I still remember the first time I heard "Body Language". My blood ran cold and I'm pretty sure a part of me died inside. In all my years as a Kylie fan, I don't think I've ever been so disappointed - and that includes the time I fell into a boredom induced coma listening to her first Deconstruction album. In retrospect, my expectations were ridiculously high. At the time I honestly thought Kylie could do no wrong. After a decade of hard knocks, she had somehow kicked and scratched her way to the top of the pop pile with "Fever" - even Jesus was jealous of her career resurrection! Kylie had seemingly found the winning formula and I naively hoped "Body Language" would deliver more of the same. It didn't. I was ready for just about anything apart from the eclectic mix of mid-tempo electronic jams, 80s funk and bizarre American-centric pop tunes. "Body Language" was the anti-"Fever" in just about every respect and it took me a long time to get into. Strangely, it now holds a special place in my heart. It's not the masterpiece that some deluded fans proclaim it to be but Kylie's 9th studio album is a daring and complex pop opus that houses some highly underrated gems.
A large part of my initial negative reaction to "Body Language" stemmed from the fact that it seemed to be a nasty case of false advertising. The lead single put off a lot of fans but I've always thought that "Slow" was the natural progression from "Fever". That track is so sleek, sophisticated and cool - while still being quintessentially Kylie. I love the minimalism. It's unbelievably low key, yet deceptively insistent and catchy. Team that up with the gay porn video clip and you have one of Kylie's finest singles and an exciting new musical direction. However, someone at Kylie HQ had other ideas. The Alexis Strum penned "Still Standing" is more reflective of the album's tone. Many fans consider this something of a diamond in the rough but I feel like there's something missing - like a chorus! The lyrics are great and suit Kylie perfectly but this should have been a hands in the air dance anthem, not a quirky mid-tempo electro number that goes nowhere faster than Dannii's career. "Secret (Take You Home)" is more like it. Often dismissed as a cringeworthy attempt to break America, I prefer to think of this catchy trash as one of Kylie's most fabulous guilty pleasures. I love the Lisa Lisa & The Cult Jam sample, while the rap is sheer camp genius - buckle up baby feel my speed, take you from zero to sixty!
So much was made of Kurtis Mantronik's involvement in the album that I was expecting something seriously brilliant. Instead, we got the stillborn "Promises" - a track that bores me as much today as it did 6 years ago. I will never understand why the gays on Say Hey were campaigning to get this released as a single, hell even "Nu-Di-Ty" has more commercial appeal! Speaking of hit potential, I think "Sweet Music" had plenty. It's perhaps the most straightforward pop tune on the album. I love the 80s references in the lyrics and the chorus is very catchy. Much like the sublime "Red Blooded Woman". I could write a thesis on the way this song divided fans but I loved it from the first listen. Bitches lamented the blatantly American sound - a criticism that seems ridiculous today when everyone with a recording contract is busily trying to jump on Rihanna's urban pop bandwagon. Then there were claims that Kylie was too old (at an ancient 35, mind you!) to sing lyrics about "freakin' around". Strangely many of the same people had no problem with 49 year old Madonna singing about her "sticky and sweet" candy shop. As far as I'm concerned, the song is a high camp triumph. I don't think anyone was buying the American makeover but I can't imagine my Kylie collection without this rubbish. The Whitey remix, in particular, is a trip to gay heaven. Happily, Kylie had the last laugh with this one. "Red Blooded Woman" is the only Kylie song apart from "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" that still gets played on Australian radio with any frequency (and that includes all the singles from "X") and the song has entered the national consciousness thanks to Kath & Kim. Who will ever forget Kim belting it out at Epponnee's wedding? Check it out below. The song starts at 1:20 mins. AMAZING!
The selection of "Chocolate" as the album's third and ultimately final single was a big mistake. I love the song - although I prefer the hilarious ghetto version with Ludacris that leaked a while ago - but fans were crying out for an upbeat dance track not a ballad, however dreamy and delicate it might be. The remixes were god awful and the promotion was non-existent, making the whole thing feel like some kind of contractual obligation. The only saving grace in my book is the kooky and extremely classy video that still pushes all my buttons. I was pretty harsh about "Promises" but Kurtis Mantronik redeems himself with "Obsession". This is 80s tinged electronica that actually works. The staccato beats are catchy, the lyrics are cute and I love the chorus. With a slightly beefier remix this could have been amazing. I feel exactly the same way about "I Feel For You". This track is so frustratingly close to being spectacular. The 90s piano is a surprising delight and the chorus is sublime but the verses don't quite work and that vocal sample annoys the hell out of me. It's almost like they tried a little too hard to make it cool and cutting edge. That being said, I always look forward to the pretentious thunder and rain in the last 30 seconds.
If I had to select a track from "Body Language" that deserves to be re-visited and re-evaluated by pop fans, it would have to be the big lump of sultry gorgeousness that is "Someday". I sometimes feel like the only card carrying Al Kylieda member that loves this but it's probably my favourite song on the whole album. Emiliana Torrini brings out a side of Kylie that I didn't know existed. The lyrics are so mature, the production is complex and eccentric (in a good way) and the cameo from Scritti Politti frontman Green Garside is a great touch. Whenever I find myself wishing "Body Language" had turned out differently, I just listen to "Someday" and get over it. That little gem is followed by the equally brilliant "Loving Days", which has to be in the running for Kylie's greatest ever ballad. Richard Stannard and Julian Gallagher create such a lush and dreamy canvas for one of Kylie's best vocal performances. Everything about this sublime gem just works. I wish I could say the same for the stinking turd that closes the album. "After Dark" is one of the worst songs of Kylie's entire career. Cathy Dennis should have been forced to sit on her Ivor Novello award as punishment for unloading this dire shit on poor, unsuspecting Kylie. What a disappointing way to end an uneven but extremely enjoyable album. At least the Australian edition finished with the lovely "Slo Motion", which is a favourite of mine despite sounding a little too similar to "Loving Days".
Half the problem with "Body Language" is knowing how different it could have been. Pascal Gabriel's "I'm Sorry" was an unexpected return to the introspectiveness of the Deconstruction era, while "Trippin' Me Up" is the dance anthem that "Body Language" was crying out for. When you throw "I'm Just Here For The Music" (recently raped by Paula Abdul), the trashtastic "My Image Unlimited" and the super catchy "On The Up" into the mix - you have the ingredients for one hell of a pop album. That's not even mentioning "BPM" and "Boombox", which were both originally recorded for "Body Language". However, even if I could wave my magic wand and completely overhaul the album, I don't think I would. Perhaps I'd ditch some of the tracks that needlessly pander to the American market (those decisions were clearly more corporate than artistic) but on the whole I'd leave it alone. Kylie has recorded enough killer dance-pop tunes for ten divas. Another dozen would have been nice but I'd miss the kooky shit on "Body Language". I respect that Kylie tried something different. A few of the risks came off and a lot of them didn't but that's what makes the album so frustrating and so fascinating.