February 19, 2004

Get Out of my Head

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Kylie Minogue is almost 36 years old. Maybe she’s not as ancient as Madonna, to whom she is often compared, but when most people hear this semi-startling fact, I assume that they view it as either a good thing or a bad thing. When good, you may think things like, “Wow, she’s pretty hot for being in her mid-thirties,” or “Good for her, still making sexed-up music even though she probably has kids.” When bad, thoughts like “Ew, she’s 36?” or “Good thing my mother didn’t dress like that when she was that age” might run through your mind. Either way, I felt like this trivial bit of information should be out in the open from the start. Remember, this is the same woman who sang “The Loco-Motion” way back when many of us were still wetting our beds.

But Kylie, who’s apparently been a European icon for fifteen years or so, worked her way back into the American consciousness once again in 2002, with the pulsating “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” as well as one or two other minor hits. “What will she do next?” the world wondered. Our long wait is over; Body Language has arrived.

Body Language contains no real sonic departures from the bouncy techno-pop of Fever, this album’s predecessor. It’s immediately apparent that Kylie has grown comfortable with her formula of digitized beats, breathy, stylized vocals, and vague lyrics about love and relationships. It’s worked well for her in the past, so there probably wasn’t much reason to change.

The first song and lead single, “Slow,” is considerably less buoyant than Fever’s hits, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising given the title. In it, Kylie requests that you dance with her, just not as fast as usual. She will be eligible for senior citizenship soon, so maybe it is a good idea to take her advice.

The next song, “Still Standing,” branches out a little bit, dealing with heavy topics like kissing and partying in addition to dancing. Clearly, Kylie (or whoever writes these songs) is a lyrical multi-threat. The third track, “Secret (Take You Home),” is rife with thinly veiled innuendo. Kylie equates dating/sex to driving a car. After having furiously scanned my brain’s extensive knowledge of rock n’ roll history, I concluded that Kylie is the first person ever to do this.

Kylie breaks new poetic ground in other songs too. In “Sweet Music,” she boldly declares, “I’m looking for that new sensation.” Later, on “Red Blooded Woman,” she coos, “You got me spinning round, round, round, round.” At first I had no idea what she was talking about, until some background singers cleared things up for me, chiming in, “Like a record.” And it goes on like this.

Now I realize that I’ve been pretty rough on Kylie so far. I’ve spent far more time analyzing these lyrics than the songwriters most likely spent actually writing them, which, I admit, is a little unfair. Body Language’s intent, above all else, remains to be a good dance record. After all, Kylie’s only here to help us get down.

Therein lies the problem. Save for “Sweet Music” and “I Feel For You,” none of these songs are all that danceable. How could this be? Well, it seems that at some point during the production process, the beatmakers forgot about a little something called bass. Remember when I described “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” as pulsating? That was because there was sufficient bass that caused people to get up and gyrate their hips and other various body parts. Body Language’s songs just kind of drone on, carrying you through their slow-paced melodies without ever triggering anything more than innocent foot-tapping. (Maybe this is due to the fact that my speakers suck, but I’ve never had this problem when listening to “Step in the Name of Love.”) Therefore, because I was never moved to do anything that even remotely resembled dancing, I was left to scour through the lyrics for musical fulfillment, all to no avail.

But perhaps one of this album’s most hindering aspects isn’t Kylie’s fault. Frankly, I just find it a little hard to sit through a Kylie Minogue album. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this, and, to a degree, that’s part of the deal with pop music. Artists such as Kylie don’t make albums; they throw a bunch of singles together, hoping that one or two of them become hits. Body Language shouldn’t be reviewed for coherency or even originality like standard rock albums. Its success depends solely on the strength of its singles. Yet even with this new criterion, Kylie still struggles. In terms of creating a catchy and addictively rhythmic club staple, nothing from Body Language really approaches the best of her earlier material, pushing Minogue one album closer to retirement and irrelevance.

Archived article by Ross McGowan