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April 05, 2018 at 09:30 AM EDT

When something’s broken, you fix it. If you’re a pop star and that something happens to be your heart, you’ll probably write an album about stitching yourself back together. Though Kylie Minogue’s 14th studio album Golden beams with somber hues of love lost in the wake of a highly publicized separation from actor Joshua Sasse, the glistening 16-track set further proves the Australian singer-songwriter is keen on flipping the script as she surges — personally and creatively  — into a new era.

Though she’s forged a career bopping through matters of the heart on tracks like “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” and “Spinning Around,” Minogue’s mostly chucked her dance-pop roots out the window in favor of country-inspired sounds of the American South on Golden, a shimmering, refreshingly authentic anti-breakup album that’s more about empowerment and resilience than it is about cradling a sorrowed soul. Partly recorded in Nashville with a handful of producers and writers — including Sky Adams, Ash Howes, Amy Wadge (Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”), and Liz Rose (Taylor Swift’s “Teardrops on My Guitar”) — Golden is an unexpected yet glistening ode to the timeless shimmer of the gilded woman at its center. “The last thing I’d want is a breakup album,” Minogue says. “I was done with that. Through! Moved on! And I was so much happier to have moved on. Things were better, not worse! It’s the reverse of what people might think… it’s not about a breakup; It’s about me and about where I find myself at this point in my life!”

On the cusp of her 50th birthday, EW caught up with Minogue to discuss the new material, feeling liberated from the media’s scrutiny over her age and relationships, what happened to the dance-pop tracks she recorded during early Golden sessions (spoiler: there’s “another album” of leftover electro tunes potentially waiting in the wings), and whether she’ll continue to hide that follow-up Robbie Williams duet she recorded all the way back in 2016.

Golden is out Friday, April 6. Pre-order the album here, and read on for EW’s full preview with Minogue below.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’ve had some time to sit with the album, and it’s so lovely and not at all what I was expecting. Particularly because I know you were initially in the studio with Guy Chambers, DJ Fresh, Karen Poole — none of whom are on the album!
KYLIE MINOGUE:
There’s basically another album [of material]! Those tracks were done in the first six months. And then my A&R suggested the country angle. Of course I said sure, because I’ll try everything! But that was swiftly followed by, “Well… what do you mean?” [Laughs] I didn’t know what that meant… it took six months to get there! So yes, I was with all of those people in the studio, which was a lot of fun and we touched on some great material, but we ultimately went down a different lane… The album’s not as much country as some people might imagine… but that different style made way for writing lyrics differently. Some of the themes [from the early material] were the same, just written differently.

You recorded another song with Robbie Williams back in 2016, too. Where’s that!?
No one’s heard that either! There are a few waiting in the wings. We’ll see if they ever come out or not!

Fair enough, I’ll take it. But, this album feels like if Aphrodite had a baby with The Lumineers and Dolly Parton.
It does have a bit of Aphrodite in it, I think with the feels! 

Yeah! It’s a seamless blend of the organic instrumentation with your signature dance-pop. Why do you think the styles of dance and country worked so well together on these songs?
It’s funny that you link it to Aphrodite. [Aphrodite lead single] “All the Lovers,”, when I’d done that track with Jim Eliot, Mima Stilwell, and Stuart Price, who executive-produced the whole album, I coined the phrase, “Dolly Parton Litmus Test.” We started singing “All the Lovers” in a country manner, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember why, but from then on we said that’s a really good test for a song. If you can do it as a country song, that means it’s good! It’s a full electro, synthpop, dance, euphoria track that sounds just as great on guitar… so there is a little link to Aphrodite here. With the songs on this album, it was a case of balance. “L.O.V.E.” and “Raining Glitter” are slightly more produced than the others. And sometimes we’d discuss the songs not having enough country or having too much country… and we’d come back around the other way. It was dependent on the song, how produced it was or how organic it remained!

“Better Than Today” from Aphrodite also has a country vibe. So that style isn’t really new to you, like some might assume.
Yeah! But I still needed some encouragement throughout making this album. I’m always crediting my A&R guy, Jamie Nelson, for bringing this idea to the table and having a vision… it was a stroke of genius on his part. It took some work, but once we hit upon what we thought was the DNA [while recording] in Nashville, it became fun because I knew what the goal was. I got “Dancing,” “Sincerely Yours, and “Golden” in Nashville. We knew those were keepers.

Simon Emmett/© Darenote Ltd. 2018

“A Lifetime to Repair” is my favorite example of the mix working so well. You’ve got fiddle, big bass, and that chorus is fantastic. And, I have to admit, as a fan, if someone had said “Kylie Minogue dance song” and “fiddle” in the same sentence before I listened to the album, I wouldn’t know how to process that.
[Laughs] I really did believe in it, and of course I hoped fans would come with me on this journey. Again, I had all these other songs with more dance vibes… and [“Dancing” producer] Sky Adams can produce anything. He can do a full-on dance record, pop, rap… I had done those songs before, and I was hanging on to some of them. And there were some good songs in there. When we got close to the end of recording to hit our deadline and came up with “A Lifetime to Repair,” “L.O.V.E.,” “Live a Little” and “Stop Me From Falling,” I spoke with Jamie and he said, “I think we may need to sacrifice some good songs for the benefit of this album.”… he backed it up by telling me to believe in the album. He said, “If you think about it, through your career you’ve taken these turns consistently.” Maybe not every album, but at various points throughout my career. The clincher was when he said, “I’d just hate us to get to the end of the project and look back and say, ‘I really wish we’d gone for it.’” That’s all I needed to hear. It was going to be tough, but I’d separate myself from the older songs and just go for it. I needed that bolstering and someone to help me with the confidence with that.

The songs you let go didn’t pass the Dolly Parton Litmus Test?
I don’t think they did. They were just a different vibe. Like I said, they could be in the wings, it could be that someone else records them. But I’m happy with what I’ve got!

I’ve seen so many people talk about what you ended up with as a breakup album, but to me it doesn’t always play like that. Sure, there are songs about somber subjects like “Radio On” and “One Last Kiss,” but there’s a thread of resilience and of not letting the downs impede the highs. Do you agree that it’s not a traditional breakup album?
You’ve read it correctly. I know it’s a great sound bite [to say it’s about a breakup] and that’s how I went into the album, and I know about heartbreak. But I wasn’t broken-hearted, though I was a bit broken. That’s what I was writing about… about the situation that [I’d] gotten myself into. The last thing I’d want is a breakup album. I was done with that. Through! Moved on! And I was so much happier to have moved on. Things were better, not worse! It’s the reverse of what people might think… it’s not about a breakup; It’s about me and about where I find myself at this point in my life!

Of course no one wants to have their heart broken, but as an artist, is there some part of you that’s like, this sucks in the moment, but damnit this is going to make a good song when I’m over it?
[Laughs] Yeah, probably! Because you know it’s part of healing. It was about me and figuring out how I got to the position I was in, and less about the other person. But, yeah, I think somewhere in you it’s a truth we all know that when you’re in a difficult place, great things can come from that. Not from a place of heartbreak; it was a real turning point in my life and I’m now really grateful for it because I like where I am!

Simon Emmett/© Darenote Ltd. 2018

Do you see this album as a way to take back control of your narrative and discussing these personal matters on your own terms, not on the press’ terms?
Definitely…. On “Golden,” the line I had in my head was “we’re not young, we’re not old, we’re golden.” It didn’t quite fit in, so we adapted it for the song. That was one example of trying to claim something that I felt I had no control over. Doing promo for my last album, I was often asked, “How does it feel to be a woman your age in this industry?” and I was just over it. For my own satisfaction, I wanted to be able to say that we just are who we are at any point in time…. I was 46 then, and now I’m about to be 50. I don’t mind being asked about my age at all, but the way it was framed last time was getting very boring and frustrating. So, yes, telling it how it is was very liberating [on this album].

A lot of people have trouble separating age and maturity, though. You’ve obviously matured throughout your career, so what does the Kylie on Golden represent that the Kylie five or 10 years ago didn’t?
Oh wow, that’s a good question. I feel like I’m in a different place! It was a real turning point. I don’t know if it’s my age, perhaps it is. People say around this time in your life stuff starts to make sense. Of course it doesn’t all make sense, but I do feel different. On the last album, I was a little bit lost and attaching myself to too many different influences. But that’s okay! I had to go through that, and I knew I didn’t want to go through that again on this album. I wanted to have clarity, I wanted to simplify, and that’s part of the reason I signed with BMG, because of Jamie Nelson. I worked with him for 10 years at Parlophone. So we have a good track record together, we get on, we understand each other, and I knew who to trust [in him], and it made a big difference.

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