Gays and their enablers alike rejoiced earlier this month when Dame Kylie of Minogue released her twelfth studio album, Kiss Me Once. The record marks the first feature-length release from Minogue under her new management team, which just so happens to be helmed by Jay-Z, placing her under the extensive Roc Nation umbrella and, theoretically, opening more doors for her in the US than she could possibly dream of … Theoretically.
The problem with Kiss Me Once is that it works almost as a double-edged sword, particularly when you take Kylie’s persistence when it comes to cracking the American market. On one hand, a lot of these songs are so dated, dire and bland that it’s hard to imagine the US buying into any of it; yet on the other, this is exactly the kind of dated, dire and bland shit that charts quite well in the United States. So, should Kyle’s choose to try cracking that market once more, she could very well be on to a commercial winner.
With all of that said, there are some truly great moments to be heard on Kiss Me Once. It’s just a shame that those great moments only make up a small portion of this over-stuffed record. If the saying “you’re only as good as your last album” were to be applied to Kylie and Kiss Me Once, it’s a given that 2010’s mainly Stuart Price affair Aphrodite was the superior release. Something has been ‘lost in translation’ with this Roc Nation relationship.
It feels as though certain parts of Kylie we’ve all come to love over the decades have been eradicated, whilst other parts seem overtly exploited, so much so they don’t feel like Kylie at all. The boring-as-all-fuck ‘Sexercize’ was written by Sia and drips along with a dated dubstep backdrop and lyrics that make you blush – with embarrassment – and is about as sexy as plunging a power drill into your temple. ‘Mr President’ follows a similar style and, because of this, sounds like a soulless, random pop song that could have been anybody’s – back in 2012, whereas ‘Sexy Love’ sounds like something that was left off 2001’s Fever LP – and with good reason, because it’s Trash! Then there’s heavily-vocodered moments like ‘Fine’ and the Enrique Iglesias duet ‘Beautiful’ which seem like undercooked after-thoughts.
Not all of Kiss Me Once plays like the rubbish bin of sounds experienced in the previously mentioned tracks, with the Tom Aspaul cover and MNEK produced ‘Feels So Good’ serving as the best moment here. The track is a luscious excursion into dreamy electropop and makes you wonder what a completely-produced-by-MNEK album from Kylie would sound like (it would sound Fucking Fantastic, that’s how it would sound).
‘If Only’ – the other complete gem here – also follows a similar style-pattern of ‘Feels So Good’, throwing in the most scenic chorus on the entire record as Kylie wistfully croons away. The Pharrell Williams-penned ‘I Was Gonna Cancel’ is also great, if not a little predictable a sound to come from Pharrell, whilst ‘Million Miles’ and the title track ‘Kiss Me Once’ almost see Minogue channel Classic Kylie but, sadly, just falls short, particularly in ‘Million Miles’ which boasts a chorus that isn’t as flashy as its verses, a problem that extends itself into another song on the album, fan-favourite ‘Les Sex’, which has all the makings of a truly iconic brick in her discography – if only it weren’t for that awful chorus.
Seemingly, ‘Into the Blue’ was a smart choice as first single, especially when listening to it in context with the rest of the album. It’s turned into quite the grower and gives us the Classic Kylie chorus we so richly deserve; a chorus that Kiss Me Once is, for the most part, severely lacking in.
The list of producers on this album should have assured us a truly exquisite return to form for Kylie: Sia Furler, Pharrell Williams, Greg Kurstin, Cutfather, Daniel Davidsen, Mike Del Rio, GoodWill & MGI, Chris Loco, Mark Taylor, MNEK, The Monsters and The Strangerz, Justin Raisen, Ariel Rechtshaid, Jesse Shatkin, Thomas Olsen, Peter Wade, Joshua “JD” Walker and Peter Wallevik – all fairly prominent names in the pop world. So how, then, between 20 producers, did Kiss Me Once go so diabolically off track? Is the involvement of Roc Nation – who have no real understanding of Kylie’s true legacy – cause for concern? Or is the simple fact that there really was one too many cooks in Kylie’s proverbial kitchen as this was being concocted?
Kiss Me Once isn’t a terrible album, but it isn’t one of Kylie’s best either. And how she expects to translate some of these songs into a tour is beyond me; some of these tracks don’t sound like the kind of songs you want to hear period, much less live in concert. That in itself will be quite a task.
This is probably a three stars out of five album, but I’m inclined to give it two and a half stars out of five just because it’s Kylie and we all expect a lot better from her.
Written by Adem Ali