The Catch-Up: Your guide to Kylie Minogue's disco-pop music career
This is the story of a girl named Kylie — a disco diva who first emerged from down under (Australia) as a popular soap-opera actress and became a multi-hyphenate artist. This story is not new — in fact, it spans over three decades — yet for many Americans, the story of Kylie Minogue is one not often told. Before recording 13 studio albums and selling over 80 million copies of them across the globe, Minogue played Charlene Robinson in the ’80s Australian soap Neighbours and, after an impromptu cast performance and now-iconic cover of Little Eva‘s “Locomotion,” she was signed to a record label. The rest is delicious pop history.
Minogue is Australia’s highest-selling artist of all time and a beloved pop star in the U.K. and across Europe. Her lengthy career, keen fashion sense, and prodigal disco-tinged bops have earned her recognition as an international pop queen — except, it seems, in the U.S., where despite appreciating a few hit songs here and there, American audiences have not wholly embraced the Goddess of Pop in her full glory.
This year, Minogue released “Dancing,” a country-pop jam which marks her return to the spotlight after a four-year hiatus, and in anticipation of Golden, her 14th album, here’s your quick-and-just guide to diving into Kylie Minogue’s glistening career.
Where to start: Rhythm of Love
It would be easy to begin a Minogue binge with her most acclaimed and recognized album, Fever, but that would be doing a disservice to all the albums that came before and after that ahead-of-its-time record. Therefore, in order to fully understand the sound and essence of a Minogue song, and her entire career for that matter, let’s kick it back to 1990 with Rhythm of Love.
Minogue’s third album marked a turning point in the artist’s career, a moment when she distanced herself from the bubblegum music she had previously become known for in her first two releases. Rhythm of Love presented a more mature and sexually-fueled image, backed by a new dance sound which delivered some of Minogue’s first chart-toppers. Four singles, known as the ‘Golden Quartet,’ came from Rhythm of Love, including “Better the Devil You Know,” which became one of the singer’s most successful tracks ever. Besides introducing a new look and tone, Minogue’s third album for the first time featured songs penned by the singer herself, plus new producers outside of the Stock Aitken Waterman team known for creating Minogue’s music and image in previous projects. Rhythm of Love wasn’t a shattering commercial success, but it doesn’t matter; it showcases the beginning of Minogue’s career as a pop icon, propelled by her angelic vocals, sensual music videos, chic fashion, and distinct dance sound.
The must-hit singles
In 31 years of making music, Minogue has released 63 singles, 24 of which have charted on the U.K.’s top ten. Therefore, as a dedicated stan and pop-music aficionado, breaking down this diva’s career is a huge and important responsibility. Reviewing the Australian goddess’s musical catalogue is complicated, given her evolution as a songwriter and her famed disco influences, but without further ado, here are the top-notch singles that put Kylie’s magic on display.
“I Should Be So Lucky” (1987)
Bet you were expecting the first highlight to be “Locomotion,” weren’t you? Although Minogue’s massively successful, cute ’80s cover is catchy, it’s also campy and not the best example of her early musical career. “I Should Be So Lucky,” on the other hand, is a bubbly pop song that basically took Minogue from soap-opera pop-star wannabe to worldwide breakthrough. The single was written by the Stock Aitken Waterman group for Minogue and, after its 1982 release, it quickly became a success, reaching No. 1 in Australia, Japan, Germany, and the U.K. (where the song held the position for seven weeks). The single’s cover shot by David Levine, featuring Kylie in an oversized denim jacket and abounding with curly ’80s hair, became an instant classic. To this day, “I Should Be So Lucky” remains one of Minogue’s signature songs during her live performances.
“Better the Devil You Know” (1990)
The lead single from Minogue’s Rhythm of Love is the basis for the sound and style of music we’ve come to expect from the Diva From Down Under. Critics acclaimed Kylie’s new provocative persona, and “Better The Devil You Know” destroyed her girl-next-door soap image and introduced a sexier, more mature Disco Kylie to the world. To put it in perspective, this song was her “She’s dead” moment. The song peaked at No. 2 in the U.K. and reached No. 4 in Australia. Despite not achieving commercial success by other pop diva standards, “Better The Devil You Know” continues to be one of Kylie’s best songs and a career highlight.
“Confide In Me” (1994)
“Confide In Me” was the sultry lead single off Minogue’s eponymous first album with Deconstruction Records. After making four albums with the PWL label and working closely with her longtime producers Stock, Aitken, and Waterman, Minogue decided to part ways — and thank goodness she did. The single is a sensual Minogue classic and one of the most innovative and inventive songs of the ’90s (including a masterpiece of a music video directed by Paul Boyd). “Confide In Me” reached No. 1 in Australia and No. 2 in the U.K., and marked Kylie’s first and only charting single in the U.S. during the ’90s.
At the cusp of the new millennium, Kylie Minogue released a terribly underrated album, Impossible Princess. “Breathe” was the third single from Minogue’s experimental record, and its production and lyrics are as airy as the song title suggests. The pop goddess took a detour with “Breathe” and delivered a sensual late ’90s song backed up by Y2K synths and electronica vibes. This single (and album) is by far one of Minogue’s hidden gems.
“On A Night Like This” (2000)
“On A Night Like This” followed up Minogue’s comeback single “Spinnin’ Around” from her seventh album, Light Years, under her new record label Parlophone. The single is a spot-on early-aughts pop song about the infinite possibilities the nighttime brings with it. The single reached No. 1 and No. 2 in in Australia and the U.K., respectively, thanks to its Europop-disco production. Worthy of note: its sexy music video was inspired by Martin Scorsese’s Casino.
“Can’t Get You Out of My Head” (2001)
An infectiously sensual chorus of “La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la” combined with Minogue’s indisputable mastery of disco-pop gave birth to the iconic “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” Kylie’s lead single from her magnificent eighth album, Fever, earned her worldwide recognition, selling over 5 million copies and becoming her highest-selling single and one of the best-selling singles of all time. The track about her obsession with an ex-lover reportedly reached No. 1 in 40 countries, except the U.S. where it peaked at No. 7. The music video, meanwhile, is a quintessential Kylie Minogue piece of art with a futuristic twist, flawless choreography, and fashion — yes, including that legendary white-hooded jumpsuit.
Hot is the only way to adequately describe this synth-pop Minogue song, released as a lead single for Body Language. It’s her most seductive song among an ample array, with vocals as smooth and sensual as fine silk as she invites her lover to slow dance. “Don’t want to rush it. / Let the rhythm pull you in.” The single, co-written by Minogue, marked her ninth No. 1 chart topper in Australia and third No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club chart in the U.S. “Slow” also earned the singer a third Grammy nomination in the Best Dance Recording category.
“I Was Gonna Cancel” (2014)
Minogue really did try to break the ice with American audiences and 2014’s Kiss Me Once was a clear (and amazing) sign of her efforts. After parting ways with her longtime manager, Minogue signed with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. With much buzz surrounding her American coming, the singer was teamed up with an all-star crew that included Sia. “I Was Gonna Cancel” was produced by Pharrell Williams, with Daft Punk influences that are obvious but not on-the-nose. The catchy song is a blend of Minogue’s classic disco and Williams’ funk, and yet another example of a great Minogue pop track that went largely unrecognized.
The must-see music video
“Get Outta My Way” (2010)
If there is one takeaway from this elaborate Kylie Minogue Catch-Up, it should be “Get Outta My Way” and its brilliant, incredible, amazing, show-stopping, spectacular music video. This cut from 2010’s Aphrodite is an empowering anthem about leaving an ungrateful lover behind and looking absolutely stunning while doing it. The visual for the dance-pop masterpiece is a delicious combination of chair choreography, muscle-men in heels, and breathtaking couture. What makes this music video legendary is the simplicity and fierceness Minogue delivers for 3 minutes and 40 seconds.
The holiday banger
“100 Degrees” ft. Danii Minogue
The Minogue sisters are together a worldwide pop duo, and when the Goddess decided to release her second Christmas album, Kylie Christmas, in 2015,she enlisted Danii Minogue for the Donna Summer-inspired holiday tune, “100 Degrees.” Unlike other Christmas songs, the Minogue duet is a glittering party jam that highlights the sisters’ signature style. Danii and Kylie reunited on stage during the X Factor U.K. finale for a chic and joyous live performance of the Christmas tune, marking the third time the sisters have performed together since their 1986 rendition of “Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves” on Young Talent Time.
The iconic performance
“Can’t Get You Out of My Head” at the 2002 Brit Awards
A pop star’s career can often be traced by the power and relevance of their live performances, and such is the case for Minogue, whose rendition of a mash-up of her smash hit “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” and New Order’s “Blue Monday” at the 2002 Brit Awards is the performance that defined her style and career as a disco queen. Heavy ’80s synths, a giant record with hot-pink lettering, and an epic entrance from Minogue (clad in a white mini dress, red lips, and silver over-the-knee boots) make this live performance nothing but her best. The Goddess of Pop destroys the stage with every sensual step of her choreo and sultry side-eye glance. Simply timeless.
The LGBTQ anthem
“All The Lovers” (2010)
It is no secret that Kylie has been a fixture in the LGBTQ world since the onset of her time in the spotlight. She is an outspoken and fierce supporter of the community that has elevated her career, and this song — an airy and rainbow-tinted love song from 2010’s incredible Aphrodite — shows that Minogue clearly knows her audience. The music video, directed by Joseph Khan (the mind behind Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” and Britney Spears’ “Toxic”), puts Kylie atop a mountain of beautiful, diverse, semi-naked humans in the middle of L.A. as she croons about love. “Don’t be frightened / just give me a little bit more.” Although the song isn’t explicitly about the LGBTQ community, its relatable lyrics about lovers and powerful imagery (same-sex couples kissing and touching) have earned “All The Lovers” a shining spot in gay clubs and Pride parade celebrations.
Kylie Minogue, the Disco Queen, continues to deliver bright pop music. To this day, she holds the spot as the third-best-selling female artist in the U.K., with over 10.1 million sales, and the 12th spot as the best-selling singer. In the U.S. Kylie made history on the Dance Club charts by having two songs inside the top three in 2010 (with “Better than Today” and “Higher,” at first and third, respectively). While her musical achievements and accolades alone are enough to make her a music legend, Minogue’s public battle with breast cancer made her a role model for women across the globe. With over 80 million records sold worldwide, a panache for fabulous fashion, and her unequivocal disco-pop sound, Minogue has established herself as a timeless icon. In the diva’s own words: “Get out of my way, I got no more to say.” Pay your respects.