-conscious to indulge.
That, in fact, may cut to the core of why Minogue hasn’t gained traction here—hers is a style that presupposes a lack of irony.
She simply wants to have a good time, albeit in a manner that doesn’t go all sloppy and boorish; it’s hard to imagine someone like Ke$ha or Lady Gaga managing a similar elegance of the sort found throughout Aphrodite.
Minogue’s 11th studio album succeeds largely because it plays to her strengths. The songs feel current without resorting to high-profile guest stars and without forcing Minogue to be something she’s not. Her reedy, fleetingly crystalline voice isn’t built for wall-toppling ballads; rather, she’s the ideal candidate for cooing over restrained club bangers.
Nothing about Aphrodite suggests it will find much of an American audience outside of the one Minogue has already cultivated over the last decade. If anything, its relatively niche appeal will only cement her standing as one of pop music’s criminally overlooked talents—‘round here, that is.
Elsewhere, it’s the kind of record that suggests Minogue’s sharpest work might yet be ahead of her. Who knows what the next decade will bring?
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