Monday, July 26, 2010

Album Review: "Aphrodite" by Kylie Minogue


A memo to 90% of modern indie bands making feeble, "post-ironic" attempts at dance-pop: Kylie Minogue has you beat. By a long shot. This is everything pop music should be - over-the-top synths, insistent beats, cliched lyrics, and overwhelmingly catchy hooks. With Minogue there's no hint of the obnoxious self-awareness that poisons so many wannabe dance bands circa 2010. No painful falsettos, no "hilariously quirky" 8-bit sound effects, no pointlessly wordy lyrics - just simple, fun pop music. Minogue isn't putting on an act, here; this is what she does, what she's always done. And she does it well.

Kylie Minogue has been recording pop music for a solid two decades, and she is somehow recording music in her 40s that is substantially better than anything she did in her 20s. Which is kind of ridiculous, when you think about it; she's like a bizarro Madonna, or something. Before this year's Aphrodite, I had only (VERY recently) heard a couple of Minogue's other records: 2000's Light Years and 2001's Fever, both chock-full of fantastic millennial disco-pop that I felt guilty having missed out on for so many years (as a self-proclaimed connoisseur of early 2000s pop, this was especially hurtful). These records made two things abundantly clear: one, Kylie Minogue knows good pop music; two, Kylie Minogue cares about making her records consistent, which isn't even necessary. She could've just put out a bunch of great singles and filled the rest of her records with filler pap like every other teen pop act out there, but instead Light Years and Fever are so impressive front-to-back that even the lesser tracks feel like they belong.

Aphrodite continues this trend, but things are a little different. As great as Light Years and Fever were, they indulged in over-the-top campiness so thoroughly that they came perilously close to ironic jokiness (Light Years especially). I don't get that vibe from Aphrodite; it sounds more forceful, more committed. Not to mention that it's less of a disco record and more of a synth-pop one, which I guess is emblematic of the year it was recorded. Where Light Years came out during the "DISCO IS COOL AGAIN!" era, Aphrodite is here in the midst of the "80s DANCE IS COOL AGAIN!" era, so it treads dangerous ground. A cynic might accuse Minogue of playing catch-up with the likes of Lady GaGa and La Roux, and they may be right. But it doesn't matter, 'cause Aphrodite is better than both.

Oh ho, I could prattle on and on about the songs this record. I could! So I will. I love Aphrodite because it does not waste a second. The first word you hear is "DANCE," and it does not let up from there. "All The Lovers," "Get Outta My Way," "Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)" - impossible not to dance to. You will dance to them. If you think you won't, you are wrong! "Everything Is Beautiful" you might not dance to, though, because it is a ballad. But you might anyway. "Better Than Today" is a great pop song. Even if a couple tracks during the second half aren't as good as the rest, the record ends with "Looking For An Angel" and "Can't Beat The Feeling," two of the best tracks here. It's 43 minutes long and nearly flawless. You can't ask for anything more from a pop album.

Honestly, Aphrodite is nothing new or shockingly original. It probably could have been recorded a decade ago. And nobody's saying Kylie Minogue is a fantastic vocalist or anything - I imagine her cutesy cooing is probably really annoying to some people - but she knows how to deliver these songs, and that's all that matters. I won't deny for a second that my intense love of this record isn't completely personal; Aphrodite embodies all of the great dance music I grew up with, delivered without apology or condescension. It gives off that irresistible feeling of the perfect all-night party, one that could never possibly exist. In layman's terms, I feel like this record was made just for me, and that is a feeling that cannot be taken for granted.

OK, I feel like I'm losing myself here, so how's this for a comparison: Aphrodite is like if the Backstreet Boys' last record didn't completely suck after the first four songs. Because I know all of you out there spent $19.99 on a copy of that record immediately upon its release, and as such know exactly what I'm talking about.

Right? Right! Wasn't "PDA" such a stupid fucking song?? I knowww.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry mate, while I thought you gave a really nice review, I just wanna correct you on one thing. Kylie didn't follow the lead of lady gaga or la roux. yes they're good artists in their own rights, but kylie's been doing 80's electro/synth for years now, and she deserves that credit. Have a listen to her 2004 (or 2005?) hit "I believe in you" and you'll know what I mean. cheers!

Sean Rose said...

To be honest, I was just playing Devil's Advocate. I don't think she's following their lead either. But that probably didn't come across in my writing! Whoops!!

And yeah, I haven't heard anything of hers between Fever and this album so I am probably not the expert here. Should get on that.

Anonymous said...

needless to say, I've enjoyed going through your music reviews. It's good to see someone with an openness to all genres of music like yourself! from Kylie to Dylan to the Flaming Lips, most of which I enjoy myself. cheers

Sean Rose said...

Thanks a whole bunch!!