When you’re 15 albums in, it’s hard to imagine that you owe anybody anything. When you’re a certified music legend like Kylie Minogue, owing anybody anything is simply outside of the realm of possibility. When you’re an artist, however, you owe it to yourself and your craft, at the very least, to keep pushing and innovating. That’s exactly what Kylie Minogue does on her sublime fifteenth studio album —DISCO.
When Kylie zeroes in on a sound for an album, she fully commits to it — just look at the country-pop confection that was 2018’s Golden. Top 40 has been in an 80s throwback chokehold for most of 2020 (hello, Miley, Dua, Gaga, The Weeknd, Little Mix, etc.), so it’s only fitting that Kylie looks to the past as well, but she reaches back a bit further than everyone else. The aptly titled DISCO is a sleek dance-pop record inspired by the bright disco of the 70s. Disco-inspired songs are a dime a dozen, but what elevates DISCO is the album’s cohesiveness, Kylie’s attention to detail, and the sincere commitment to authenticity. Kylie & Co. don’t just slap a few synths on a song and call it “disco.” No, they weave in the disco inspiration from the ground up in every individual part of the song. What’s more? The album is able to provide some depth and substance to balance out the intrinsic breezy euphoria of the disco sound.
The album’s excellent lead single, “Say Something,” is still fresh as ever. The song’s heartfelt tale of “an eternal quest for love” takes on a double meaning in context of the full album: love for a mystery guy and love for the dancefloor. The album opens with the ebullient “Magic,” a track marked with bright synths and a fluttery falsetto that lifts the song with the “do you believe in magic” hook. It’s a glorious combination of staccato keyboard, handclaps, and those perfect trumpets on the final chorus. Everything is tied together by Kylie’s sensual vocal performance as she sings “Free fallin’, it’s a new emotion/I swear there’s diamonds in your eyes/Come hold me like you mean it/Don’t wanna keep this secret.” The sensuousness of her vocal is prevalent across the album, providing further texture to the already decadent compositions. DISCO’s cohesiveness is the album’s strongest element, but the songs don’t run together. There are enough calls to different genres and interpretations of disco to make each song distinguishable but still related. On “Supernova,” Kylie employs a vocoder and bass line that is reminiscent of Random Access Memories-era Daft Punk and ever-so-slightly dips into the campier side of her disco pastiche. Lyrically, like many songs on DISCO, the song isn’t a revelation (“Baby, all I need/Is just a little bit of your starlight/Shining on me/I never knew an aura was so bright, so bright”), but her colorful vocal performance is filled with enough conviction to sell it. “Real Groove,” an immediate standout on the album, uses the the literal melody as a metaphor for the compatibility of two lovers. Kylie coos “Got that perfect body/But she ain’t got the moves/We got something better/Got that real groove, baby”; her vocal performance combines a flirtatious temptation with sensual jealousy to create the kind of musical magic that only Kylie can deliver. “Where Does the DJ Go” sees further thematic expansion of the world of DISCO. Often on these sorts of endlessly happy dance-pop albums, there isn’t much thought or regard for life and time beyond the party. On this track, however, Kylie shows some genuine interest and concern in what happens to the guy that made her night of disco bliss possible.
DISCO is nearly flawless but songs like the days-of-the-week chanting “Monday Blues” and the too on-the-nose “Dance Floor Darling” throw a slight damper on things. Nevertheless, one thing is clear: Kylie Minogue is an artist’s artist. She has been able to reinvent herself countless times over three decades and with DISCO she reminds us that she can keep this up for another three. In particular, DISCO excels because of the smart decision to reside on the tribute side of things instead of trying to riskily blend classic disco elements into contemporary pop music. If you play it safe and do it well, it truly does pay off.
Key Tracks: “Magic” | “Where Does The DJ Go?” | “Real Groove” | “I Love It” | “Supernova”