Happy 15th Anniversary to Kylie Minogue’s Fever, originally released in Australia and the UK October 1, 2001 and subsequently released in the US February 26, 2002.
Believe it or not, next year marks 30 years since the eternally youthful Kylie Minogue first embarked upon her professional music career. Some of us, particularly those in her native Australia and adopted UK, have been familiar with Minogue for a bit longer than this, owing to the modest fame she achieved while playing the part of Charlene “Lenny” Mitchell/Robinson in the endearingly campy, enduringly popular Australian soap opera Neighbours from 1986 to 1988.
Midway through her time with the show in the summer of 1987, Minogue initiated her multimedia crossover by releasing her debut single “Locomotion,” a sugary pop cover of the Gerry Goffin and Carole King penned 1962 composition “The Loco-Motion” first recorded by Little Eva in 1962. Originally released in Australia, where it ascended to the top of the singles chart and remained there for seven consecutive weeks, the single helped Minogue secure her first recording contract with London-based PWL Records. A year later in July 1988, the single was rerecorded, rebranded with the original title as “The Loco-Motion,” and released in the UK and US, where it found similar success near the top of the charts.
On the strength of “Locomotion” and “I Should Be So Lucky,” her debut album Kylie released in the summer of 1988 sold well down under, in the UK and the rest of Europe, as well as in the US, where it was certified gold (for sales of 500,000 units) the following year. Her next four studio albums released between 1989 to 1994 continued to sell well and consistently garnered critical acclaim internationally.
Unveiled in the fall of 1997, Minogue’s sixth studio album Impossible Princess (self-titled in the UK & Europe) found the singer venturing away from her signature dance-pop sound, and instead experimenting with new sonic directions, as inspired by the mid-90s ascendance of British rock and electronic music. With Minogue co-writing all of the LP’s songs for the first time in her career, the album incorporated live instrumentation and even featured collaborations with the Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield on two songs. Unfortunately, her openness to experimentation and commendable refusal to stick to her status quo sound proved divisive among critics and fans alike. Outside of her native Australia, the album suffered from poor reviews and lackluster sales.
Perhaps inevitably, 2000’s Light Years found Minogue reclaiming her—or more appropriately, her fans’—comfort zone of more whimsical dance-pop, but with a notably more sophisticated sexuality attached to the sonic sheen. A return to critical acclaim ensued and a collective sigh of relief could be heard among her supporters across the globe, now that she had revived her proven musical pedigree. The not-so-guilty pleasures of singles “Spinning Around,” “On a Night Like This,” and “Your Disco Needs You” augured the electro-pop perfection that was to come by way of Minogue’s next album the following year.
Mind you, while Minogue continued to experience success worldwide throughout the ‘90s, her career trajectory took a completely different turn stateside during this period. In 1990, Geffen Records released Minogue’s sophomore album Enjoy Yourself in the US, but the album’s poor commercial performance subsequently led to the label parting ways with her. Rather astonishingly, for the next eleven years, none of Minogue’s five albums would see the light of day in the US, as the few singles she released here—including 1990’s “Better the Devil You Know” and 1994’s “Confide in Me”—failed to produce meaningful sales and labels remained wary of supporting full album releases.
So although Minogue’s popularity had not just remained intact, but had actually proliferated across Australia, Europe and beyond, she had faded to relative obscurity in the states, relegated to the undesirable one-hit wonder association thanks to the “The Loco-Motion.” Thankfully, the glaring dichotomy between her stature overseas and her marginalization here in the US would come to an end in September 2001, with the arrival of the dazzling dance-pop brilliance of “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.”
Co-written and produced by Rob Davis and Cathy Dennis, who you’ll recall from her early ‘90s hit singles “Touch Me (All Night Long),” C’mon and Get My Love, and “Just Another Dream,” Minogue’s midtempo ode to obsession, replete with the unforgettable “La La La / La La La La La” chorus that lodged itself firmly in millions of minds upon first listen, proved instantly memorable. And the song ultimately became her most successful single of her career, placing her squarely back on US fans’ collective radar after her extended 11-year “hiatus.” “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” topped the charts in more than 40 countries, peaking at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. “It kick-started a whole different phase in my career,” Minogue explained to The Quietus in 2012.
While its ubiquitous lead single is what most people still remember from Fever, her eighth studio album and third released in the US, the rest of the album showcases more than its fair share of standout songs. Most of the songs stick to the same house music meets euro-pop sonic template complemented by Minogue’s yearning, seductive vocals. And the songs seldom stray too far from the thematic script of the pursuit and realization of love, accentuated by a more overtly sexual energy than can be heard on Minogue’s previous albums. So while variety is in short supply here, anyone expecting anything else from Minogue obviously isn’t familiar with her musical modus operandi, which she and her production team execute to flawless effect across Fever’s twelve tracks.
Finest among these, according to my ears, is the hypnotic “Come Into My World,” the other of the two Davis & Dennis penned/produced compositions and the final single released from the album. Sounding like the sonic and vocal extension of “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” albeit with a faster tempo, the song finds Minogue extending a straightforward invitation to her lover, encouraging him in the second verse to “Take these lips that were made for kissing / And this heart that will see you through / And these hands that were made to touch and / Feel you.” “Come Into My World” rightfully won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording, triumphing over competition that included Madonna’s “Die Another Day” and further solidifying Minogue’s career resurrection in North America.
The other two officially released singles are sublime slices of dancefloor-designed effervescence as well. Featuring a nod to her aforementioned 2000 single (“Ohh, is the world still spinning around?”), the infectious “In Your Eyes” highlights Minogue at her most seductive. On the jubilant, melodic ballad “Love at First Sight,” Minogue floats on cloud nine after falling in love upon first blush, conjuring “Love to Love You Baby” era Donna Summer in the song’s outro with the repeated refrain of “it was love / it was love / it was love.”
Among the non-singles, a handful of highlights emerge, including the house-imbued groove of album opener “More More More,” the irresistibly catchy exploration of vulnerability “Fragile” (which could very well have been the fifth single), and “Dancefloor,” an ode to the escapism one invariably finds blanketed by the comforting shimmer of disco lights. While not filler fare by any stretch of the imagination, the trio of songs that close out the album—“Love Affair,” “Your Love,” and “Burning Up”—may not quite measure up to the bona fide stunners that precede them, but they nevertheless reinforce that Fever is an exquisitely executed dance-pop affair from beginning to end.
A surprise to no one, Fever took the global charts by storm, including a peak position of number 3 in the Billboard 200. And while the album was critically applauded, the media’s preoccupation with her undeniable status as an international sex symbol, as well as her personal life, often diverted focus away from her music. In fact, in my research for this tribute, I was hard-pressed to find many interviews that contained more than a passing remark or two about her music, with most interviewers more than content to discuss her public persona and a whole host of topics unrelated to her songs.
Oh well. Sex sells, as we all know. And Minogue has sold it well. But ultimately, it’s the songs that endure long after the veneer of the superficial wears thin. In the fifteen years since Fever first blessed our eardrums, she has continued to craft electro-dance-pop tunes of the highest caliber, as best evidenced on 2003’s Body Language and 2010’s Aphrodite. Not to mention that Minogue, a breast cancer survivor following her diagnosis in 2005 at the age of 36, has been a vocal philanthropist raising disease awareness and supporting the vital cause of cancer research.
With all of the throwaway pop songs and vapid pop stars (who shall remain nameless here) still pervading the musical landscape, we are the ones that should be so lucky that Kylie Minogue is still going strong three decades into her storied career. And fifteen years later, we still can’t get Fever out of our heads.