Whereas Kylie’s previous album Aphrodite had a slick sonic through-line that ran from beginning to end (thanks to executive producer Stuart Price), Kiss Me Once feels a bit like a musical smorgasbord, given the variety of both top name and up and coming musicians involved. Lucky for us, it all pays off in spades. If Kylie had any concern that, when all was said and done, this album would be a bit all over the place, she needn’t have worried — for while Kiss Me Once isn’t her most cohesive effort to-date, it’s what many artists can only hope for: A solid, feel-good pop album that won’t let you off the hook without repeat plays.
Many of us who speak in Minogue will tell you that Kiss Me Once plays like X Part II. (X being her 10th studio album, released in 2007.) I agree with that sentiment, as X is one of Kylie’s albums I return to again and again. That one was a bit of a scattered mess, but what a glorious mess it is to listen to. That said, by comparison, Kiss Me Once is a more focused addition to the Kylie catalog, due no doubt to fellow Australian workaholic Sia Furler partially taking the wheel as executive producer this time around, along with Minogue herself.
“Around about what turned out to be the halfway mark of making this album — I didn’t know how long it would take, so I didn’t realize that at the time — I asked [Sia] if she would executive-produce,” Minogue told Idolator in February, later adding, “I gave Sia everything I had recorded up until that [halfway] point, which was already a lot, and it was good to have someone help me make sense of what I had.”
So what do we have here? The album’s first four tracks hit you full force with the pop pedal pressed all the way to the floor, beginning with opening track (and lead single) “Into The Blue,” already a Kylie classic. From there things barrel through the guitar-and-beats-driven toe tapper “Million Miles,” Pharrell’s disco track “I Was Gonna Cancel” (love those bells!) and one of the album’s most upbeat smile enforcers — not to mention the first of three songs with “sex” in the title — “Sexy Love” (more guitars!).
The album drops in tempo next for the Sia composition “Sexercize,” a sweaty, grimy romp that doesn’t leave much to the imagination, lyrically. “I’ll make you wait for more, make you get to the core, tomorrow you’ll be sore,” Kylie informs the object of her lust. Keeping with that spirit of double-entendres, let’s just say this one’s a grower.
The second Sia-penned number on the album, euphoric title track “Kiss Me Once,” is not just a standout here, it’s also one of the best songs Kylie has ever recorded. Producer Jesse Shatkin (see also: Sia’s new single “Chandelier”) opts for a more mid-tempo, skipping beat than a balls-to-the-wall dance treatment. It’s an excellent decision, because it allows Minogue’s vocals to be the focal point and truly soar. Added bonus: Yet again, we get lovely bells.
The third “sex” track on Kiss Me Once is the Amanda Warner (aka MNDR) co-write “Les Sex,” a straightforward dance-pop number that feels like it could have been cut from the same cloth as X‘s fantastic singles “Wow” and “In My Arms.” It’s a track that wouldn’t be an outlandish choice for single consideration, by any means.
What does seem to be a contender for a single release, if we’re to go by the sticker on the album, is the Enrique Iglesias duet “Beautiful,” a ballad that finds Kylie reuniting with “On A Night Like This” writer/producer Mark Taylor. The song, with its run time of less than three-and-a-half minutes, is short and sweet, though Iglesias’ penchant for Auto-Tune abuse unfortunately creeps its way into the chorus.
The rest of Kiss Me Once, from the handclap-filled “If Only” to the joyous closing number “Fine” (not exactly handclap-deficient, itself), plays like a master class in how to craft a no-filler album. If there’s one gripe this time around, it’s that every single bonus track on the “special edition” deserves to the on the standard version of the LP. “Mr. President” has a bit of a harder dance edge compared to the rest of the album, so it’s not hard to realize why it was excluded. But the Greg Kurstin-produced “Sleeping With The Enemy” has just the right dreamy/ethereal quality to fit the bill for Kiss Me Once. The same goes for “Sparks” (currently only available as a UK “Into The Blue” b-side or Japanese album bonus track), which finds Minogue utilizing her beautiful, but all-too-rare, soprano voice.
Altogether, Kiss Me Once feels like it was made by an artist who was intent on exploring new sounds and, along the way, stumbled upon some new, talented songwriters and producers to add to the contact list for future collaborations. And somehow, for all the life and career changes the singer has gone through, it still comes off so very her. In other words, it’s exactly what you would hope for with a Kylie Minogue album.
The Best Song Wasn’t The Single: Trust me, it’s all about “Kiss Me Once.”
Best Listened To: While thawing out from the Polar Vortex and enjoying the flowers and the showers this spring.
Idolator Score: 4/5
— Robbie Daw
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