June 28, 2010
Kylie Minogue: Aphrodite (Album Review)
In case you didn’t know, Kylie Minogue is a legend.
Despite the pop singer’s unjustly limited visibility in the North American market, Kylie Minogue is a beloved musical icon in most other territories around the world. Her sheer popularity and nearly revered status is to such a degree that the only real way to describe it would be–at the risk of a barrage of anonymous heckling–to that of her contemporary, Madonna.
It is a wonder to think, then, that after over 23 years in the music industry, 11 studio albums, and over 68 million albums sold, following some of the most incredible international career highs and record-breaking accomplishments of a female musician in modern pop history, Kylie Minogue has only just now crafted one of her best records to date.
When it was announced that Kylie would begin working with legendary pop producer Stuart Price in the middle of 2009, the collaboration was almost universally celebrated amongst fans. Then again, it wasn’t altogether that surprising of a collaboration either.
Price is, of course, responsible for some truly killer modern disco records, including The Killers‘ Day & Age, Frankmusik‘s 3 Words, and the Scissor Sisters‘ upcoming Night Work, and of course, Madonna’s legendary Confessions On A Dance Floor. Realistically, it was only a matter of time before the two would unite.
As a result, Aphrodite is exactly the kind of record that one would expect when crossing Kylie Minogue with Stuart Price. That is–one of the most sleek, cohesive releases of her entire catalog. To put it simply: Yes, it does live up to the hype.
The album launches with its first single, “All The Lovers.” Currently a Top 10 single in the UK, the song is a solid representation of the bulk of Aphrodite, though far from the finest cut on the record. In fact, the soaring chorus and glittering electronica offer only a taste of what’s to come.
With much of the record, the producers on the job have taken Kylie’s disco diva connotation and added a more complex, edgier layer of dance production. Cuts like the Calvin Harris-produced, Jake Shears-penned “Too Much” are evidence of this next level sound, sounding something like a thousand glitter-filled balloons bursting all at once inside of an intergalactic vortex.
“Get Outta My Way,” the projected second single off of the album, is bound to be another success on the charts. It also happens to be a somewhat rare turn of defiance for Kylie, a singer best characterized by swooning love ditties and breathy enticements. This song, as Kylie announced to the crowd at Splash before performing the Aphrodite mega-mix, is about respect.
The singer’s confidence is only pushed further with the album’s Nerina Pallot-penned title track. Showcasing Kylie at her bossiest in some time, “Aphrodite” explodes with a militant, foot-stomping beat and a searing bolt of fiery energy: “I’m fierce and I’m feeling mighty / Don’t you mess with me, you don’t want to fight me!” she warns throughout the song’s storming chorus. Judging by the fact that both this song and “Get Out Of My Way” double as the album’s strongest selections, it’s safe to say Kylie wears her sass well.
In “Closer” and “Illusion,” two personal favorite cuts, Minogue and Price divine dark disco magic: The former, a slow-building haunter that shares connections to both her older work (“Confide in Me”) and a glimmer of Madonna’s Confessions; the latter a complex mesh of ’90’s house and Ace of Base-like synthesized bliss. Throw in a relentless throbbing bass and a few sex sessions worth of heavy breathing, and you’ve got nothing short of musical bliss.
Later on, both “Looking For An Angel” and “Everything is Beautiful” function as nothing short of definitions of the word “lush.” Warm, layered slices of piano-encrusted electronica stack one on top of the other as the singer’s lulling voice climbs over the melody : “If I lie with you long enough, I can see the things I’m dreaming of,” she coos during the song’s chorus, “Let’s go through the ritual, until everything is beautiful.”
Then there’s “Cupid Boy,” an unstoppable tour de force of jagged electro, moody guitar strums, and impossible girlish delight. The song features a surging, sonic-powered bridge of distorted vocals and an utter jaw-dropper of a chorus, colored by hard synth rhythms, an angelic chorus, and swelling, echoed swirls. “If only you knew, I shimmer for you,” Kylie coquettishly offers as the song begins, forever producing the same glee-filled moment of euphoria with each listen thereafter. Yes friends–this is what would be referred to as a “Kylie moment.”
But the opening moment of “Cupid Boy” is far from the only “Kylie moment” of the album–the euphoria felt during the middle eight of “All The Lovers,” the glitchy dance breakdown at the end of “Can’t Beat The Feeling,” the hands-in-the-air glee that is the chorus of “Put Your Hands Up (For Love)”–all of these fleeting moments of divinity only add more glow the hot pink, heart-shaped aura that surrounds all things Kylie.
At a time when a new musical endeavor made by a woman in pop over forty may end up looking like a desperate attempt to latch onto the latest trends and cheap production tricks of the girls on top at the moment, Kylie Minogue’s latest could not be perceived as more authentic to her artistry: Aphrodite is literally the essence of Kylie in audio form. The sparkling instrumentals, the euphoric, angelic coos–everything in this album is an authentic, unapologetic encapsulation the stuff of Kylie Minogue.
This isn’t just an incredible album, or even an album of the year (although it most certainly qualifies to win the title for both). As with Madonna’s Confessions or her own sister’s defining triumph, Neon Nights, Aphrodite is a complete and utter musical moment–a release for the ages, and ultimately, a classic in the making that will go on to become a glittering milestone in Kylie Minogue’s already illustrious career.