Why Kylie still matters

Pop's perennial golden girl, Kylie Minogue. Photo: Kylie Minogue/Instagram.

Ahead of the release of his new book, Kylie: Song by Song, author, journalist and pop culture historian Marc Andrews explains why Kylie Minogue – whose pop career has lasted an incredible 35 years and counting – is as relevant as ever.

Not many people in any line of work these days can say they’ve been both amazingly successful and in the one job for over 35 years. Kylie Minogue, AKA the Princess of Pop, can.

In 1987 she dared to be an Aussie teen queen soapie star who dreamed big of starting an absolutely fabulous international music career. With Neighbours rating the shoulder pads off the competition in the late 1980s, both at home in Australia and away in the UK, it was a gutsy move by Kylie, but one her flock of critics were quick to dismiss as a fleeting case of TV’s “singing budgie”. 

After her cover version of ‘Locomotion’ fast tracked its way to #1 in the Australian charts, becoming Australia’s biggest selling single of 1987, suddenly Kylie Minogue, AKA apprentice mechanic Charlene from Neighbours, was hot pop property. Virtually overnight, she sashayed away from TV Week to stay, and slay, as the new go-to covergirl for pop music Bible Smash Hits.

Marc Andrews (left) and Kylie Minogue, pictured in 1994, when he interviewed her for Smash Hits and Playboy magazines. Photo: supplied.

On a PR trip to the UK later that year to promote Ramsay Street’s finest, Kylie managed to squeeze in an hour of power with songwriting/producing hit machine supremos Stock Aitken Waterman (SAW). They bashed out a tune for her while she waited in reception, completely oblivious to the fact they had forgotten she was dropping by their London PWL studios.

Released at the end of 1987, ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ shot Kylie to the top of the UK charts and wound up a hit in the rest of Europe and even the US. 

The rest is, as they say, pop music history.

Kylie’s first global hit, ‘I Should Be So Lucky’, went #1 in Australia, Britain, Finland, Ireland, Germany, Hong Kong and Switzerland, and Top 10 in a slew of other countries. Video: PWL/YouTube.

Kylie went on to release five big-selling albums with SAW between 1988 and 1992, with hits like ‘Better the Devil You Know’, ‘Shocked’, ‘Step Back in Time’ and ‘What Do I Have to Do’ all delivering as perennial party starters. At the age of 25, she then took a thrilling great leap forward, morphing like a butterfly, from shiny young pop star into a true grown-up music artist.

Signing in 1993 to trendy boutique dance label deConstruction, she recorded two impressive, eclectic albums, 1994’s Kylie Minogue and 1997’s Impossible Princess, with a memorable stop in between for a swoony ‘murder ballad’ entitled ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’ with Aussie indie rock god Nick Cave in 1995.

Kylie’s first single after leaving Stock Aitken Waterman, ‘Confide in Me’ presented a stunning new sound and look. Video: Kylie Minogue/YouTube.

By 2000, and now in her early 30s, courtesy of a new UK record deal with Parlophone, also the home of Pet Shop Boys, Kylie started spinning around again. Some snug, butt-hugging gold lame hotpants, purchased for next to nothing at a London flea market, were just part of her crafty plan for renewed world domination. With the help of a truly discolicious album, Light Years – where the songwriting brief was “bikinis and martinis” – she quickly reclaimed her place in pop, and the charts, whilst simultaneously evolving into a worldwide touring powerhouse to rival the likes of Madonna, Janet Jackson and relative newcomer Britney Spears.

In 2001, Kylie released a song that would change her career forever – ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’. A global chart topper and one of the biggest selling singles of all time – not to mention one of the finest pop tunes ever! – it ensured Kylie became an artist that belonged as much to this millennium as to the previous one. We don’t even need to mention that risqué white dress Kylie wore in the video that miraculously managed to cling on. Sizzle or what?

From there the sexy hits, the even sexier videos and the completely OTT tours ensured the Minogue magic continued unabated until Kylie was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer in 2005. After an 18-month treatment break when her cancer went into full remission, triumphant red-blooded woman Kylie returned to the razzle-dazzle of showbiz as a true homecoming showgirl.

Kylie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. Following her treatment, she came back as strong as ever, releasing the #1 single ‘2 Hearts’ and the global smash hit album, X. Photo: Olivier Martinez/Darenote Ltd/Kylie.com/PA.

Working with big names like Calvin Harris, Stuart Price, Pharrell Williams and Sia, Kylie continued having hit records, masterminding critically acclaimed tours and even restarting her acting career appearing in a number of indie flicks and guest roles in TV shows.

While her turbulent lovelife went well documented, dissected and deconstructed in the tabloids and women’s mags, Kylie pluckily chose to rise above the tittletattle, just as she had done when battling critics who believed an Aussie soapie star had no place in the rock ’n’ roll record biz. 

Clocking up 35 years of success as a music artist, AKA the Princess of Pop, Kylie has not only won over her many critics throughout the years, she has now stuck around so long that she’s practically outlived most of them too.

2020’s beloved Disco album, recorded by a Kylie in her golden 50s, was not just her best release since 2010’s acclaimed pop classic Aphrodite, but rivals 2000’s career-defining Light Years album as devout fans’ (or “lovers”, to use the correct Kylie vernacular) firm favourite too. 

As to her community dues, performing at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 1993, 1998 and 2012, Kylie has always been more than grateful for her devout, if not die-hard, gay fan base.

Kylie has appeared at numerous Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras events over the years, including this performance at the 2012 Mardi Gras Party. Photo: Eva Rinaldi/CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

That has extended to her long, ongoing charity work for HIV/AIDS causes and supporting queer artists like the Scissor Sisters, Pet Shop Boys and Troye Sivan (check out her version of his ‘Cool’, which he called “everything”). Even Lady Gaga is a Kylie fan, requesting she be part of 2021’s 10th anniversary of the Born This Way album reimagined by myriad LGBTQ+ artists and allies.

With Disco debuting at #1 in both Australia and the UK in 2020 and re-establishing her as a chart presence in the US too (surely RuPaul deserves a superfan award for his continued support of Kylie on Drag Race!), there are no signs of any slowing down for the poptastic Kylie express.

Already reportedly hard at work on a new album (her 16th studio release, no less!) and now based back in her hometown of Melbourne (so she can play Auntie to her three nephews), expect plenty more years of glittery, shimmering pop music from a woman who defied the odds and beat the critics to become a super trouper pop presence.

Kylie Minogue – Princess of Pop, national treasure, gay icon and global goddess – more than simply matters. We still can’t get her out of her heads and why ever should we? Kylie, we are lucky, lucky, lucky to have you. Long may you reign – and rain glitter on us all.

Marc Andrews’ new book, Kylie: Song by Song, will be released by Fonthill Media on 26 May, 2022.

Marc Andrews’ Top 10 Kylie classics

Marc Andrews selects his ten personal favourite ‘K’ raves from Kylie’s back catalogue of over 300 tracks, as documented in his new book, Kylie: Song By Song.

10. ‘Got to Be Certain’ (1988)

I’m tossing in my own early Kylie favourite here. I like ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ but love ‘Got To Be Certain’. It’s SAW at their teen angst best with their newest starlet all tarted up in London boots with added spangle (see the video). A true guilty Kylie pleasure!

‘Got To Be Certain’ official music video. Video: PWL/YouTube.

9. ‘No More Rain’ (2007)

This beautiful, blustery ballad, co-written by Kylie, is what should have been the basis for her post-cancer recovery album X. Instead, we got squelchy, noise electropop that was hip and cool, but stood next to Kylie here with “rainbow colours” paled into insignificance.

Kylie performs ‘No More Rain’ on The Kylie Show, a one-off television special in 2007. Video:
Kylieholic Turk/YouTube.

8. ‘Slow’ (2003)

One of the sexiest, if not the sexiest, song Kylie has ever recorded, this also boasted a video that was just as steamy and even more of a pricktease, replete with minimal electro beats on the song itself and very tiny pieces of lycra in the video. Oo-er!

‘Slow’ official music video. Video: Kylie Minogue/YouTube.

7. ‘Bury Me Deep in Love’ (2001)

The same year as her biggest hit, Kylie covered this glorious forgotten hit from Aussie act The Triffids as a duet with Aboriginal Australian singer Jimmy Little. It’s tender, romantic and poignant, even more so when you realise its writer and Little have both long been buried.

‘Bury Me Deep in Love’ from Corroboration, a 2001 compilation album featuring songs by Australian artists – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – from various genres. Video: aongaang/YouTube.

6. ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ (2001)

The first time I heard this – played months before it was released as a live track on her On a Night Like This tour – it was clear this would be huge. Even now, as soon as you hear that familiar riff it’s not just instantly identifiable but timeless, vintage Kylie and classic pop.

‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ official music video. Video: Kylie Minogue/YouTube.

5. ‘Where Is the Feeling? (Morales Mix)’ (1995)

Although I’ve skimmed past more obvious hits like ‘Spinning Around’ and ‘Confide in Me’ (which are true pop classics), this little gem, the third single from her 1994 self-titled album deserves more love, especially thanks to its awesome David Morales house mix.

The Morales Mix of ‘Where Is the Feeling?’ – the third single from Kylie’s self-titled 1994 album. Video: Under The Radar/YouTube.

4. ‘Made of Glass’ (2005)

Tossed away as the B-side for 2005’s ‘Giving You Up’ single, this techno-rocky track has aged much better than the A-side and might be the greatest Kylie B-side ever. Thanks to producers Xenomania it’s quirky, odd … and odds are you won’t want to stop playing it.

Made of Glass’ was the B-side to Kylie’s 2005 single, ‘Giving You Up’. Video: Kylie Minogue/YouTube.

3. ‘I’m So High’ (2000)

2000’s comeback album Light Years was packed with hits. Although this wasn’t a single, it was the perfect conduit from Kylie’s previous rockier Impossible Princess album and her new retro, electro “bikinis and martinis” vibe. Plus she sings about a frangipani tree. True!

‘I’m So High’ was included on Kylie’s Light Years album in the year 2000. Video: Kylie Minogue/YouTube.

2. ‘Miss a Thing’ (2020)

It was cruel how this obvious hit didn’t even get a sniff of being a single from 2020’s Disco album, delivering everything its shimmery, glittering post-Studio 54 cover art promised. A great song, great production and too great to be a single, don’t miss this!

‘Miss a Thing’ features on Kylie’s fifteenth studio album, Disco. Video: Kylie Minogue/YouTube.

1. ‘Better the Devil You Know’ (1990)

Here’s where producers Stock Aitken Waterman cunningly tweaked their winning pop template from hi-NRG to house. This pop-rave stormer is still as devilishly good as it was 30+ years ago when it hit #2 in the UK and returned her to the Oz top ten with a knowing nod.

‘Better the Devil You Know’ official music video. Video: PWL/YouTube.

Marc Andrews is a journalist, author and pop culture historian who has previously worked at Smash Hits (Australia and UK) and is the former editor of Smash Hits (Australia). He has also written for MediaweekMailOnline and is a contributing editor to DNA magazine. He is the author of several books, including Kylie: Song by Song, set to be released on 26 May, 2022 by Fonthill Media. His Madonna: Song By Song book was also published early this year by Fonthill Media.

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