I still remember the first time I heard Kylie's 1988 debut. I saved up to buy the cassette for a family roadtrip and ruthlessly tortured my siblings by demanding mum play it on repeat for the entire 6 hour journey. Even as a child I was all about sharing the Minogue love! Over the next 22 years, each new Kylie album has been an event that I've looked forward to and obsessed over. Some have been better than others but I always find something to love and appreciate. Even if it's a random Japanese bonus track ("Love Is Waiting" - the saving grace of 1994's self-titled cure for insomnia) or a so bad it's amazing triumph like "Nu-Di-Ty". One way or another, Kylie always delivers the goods for me. And that's particularly true of her 11th studio album. It's hard to believe but "Aphrodite" actually lives up to the hype. The endearing desperation of "Body Language" is a thing of the past and the sometimes jarring eclecticism of "X" has been reigned in. It's almost as if Team Minogue spent the past two years processing all the criticism and distilled the brand back to something that is quintessentially Kylie. The result is the pop icon's most consistent and cohesive offering since "Fever". At a time when albums have become hastily thrown together collections of singles and pointless filler, "Aphrodite" stands out by having a theme and expertly mapped out tracklist. It's also the antidote to the hypersexual skank-pop of Ke$ha and Lady Gaga. As much as I love their music, Kylie's bright eyed romanticism comes as a welcome relief. She's back doing what she does best - cute pop music with uplifting lyrics, catchy choruses and an unwavering eye for the dancefloor. Here is my track by track review:
All The Lovers
So dreamy, so lovely, such a bad lead single. Chart performance (in Australia) aside, I still think "All The Lovers" is one of the prettiest pop singles in recent memory. The lyrics are gorgeous and have more depth than they are given credit for, while that explosion of synths at the two and a half minute mark gets me every time. I just think this would have made a better album track. The Kish Mauve penned anthem sets the loved up tone of "Aphrodite" perfectly but it just isn't instant enough to be the chart smash that Kylie needed.
Get Outta My Way
Speaking of future hits, "Get Outta My Way" is destined to be huge. Cutfather and Lucas Secon have given Kylie another "Love At First Sight" for a whole new generation of fans. This is the kind of pure pop that Kylie does better than anyone. The lyrics make me laugh ("this is what'll happen if you ain't givin' your girl what she needs!"), that chorus is more addictive than heroin and the production is sleek without being sterile and overbearing. You can almost see the hordes of drunken girls rushing the dancefloor when this comes on. A lock for second single unless someone at Parlophone has a brain explosion.
Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)
If "Get Outta My Way" is a return to the diva's pure pop roots, then this is her first real dance anthem since the "Fever" era. It's such a relief to hear a big, hearty blast of club Kylie after years of mid-tempo electronic tunes. This is exactly what she needs to win back the gays who have since moved on to Lady Gaga and would be my choice for the album's third single. Hooking up with the Nervo sisters turned out to be an inspired move and Starsmith cements his reputation as one of pop's hottest producers. The Italo-disco-tastic outro is particularly amazing. I can't wait to hear this in a nightclub.
While not as memorable as her similarly titled 1992 B-side, "Closer" is a quirky little grower. It took me a while to warm to it but the track injects some much needed darkness and variety into "Aphrodite". I love the minimal beats and that bare bones of a chorus is strangely hypnotic. Stuart Price really lets his imagination run wild on this one. "Closer" belongs on the soundtrack to a 70s sci-fi film about a demented fembot that falls in love with its creator. Or maybe I just have too much time on my hands...
Everything Is Beautiful
I'm not exactly a Keane fan but Tim Rice-Oxley has a knack for writing melancholy tinged pop songs for fabulous divas. "Early Winter" is probably my favourite track on Gwen Stefani's "Sweet Escape" album and "Everything Is Beautiful" is one of the unexpected highlights of "Aphrodite". It's funny. I initially found this quite slow and boring in comparison to the rest of the album but the sleepy chorus slowly seeps into brain and I love how accurately the song channels Kylie's vulnerability and optimism. I don't think she's given enough credit for her ability to interpret other people's material. This song simply wouldn't work with anyone else.
Oh here we go. The title track is already being thrown around as a 'fan favourite' but this "Hollaback Girl" meets "Wind It Up" rip off has already been done on "X". It didn't work there and doesn't sound that much better here. The only thing that saves it from being a total embarrassment is the brilliant chorus, which sounds like it belongs to an entirely different song. Having said all that - I see the appeal. "Aphrodite" is big, dumb fun that will inevitably be a showstopper when Kylie takes the album on tour. Who would have guessed that Nerina Pallot (and husband Andy) would come up with something this camp and ridiculous? I have an annoying feeling that it will be a future single.
Kylie gets her first writing credit on "Illusion" and it sounds fairly autobiographical. Take the following lyric. "Follow my dreams into distant lands, blowing in the wind over shifting sands". I think Kylie was having a bit of a moment when she penned this in a bubble bath, sipping from a flute of champagne. Or so I'd like to imagine. "Illusion" isn't the catchiest song on the album but it holds a mirror to the darker side of love, which balances the almost dementedly happy mood of the rest of the album. The production is pure Stuart Price. Layered synths and vocals give the track an almost ethereal feel that makes it stand out from the rest of the album for all the right reasons.
Better Than Today
To be honest, I'm kind of surprised this made the album over the fabulous bonus tracks. Not because it's rubbish but because it's been doing the rounds in various forms since Kylie first performed it on her American tour earlier this year. "Better Than Today" still sounds like something Elton John recorded in 1978, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I like the perky lyrics and catchy chorus. More importantly, the retro sound helps break up the album and showcases Kylie's versatility. Not my favourite song on the album but still a lot of fun.
Now this is more like it. I think Calvin Harris is an overrated mess but it's hard to fault his work with Kylie. "In My Arms" was perhaps the highlight of "X" and I was part of the vocal minority that genuinely loved "Heart Beat Rock". This time around he teams up with Jake Shears, which turns out to be a match made in gay heaven. "Too Much" is a seriously brilliant pop song with the kind of explosive chorus that gets stuck in your head and refuses to leave. I love Calvin's playful production that chops and changes from dark and brooding at the beginning to a big, beautiful blast of 80s flavoured electronica. The lyrics are particularly gorgeous. "Can't say, can't say what it is, if I say what I feel it's too much" - is this the much longed for electro sequel to "Never Spoken"?
My friend Luciana wrote this with her equally talented husband Nick, so I'm probably completely biased. I was so excited when "Cupid Boy" made the final tracklist after she came heartbreakingly close to having two songs on "X" (the brilliant "Beat Of My Own Drum" and singleworthy smash that never happened "Dynamite") but nothing prepared me for the brilliance of this super sexy dancefloor anthem. No wonder Cheryl Cole (*vomits*) has hired Luciana's services for her sophomore album. While Kylie ponders the highs and lows of love and romance on the rest of "Aphrodite", Dannii's much older sister is looking for some hot lovin' on "Cupid Boy". A girl has needs! Apart from being the classiest song about a booty call ever recorded, it's also the most contemporary Kylie has sounded in years. The chorus is fire and the slinky verses seethe with longing. Roping in Sebastian Ingrosso (of Swedish House Mafia fame) to produce the track also turned out to be a masterstroke. He brings a club perspective to the proceedings while still respecting the song's pop origins. "Cupid Boy" would be a radio smash in this country.
Looking For An Angel
I thought "Looking For An Angel" was an absolute stinker when I first heard it at the "Aphrodite" listening party, labelling it a bad Dannii B-side. But I can admit when I'm wrong. After a couple of listens this is actually one of the album's cutest tracks. The sappy lyrics would be nauseating in the hands of anyone else but Kylie has an uncanny ability to make pure cheese ("so I dream of things like your golden wings") sound adorable. After keeping a lid on her natural tendency for all things high camp and over the top, I'm kind of glad Stuart Price let Kylie unleash on this relentlessly cheerful and upbeat anthem. A not so guilty pleasure that gets more charming each time I hear it.
Can't Beat The Feeling
Pascal Gabriel has to be the most underrated songwriter in pop music. If he's ever delivered a shit track, I'm yet to hear it and his work with Kylie has always been of the highest calibre (ie. "Tightrope" - easily the best song from the entire "Fever" era). I've been waiting for this reunion since 2001 and it was worth the wait. "Can't Beat The Feeling" is a burst of serotonin that sounds like a cross between "In My Arms" and "Love At First Sight". While I miss the bittersweet aftertaste of "Your Love" and "Tightrope", there is something quintessentially Kylie about this track. Which makes it the perfect way to close the album.
I could write a thesis on Kylie's amazing ability to waste her best material as B-sides and bonus tracks and the trend continues on "Aphrodite". Bless. "Mighty Rivers" is the first of two Xenomania produced songs that didn't make the cut. In this case, it's understandable. The track is a little too moody for the album's upbeat tone and the lyric "mighty rivers run right through me" reminds me of a urinary tract infection I had in the 90s. That said, it is a gorgeous little tune that is well worth downloading. Emo-Kylie or as close as it gets on "Aphrodite".
Japan is so lucky. Not only do they have the sexiest packaging (I'm sick for Obi strips) but they also get this amazing bonus track. Despite wasting the past decade on boring hacks like Girls Aloud, Xenomania occasionally pull one of the bag and "Heartstrings" is probably the best song they have written since contributing to Dannii's era defining "Girl" album. I would have swapped this with the title track or "Better Than Today". Unlike "Mighty Rivers", it fits the album's tone and theme perfectly and ranks as one of the loveliest songs Kylie has ever put her name to. Listen to this gorgeous gem below.