Kylie Minogue stands as a true pioneer of contemporary pop sound infused with a classic disco flair, and her influence reverberates through the music industry even today, with artists like Dua Lipa drawing inspiration from her iconic style. Now, with her latest album, “Tension,” Kylie invites you to kickstart your dancing feet wherever you may be.
This album is a vibrant amalgamation of musical styles, from the funky disco dance tracks featuring saxophone-infused melodies to the sleek and highly synthesized modern pop dance tunes. “Tension” is a rhythmic journey filled with syncopation, confectionary synth-pop, breezy Euro house, and propulsive beats. Imagine this music as the sonic blueprint for a Barbie sequel, a sound that would undoubtedly inspire their soundtrack.
Kylie’s musical evolution has been marked by her willingness to explore new horizons, as seen in her previous concept albums like “Golden” and “DISCO.” While these albums had their undeniable highlights, they occasionally missed the mark in capturing the essence of Kylie herself. In her quest to incorporate elements like mirrorballs and cowboy hats, there was a subtle loss of the spontaneity that had defined her music, resulting in a somewhat self-conscious sound that felt at odds with her typically self-assured persona.
However, “Tension” signals a return to a more organic creative process. Kylie, alongside her accomplished collaborators, including producers Biff Stannard, Duck Blackwell, and Jon Green, opted for a relaxed approach. They recorded in Airbnbs and hotel rooms, equipped with nothing more than a portable microphone setup, allowing inspiration to flow naturally. The result is a musical tapestry that encapsulates the full spectrum of sounds for which Kylie Minogue is celebrated, from delectable synth-pop to breezy Euro house and invigorating EDM.
Throughout the album, you may detect nods to various musical influences. The interplay of sing-song rap in “Hands” channels the spirit of Doja Cat’s “Say So,” while the flirtatious, roller-rink groove of “Green Light” seems to draw inspiration from the styles of Dua Lipa and Carly Rae Jepsen, especially with its dreamy saxophone interlude. Yet, what sets Kylie apart is her ability to infuse these elements with her unique flair, making each song distinctly her own. To sing like Kylie is to embody the essence of the most irresistibly fun and alluring woman on the planet. Even when faced with the occasional strain in tracks like “Hold on to Now,” Kylie’s enchanting and dynamic presence shines through, even if the instrumentals occasionally hint at a touch of formulaic familiarity.
“Tension” may lack a unifying concept, but it consistently explores themes that have been integral to Kylie’s music throughout her career: love and passion as all-encompassing, full-body experiences. Turbulent romantic histories are mere stepping stones to overcome, and breakups serve as catalysts for the singer and her lover to rediscover each other with renewed fervor. While it may not deliver the cinematic drama of “Confide in Me” from her self-titled album or the sultry allure of “Slow” from “Body Language,” the new record compensates for its singular focus with unbridled, wholehearted energy.
“Hold On to Now” channels the spirit of Robyn with its plea for unwavering faith in love, while the joyously infectious “Things We Do for Love” pits Kylie’s racing heart against a euphoric synth-pop backdrop. The title track and “Padam Padam” emerge as the album’s campy zeniths, with Kylie delivering extravagant performances over pulsating piano house beats, all while delivering lyrics that oscillate between the absurd and the sublime. Both tracks strike the perfect balance between playful and profound, wielding anthemic choruses with a fervent commitment that transforms even the most whimsical lines, like “Call me Kylie-lie-lie/Don’t imitate-tate-tate/Cool like sorbet-et-et,” into moments of unbridled euphoria.