How Kylie Minogue became a Disco dancing queen for dire times
“Even grown-ups need to have fun. Grown-ups can dance like they’re still 17,” says the Australian icon. She speaks to EW about her forthcoming record.
In its early stages, Kylie Minogue publicly described her 15th album as disco for grown-ups. “I didn’t even really know what I meant,” the Australian icon clarifies with a laugh. But when the pandemic forced the 52-year-old artist to finish 90 percent of the project in her makeshift home studio, she gained a much firmer grasp on its themes of escapism. “Even grown-ups need to have fun. Grown-ups can dance like they’re still 17,” she says. "I’m realistic but hopeful. I don’t think it’s an album of throwaway subject matter; even if it feels like [singing] about the dance floor, it still has its place.”
Amid global strife, Minogue is well aware that the album’s euphoric soundscape lands at a “slightly odd” time when dancing together at a club remains a far-off dream, but she hopes listeners will work out the ethos of the moment through the art of the groove. And she’s made it easy on Disco (out Nov. 6), tracing the genre’s evolution from the ’70s through the 2000s, with ethereal piano keys melting into brass ("Magic"), talk box effects ("Miss a Thing"), slithering ’80s strings ("Real Groove"), and even self-referencing sounds that nod to her own hand in shaping disco's modern revival on albums like Light Years and Fever.
Disco isn't just a roadmap for the genre's progression, it also marks a turning point for Minogue as a master of her own music. After the spread of COVID-19 put a brief halt on recording, Minogue took control and set up a personal booth in her London home's posh lounge room, admittedly referring to herself as a "guinea pig" for production: "It was lots of off the clothes rack, moving the clothes rack, moving the duvet.... it was pretty DIY, use-what-you-can," she recalls with a laugh, admitting that some of the songwriters, producers, and technical personnel who contributed to Disco are peers she only knows "from the waist up" in two-dimensional, virtual form. "We realized this isn’t going to be perfect, but we’re passionate about this and will do our best to make it work."
Those raw, borderline improvised moments opened the floodgates for Minogue to explore a new side of herself as a lyricist, making Disco a progressive dive into new narrative territory unlike anything she's done before.
"There’s a song called 'Celebrate You,' it’s about a person, Mary. [It came about on] one of the last days before lockdown. We knew we weren’t going to see each other in the studio for a while," she explains, suggesting that the unorthodox circumstances prompted a bold risk: Telling a story in the third-person. "This is quite new for me in that, when you hear the song, you might ask the same question like, 'Who’s Mary?' We don’t actually know, but she’s all of us. She’s anyone who’s feeling a bit down and needs to know that we’re loved or that you’re more than enough. I can’t think of a song of mine in the past that is that direct, even though that person is any number of people."
But Disco is more to Minogue than a gateway to shimmying catharsis for stir-crazy fans. Recounting days spent losing herself to the bliss of her father’s Donna Summer records, she feels the project represents her power in providing musical remedies of her own with a beat that's long lived in her soul, ready to come out at the right moment in ways that are healing to listeners.
“We didn’t want the lyrics to be [too] heavy-handed, but we couldn’t help but be aware of the relevance they had,” she explains of songs like the optimistic subtle banger "Say Something," adding that her investment in delivering eclectic forms of relief is what kept her committed to the foreign genesis of the album. “When I was younger, I was successful before I had the experience. I was on the back foot for a long time. Now, I love utilizing the tools I have. I know which fuel to put in the engine. There’s drive to be successful and do good things, but to reach people and connect them, it means something. I wanted more of that.”