Happy 30th Anniversary to Kylie Minogue’s debut album Kylie, originally released July 4, 1988.
Not long after its release on April 6, 2018, Kylie Minogue’s fourteenth studio long player Golden was crowning the respective summits of the British and Australian album charts—her fifth number-one album in both territories. It was the confirmation of Minogue’s undeniable staying power over a 30-year span.
Few expected that the pop vocalist who initially garnered attention as an emergent television starlet in her native Australia would last as a serious recording artist. But Minogue was never one to shy away from a challenge as her first vocation as an actress attested.
From 1979 to 1985, an enthusiastic Minogue appeared in a series of minor roles before landing the substantial part of Char Kernow in the teenage Aussie soap The Henderson Kids. The earnings from this gig allowed a then-17-year-old Minogue to record what was to be her first demo tape. At three tracks, the enterprising effort contained covers of songs by Patti LaBelle (“New Attitude”), Donna Summer (“Dim All the Lights”) and Quincy Jones and James Ingram (“Just Once”). Recorded to demonstrate Minogue’s talent as a “triple threat”—actress, singer, dancer—it also offered a glimpse into Minogue’s own ever-present passion for music.
Not long after laying down the tape, Minogue secured the role of Charlene Mitchell on Neighbours, and her life was never the same again. Appearing for the first time as Mitchell on television sets Down Under in the spring of 1986, Minogue’s portrayal of the plucky tomboy was instant pop culture gold there. Exported to the United Kingdom later that year, Neighbours proved to be a hit abroad too, and as it had been for her at home, Brits young and old eventually fell head over heels for Minogue.
As fan fever for Neighbours was growing, on August 3, 1986, Minogue appeared alongside several of her castmates at the Fitzroy FC Fightback Variety Night at the Festival Hall in Melbourne, Australia. There, she duetted with actor John Waters on the Sonny & Cher chestnut “I Got You Babe.” The crowd roared for more from Minogue. Obligingly, she returned for a rendition of “Locomotion” as penned by Brill Building hitmakers Carole King and the late Gerry Goffin and performed by Little Eva in 1962.
With encouragement from Young Talent Time producer Greg Petherick—the show that launched her sister Dannii Minogue to fame—Minogue cut a soft serve synth-pop-soul version of “Locomotion” under direction from Kaj Dahlstrom. The rest of the recording star making machine story goes something like this—Minogue’s cover was later sanctioned by Australia’s own indie imprint Mushroom Records in July of 1987. Upon topping the singles chart in that country for seven weeks, a more permanent deal with Mushroom ensued and put her on the path of eventual intersection with the team that would bring her recording career into sharper focus: Stock-Aitken-Waterman.
To say that Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman were hot in the 1980s would be a gross understatement. Their reworking of the glistening Italo-disco phonic into a radio-friendly, dance-pop style had gone down swimmingly via their work for Dead or Alive, Bananarama and Rick Astley to name a few. Their legendary work with Donna Summer was only two years away. Eager and willing to learn, Minogue found their sparkling pop practices an ideal place for her to begin. Stock-Aitken-Waterman produced and wrote Minogue’s inaugural album Kylie, from top to bottom.
Kylie brims with exuberance on each of its ten tracks. Excluding an improved second take on “The Loco-motion,” its title restyled for inclusion on the album, the remaining nine songs use love as a theme, albeit through a wide-eyed perspective. Much of the songwriting on Kylie was critically dismissed upon its release as naïve. With the benefit of time, the lyrical optimism is refreshing as Minogue sings about facing down first-time heartbreak (“It’s No Secret”) or extolling love’s seemingly endless possibilities (“Look My Way”).
Minogue herself is vocally vital on every composition and that makes everything believable. It’s true that her voice was not as well-rounded with experience as it would become on her future projects, but there’s an unflappable joy to it too, as heard on “I Should Be So Lucky” and “Got To Be Certain.” Both selected as two (of six) singles from Kylie, they’re now regarded as undisputed classics of the period. Kylie’s two standout performances include “Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi” (I Don’t Know Why) and “Turn It Into Love.” Shockingly mature, they feature much more substantive construction sonically in relation to melody and the like from Stock-Aitken-Waterman, and Minogue acquits herself to them accordingly.
Still active as Charlene Mitchell on Neighbours, Minogue was preparing to seize on its viewership and flip it into a built-in buying base in the United Kingdom and Australia. Further, with Stock-Aitken-Waterman behind her, Minogue had support to penetrate other international markets where Neighbours was an unknown quantity culturally. Through deals with Mushroom Records in Australia, Pete Waterman’s own PWL Records label in the United Kingdom and Geffen Records stateside, Minogue released Kylie in early July of 1988. Modest returns greeted Minogue in America off the back of “The Loco-motion” and “I Should Be So Lucky” becoming hits there. In England, Australia and other global areas, Kylie was a record-breaking smash.
Minogue would give one more “by the letter” album to the public with Enjoy Yourself in 1989 before emancipating herself from the gilded cage of Stock-Aitken-Waterman’s pre-fab pop with her third affair Rhythm of Love (1990). Three years on from Rhythm of Love, her union with deConstruction Records laid the foundation for Minogue to position herself as an artistic force to be reckoned with on wax. However, it all began here with Kylie, an unassuming, but charming collection of well-intentioned commercial pop that gave the actress who aspired to musical greatness a chance to achieve it.