Thursday, January 30, 2014

Kylie Minogue-Diminutive Disco Diva

Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue biking.
Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue is one of my favorite musical guilty pleasures. When it comes to catchy dance-pop, she can’t be beat. Kylie’s music is unapologetically fun and upbeat, which makes for good listening in the middle of winter. I think I first heard of Kylie thanks to my “British Hit Singles” book, purchased in England in 1993. I remember there was a picture of Minogue holding a gold record, circa 1988, so it was probably for her first single, “The Locomotion,” and I thought, “Wow, she’s pretty cute.” But since Kylie’s career in the United States languished throughout the 1990’s, Kylie didn’t have much of a chance to enter my consciousness during my teenage years. I became more aware of Kylie during 2001-02, when her single, the prophetically titled “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” seemed to be ubiquitous. I liked the song, but I didn’t really think about, you know, buying it. Years later, I heard the song again and I thought to myself, “I do honestly, unironically like this song, I just need to own it.” Fortunately, I could buy the album it was on, “Fever,” through the now-defunct Listening to “Fever,” I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really enjoyed the whole album, not just the one hit single, and that encouraged me to get more of Kylie’s other albums. My favorite album of hers is 2010’s “Aphrodite,” which I listened to twice during a snowy, traffic-filled drive home during in the winter of 2010-11. 

A mystery of Kylie’s career is that for all of her worldwide success, she has never quite been able to crack the American market. While Minogue has scored an incredible 32 Top Ten singles in the UK since 1987, she has had just two Top Ten singles in the US, “The Locomotion,” and “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” I think one of the reasons for her lack of success statewide is that she didn’t tour in the US at all until 2009. Had she brought her worldwide tour to the US in 2002, when “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” was still stuck in everyone’s head, she might have been able to start building a bigger audience in the US. I’ve read that Minogue wanted to tour the US earlier, but she was always discouraged from doing so by her manager. Which makes no sense to me, why wouldn’t you want to have more of a presence in such a huge music market? Of course she’s not as big a star over here, so her performances might have to be scaled down, but you build an audience for your music by touring. Had Kylie toured the US in 2002, perhaps her follow-up to “Fever,” 2003’s “Body Language,” might have been more successful. “Fever” was certified Platinum in the US, selling more than 1 million copies, and peaking at number 3. In contrast, “Body Language” sold just 177,000 copies, and peaked outside the Top 40 at 42. However, 2010’s “Aphrodite” peaked at number 19 in the US, her highest chart position since “Fever,” so maybe Kylie’s fan base here is growing. 

Minogue’s appeal lies in her ability to come off as a nice pop star. She’s sexy, but she’s not trashy. She’s not about shocking people, she’s about entertaining them. She doesn’t have the greatest voice in the world, but she makes the most of her talent. Kylie doesn’t seem like an unreachable superstar, like Madonna or Lady Gaga, she feels like a real person, which is quite an accomplishment for someone who’s been a pop star for the last 25 years.

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