Release Date: March 18, 2014
Kylie Minogue albums work best as blank canvases, the versatile singer herself smattered in the paint of whatever pop subgenre strikes her fancy. Her 12th studio album lacks cohesion, but that hardly matters. She easily adapts to each persona suggested by her treasure trove of contributing writers and producers — including Kelly Sheehan, who most recently co-penned Beyoncé’s “Grown Woman,” and the omnipresent Midas Touch radio saviors Pharrell Williams and Sia Furler, the latter billed as co-executive producer — and provides Kiss Me Once‘s only real through-line with the effortless intimacy of her voice and her incomparable ear for dance-floor gold, no matter how random it all feels.
Framed by two outstanding examples of empower-pop done right — the shimmering lead single “Into the Blue” and the radiating finale, “Fine” — Minogue here delivers cathartically sad lyrics complemented by bouncy yet warm synths. The majority of the songs here are club-ready, tightly produced romantic pop gems, as you’d expect. She enters familiar but refreshed disco territory with “I Was Gonna Cancel,” a Pharrell track that carries some serious “Get Lucky” vibes thanks to a Chic-inspired bass line underpinning a pulsating house beat. “If Only,” written by a trio that includes Ariel Rechtshaid and Justin Raisen, proffers hazy dream pop in the vein of the writers’ past work with newer pop stars like Sky Ferreira and Charli XCX. The MNDR-penned, positively dripping “Les Sex” allows Minogue to have even more playful fun.
Then there are the irretrievably cheesy moments, the most camp of which being the forced, uncomfortable Enrique Iglesias duet, “Beautiful.” But all is redeemed by “Fine,” a light and airy track that glimmers from start to finish: The lilting way her voice escalates on the word fi-i-ine in the chorus lingers in a way the evokes the very best pop songs. Therein lies the strength of Kiss Me Once: Minogue’s ability to turn any contrived situation into something positive, magical, and utterly her own.