ALBUM REVIEW: Kylie Minogue searches for her inner Donna Summer on ‘Disco’

Kylie Minogue Disco, Kylie Minogue

DISCO, the 15th album by Australian dance queen Kylie Minogue, brings full circle a career that began way back in 1987, with a decidedly disco cover of 1962 doo-wop song “The Loco-Motion.” Over the three decades since, the pop singer-songwriter has dabbled in other genres, such as on 2018’s pop-country record Golden—but her North Star has always pointed to throwback dance rhythms. On DISCO, a flirtatious, close-dancing and sultry album, Kylie Minogue doesn’t obfuscate the message.

Kylie Minogue
BMG, Nov. 6

It’s a slick record—with all shiny dance floors, rainbow spotlights, mirror balls, thumping kick-drum, synthetic string arrangements, funk-drenched bass, muted guitar and Kylie Minogue’s saccharine voice. Once this sonic party starts, it only slows a few times, and that’s for dramatic effect as it builds back up.

“Do you believe in magic?” Minogue asks a lover on “Magic,” the keyboard-led album opener. It’s a song that bypasses the events of 2020 (otherwise the answer to her question would be a resounding “no”). Still, Minogue wrote and recorded parts of DISCO from home amid quarantine. She’s even talked about having to familiarize herself with at-home studio hardware and software—something most divas don’t historically bother with. While listening below the sonic explosions of some songs,  Minogue reveals more bittersweet emotions like loneliness.

“We’re a million miles apart in a thousand ways,” she sings on “Say Something.” “We all got wanderlust, in the darkest place.” The single may be the strongest material on DISCO, blending elements of synth-pop. The echoey bass synths that propel the song forward take full advantage of stereo sound, playing speed pingpong with our ears. The influence of Earth, Wind & Fire is evident from start to finish—yet Kylie Minogue name-checks Studio 54 on “Dance Floor Darling” and recalls Gloria Gaynor on “Where Does the DJ Go?”

“Watcha waiting for? Get up on the floor,” she sings in a hushed tone on the former. It’s a sort of mid-tempo rollerskating song for the first two-thirds until a break, at which point a squelchy lead of processed vocals brings the song into overdrive. Studio 54, indeed. “I will survive,” Minogue sings on “Where Does the DJ Go?” hammering the theme home. And if you’re looking for more, listen to “Last Chance” next to Donna Summer’s “Last Dance.” It’s the sort of tribute that would have Summer blushing.

However, not all of the songs on DISCO strike gold. On some the fromage outweighs the homage. “Monday Blues,” for example, recalls Rebecca Black’s “Friday” more than love or grinding through the week or whatever the message is; I couldn’t help but change the words in my head.

The use of third person on album closer “Celebrate You,” singing to a woman named Mary, has some structure that could have fit in on Golden. The verses sound Swiftian and country-esque before the the chorus swings the pendulum back to disco.

Still, the contagious joy of this record can’t help but seep out. Kylie Minogue was a co-writer on every track and picked her words carefully. There’s a sense of optimism that in a year of anxiety and illness can be mistaken for colorblindness, but more likely is a prayer for celebrations to come—for the times in the distant and hopefully not-too-distant future where everyone can leave 2020 behind.

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(1) Comment

  1. James

    I don’t think it’s colour blindness or a prayer of things to come: it’s a knowing escape from what’s happening now. Remember, she finished it during lockdown, studio sessions over zoom calls and engineering her own vocals on Logic (industry standard software). Also, I love that Celebrate You was a bit of a nod to her early days! Gorgeous chord progression, lyrics and vocals.

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