As a kid growing up in the 80s Kylie was my first musical love. I had all her tapes and spent many an hour dancing round the kitchen to her hits. Even as I became a 90s teen who listened to indie music Kylie came with me, releasing Confide in Me and then working with my favourite band Manic Street Preachers on her hugely underrated album Impossible Princess. When she went back to pop and had even more stratospheric success I couldn’t help but still love her and follow her career. So it feels strangely fitting that she has released the country-inspired album Golden now when I write a blog covering country music. Our stars always seem to align.
So yes it’s true that Kylie’s been to Nashville, there’s banjo on this album and she actually line dances in a video. On paper there seems to be no real logic to her new direction, in fact it wasn’t even Kylie’s idea initially, but she has embraced her inner Dolly Parton with ease. And it totally works – Golden is an enjoyable burst of kitsch pop with a country twist. She’s not aiming for the country music market or even going as far with the new sound as she did with her indie album. This subtle country pop influence just gives her songs a new feeling, a sense of freedom, a fresh start. When you’re on your thirteenth album that’s something to celebrate.
Kylie’s last few releases were a little disappointing to me: a Christmas album, an orchestral reworking of her hits and Kiss Me Once. That album included tracks written by some big pop names like Sia and Pharrell but those songs were not their top drawer material. That album proved to be a miss commercially and was not particularly popular with her fans. In the aftermath she ended up changing record labels, signing with BMG. On Golden there’s no more chasing current pop trends, instead it is her most honest and personal album to date (she has co-written all the songs for the first time since Impossible Princess). Maybe that’s all the inspiration she needed from country music – permission to be herself and tell the truth about her heartbreak.
Dancing is her best single since All The Lovers, a fun and evocative song about embracing life and enjoying yourself. There’s a hint of nostalgia too in the way the song celebrates just letting go. Stop Me From Falling is full of poppy Mumford-inspired driving beats and handclaps. Somehow it all comes together to make an uplifting and euphoric anthem for those who always find themselves falling in love. It’s unapologetic and doesn’t dwell on her disappointments – she might want to stop from falling but when it sounds this fun what’s the harm?
Golden was one of the songs she wrote in Nashville (nice to see she worked with Liz Rose) although it is probably the least country sounding of the opening tracks. It’s a straight midtempo pop song about embracing yourself no matter what age you are. A Lifetime to Repair feels like the kind of joyous country pop that was so lacking from Shania’s album last year. Here Kylie contemplates her heartbreaks in an honest and open way. They might take a lifetime to repair but together with her fans she will find the strength to keep going.
Sincerely Yours is the most modern in style and sounds quite like something that could have been on Taylor’s 1989. One Last Kiss and Live A Little combine the pop sound with acoustic inflections but again these are polished modern interpretations with pop hooks that suit her voice. Kylie has always worked hard to make her voice distinctive and in fact not having the ‘big’ notes now seems like a strength since she’s only sounding better with age, compared to those who lose their range.
Shelby 68 is a piece of throwaway pop, inspired by her father’s old car. Maybe on this one she could have gone further with the kind of vintage sixties sound. The only real acoustic song on the album is the lovely Radio On and it packs a surprising emotional punch. When I first heard it I couldn’t stop myself welling up. Sometimes music is the only thing that makes you feel better. ‘I really need a love song to rescue me / I really need a love song to believe.’ We all do.
Raining Glitter is a slice of straight 80s pop and it feels instantly classic, like a Stock Aitken and Waterman number she’s been singing for years. I’m already imagining this will be a highlight of every live show she does from now on. In fact Julie Burchill wrote a little about it in her lovely tribute to Kylie in the Telegraph this weekend.
Finishing with the slow waltz of Music’s Too Sad Without You ends the album on a wistful note. Listening to this album proves that the best pop music is escapism, a place to enjoy yourself and overcome your heartbreaks at the same time. Kylie knows this and she embraces her strengths on this album while still being unafraid of reinvention.
The purists and the hipsters will scoff no doubt but this album isn’t for them. Kylie doesn’t need to win a new audience or sell new albums since her live shows have always been a big draw, but now you think fans will actually want to hear these new songs, rather than just politely listening while waiting for the old hits. And Kylie sounds like she’s enjoying every minute, renewed and ready to fall in love with music again.
So let the glitter rain down on your rhinestone cowgirl boots, grab a copy of Golden and get spinning around on the dance floor. If this is the end we’re going out with a choreographed routine. Get ready to dance and live a little.