For many US listeners, Kylie Minogue is probably nothing but a faded memory of teen pop from the '80s. Another person to have covered "The Locomotion" successfully to forever be secured in an edition of one of the many Trivial Pursuit games. But the fact of the matter is that her debut Kylie did quite well in the States, where it had been a smash in her native Australia, and brought in big numbers in the UK, too. But as we all know by now, the US audience is often fickle when it comes to teen pop, and so by the time Minogue's second album Enjoy Yourself arrived and flatly stiffed, Geffen Records said goodbye to Kylie and the rest is history.
But that's not the case at all.
Back in Australia and Europe, Minogue continued to be a success and grow as a singer. She made an array of albums that found many a fan. And, as she got older and began to let her sexuality exude more into her thriving persona, Kylie just became downright hot. A demure girl next door/naughty vixen who could easily seduce both men and women with her sultry pipes and fresh face and fit body that seemed to be age defying. It was just a matter of time before she came back to the States to show us what everlasting dance music is all about, with a wink and a smile to boot.
Any fans of Robbie Williams' Sing When You're Winning album will undoubtedly know that Minogue made a guest appearance on that album on the song "Kids". This same song also appeared on her 2000 album Light Years. Again, the song was a smash in the UK and Australia, but American labels were only willing to give Kylie a brief moment on Williams' album and passed on the option (as they had been doing for years) to release Light Years stateside, causing fans in the know to pay steep import prices to hear Minogue's fantastic pop songs.
All that is changing, though. For the first time in many years, Capitol will be releasing Kylie's latest album, Fever. Released last year "everywhere else", the album has already proved to be another smash for Minogue. To get in gear for her American return, MTV has been running the video for "Can't Get You Out of My Head", the former lead single in the European market that trounced former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham's then-current single in the charts. Minogue also appeared on TRL to make everyone sure she was on her way back. Hopefully the US will indeed take notice as Fever is nothing but a perfect album of gorgeous dance music.
The album's main strength is that it doesn't pretend to be anything it's not. There are no blowhardish diva moments from Minogue on this disc. No sappy ballads that would work great in a zillion teen love movie trailers. Fever is simply sexy and fun and the formula never stops working throughout the entire album. Minogue doesn't have a big voice. She never has, and she knows this. She is, however, a fine singer and knows how to express herself through irresistible melodies and seductive emoting.
The sound of Fever is firmly rooted in the great disco sounds of the '70s. There are no heavy techno or electronica overtones here. This is not a "Kylie 2001 model version 2.0". Minogue has been keeping pace with the disco pulse for a number of years now. Hopefully this won't be seen in the US as a ploy to be hip through retro fashion, as this truly isn't the case at all. But it's not entirely a bad thing to invoke a bit of classic Donna Summer, T.S.O.P., or Rufus. Indeed, Minogue has a whole lot of soul to sell on Fever, and she never misses once when aiming for her targets.
Lyrically, Fever is all about dancing, fucking, and having a good time. And really, hasn't that been the same mix of topics that made for all the best disco? Why pretend that dance music should make one socially aware all the time? Look at what happened to Dee-Lite when they got heavy with the politics on their sophomore and third efforts -- they lost the fans. There's nothing wrong with injecting some messages into the lyrics every now and then, but dance music has essentially always been about having the Good Time. A great beat, a nice hook, and some easy to remember lyrics. Fever delivers truckloads of just that.
"Just slide . . . get your body down, down, down / And glide . . . I gotta feel you all around / Boy you got me wantin' more, more, more / Just give it all up for love, babe" sings Minogue on the opening track "More, More, More". A well-used backbeat thumps away in time to Kylie's pulsing exposition as she makes clear just what it is she damn well wants as the disco bass gooses itself into a frenzy and the keyboards focus in on the kill. "Here am I and deep inside I've got a little spot for you" is Kylie's promise to the listener. Rrowr.
While that's all fine and funky, it's the second song "Love at First Sight" where Fever really takes off. Where "More More More" is a nice intro to the album, it doesn't really hint at just how genius the entire experience of listening to Fever will be. But "Love at First Sight" opens itself up to the listener with a sexy as hell melody and is one of the sexiest, funkiest classic disco songs that never was . . . until now. Against a muted backbeat and electric piano intro, "Love At First Sight" suddenly explodes into a giant, swirling sound that just begs you to get up and dance.
"Everything went from wrong to right / And the stars came out to fill up the sky / The music you were playin' really blew my mind / It was love / At first sight". See? So simple the lyrics are, yet still so easy to connect with, no matter if you're 16 or 45. Then Minogue hits us with the giant chorus that exclaims "'Cause baby when I heard you / For the first time / I knew / We were meant to be as one . . . " as the sounds all of a sudden swirl back down into the drowned, muted sound leaving Kylie by herself for her a moment to sing before punching through the mix once again to elevate the listener to transfixing heights. Stunning
Minogue keeps up the sexual come on into the hit "Can't Get You Out of My Head" that features that familiar Robin S. type of bass line which in turn propels the song along. It's trim and funky, certainly something that couldn't miss anywhere. But then the album shifts again and presents the title track, which should effectively make anyone a Kylie Minogue fan at first listen.
It's another unbearably sexy song, as high synth notes pinpoint the rhythm, letting Kylie find her spot in the song for the perfect alluring line. And she delivers it in spades -- again. "I'm ready for the news so tell me straight / Hey doctor, just what do you diagnose? / There ain't a surgeon like you any place in all the world / So now, shall I remove my clothes?" As Jason Lee put it so perfectly in Mallrats: Damn that's hot!
The thing that should certainly be pointed out regarding the sexuality found on Fever is that it always comes with a wink. Yes, it's a bit naughty, but it's never excessive. Like the rush one feels after a great first kiss and leaves them wondering what might happen next, the songs here work on the same kind of titillating level. They promise a lot, but never reveal too much. A nice peek at the legs in sultry stockings versus a full-on topless appearance, if you will. And that truly makes all the difference, and is what makes Fever work so beautifully.
It's this formula of seductive groove alternating with a full on dance blast that works its way through the album. On "Give It to Me", Minogue instructs us to "Take it slow / Slow down / Move to the rhythm that is in my mind" while the music goes in the opposite direction and tells your body to push it a little more on the dance floor. And then there's the elegant, atmospheric "Fragile" that is possibly the best seductive number on an album filled with them.
"But I get butterflies / Water in my eyes / 'Cause I'm fragile when I hear your name / Fragile when you call / This could be the nearest thing to love / And I'm fragile when I hear you speak / Fragile feeling small / This could be the closest thing to love" coos Kylie at the chorus. And once again, it's so simple and direct and goes straight for the heart. Who hasn't felt that way before when falling hard for someone? It's critical as well for Kylie to show this side of herself to the listener, as it shows her to be just as vulnerable as anyone else, even amidst all the sexy promises that the other songs gave.
"Come Into My World" is also a plea for love, even if Minogue begs the listener to "Come . . . come . . . come into my world" and instructs to "[take] these hands that were made to touch and feel you". And on "In Your Eyes" she simply confesses at the end of the song that she wants to "make it with you". But the bed is not the only place to "lose it" as is shown on the track "Dancefloor". Anyone who ever spent some time killing a few nights at the clubs will undoubtedly feel right at home with such sentiments as "On the dancefloor / Gonna lose it in the music / On the dancefloor / Got my body gonna use it / On the dancefloor / The best that you never had but now you've lost me / So come on watch me getting over you". Cattiness never sounded so good.
As the rest of Fever plays out through "Love Affair", "Your Love", and "Burning Up", not once does it miss. The formula for the mix was well calculated before the grooves were created and the album plays like a dream. If this doesn't give Minogue her just dues here in the States, then it will be a shame. For Kylie has paid attention to what makes great dance music. She followed the recipes laid down so long ago that were surefire and has come up with a classic album of her own. It scores harder than Madonna's Erotica could have ever dreamed of, and seduces better than any lightweight phony R&B currently choking the charts. Fever reminds us that it's still cool to just have fun and let loose, and that the dance floor is still a place where everyone can come together for a while and just enjoy themselves. Don't miss out on this one. There probably won't be a better album like it all year long.