Editor’s Note: Our recurring “Portrait of the Artist” playlist series pays homage to the artists responsible for the most inspired and indispensable discographies of all time. We hope you enjoy these tributes, and stay tuned for many more to come.
Typical convention dictates that prefabricated pop has a limited shelf life. Even when eventual nostalgia takes hold to permit the product to swing back into (temporary) favor, it’s still viewed as disposable. Any talk of its redeemable qualities―yes, there are some―are only begrudgingly championed. Until three Americans and a Brit changed the game. They were called The Monkees.
Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones went from being studio singers over chart friendly tracks to a real band on their third album, Headquarters (1967). However, distance from their zeitgeist let people appreciate their actual efforts in hindsight. They were also men.
When a youthful Australian actress shot to fame by way of the 1980s soap opera Neighbors, she had the gumption to transition into music when the opportunity presented itself. How dare she?
What followed was a career that has stretched nearly 30 years (and counting). Furthermore, unlike The Monkees, Kylie Minogue didn’t wait for time tinged with sentimentality to write her story. She wrote it herself through her own musical means, brick by brick. It started simply enough with her as a student of the Stock-Aitken-Waterman sound. The songs were excellent late ’80s constructs, made for radio play with their “verse, chorus, hook, repeat” formula. But, when Minogue put her finger on the pulse of London and New York City club culture with her third studio LP Rhythm of Love (1990), it was the catalyst for her to wrest control away from others and call the shots.
But the SAW epoch was only a chrysalis, as Minogue emerged butterfly style with Kylie Minogue (1994), a declaration of her ability to collaborate and create with various adult contemporary shapes, R&B and grown-up dance music. This was nurtured by the deConstruction imprint. And she didn’t stop. Minogue dove headfirst into the sounds of trance music and Britpop on its follow-up, Impossible Princess (1997). She then transitioned to Parlophone Records to unveil her revivalist white disco pop coup of Light Years (2000). And she didn’t stop.
Minogue continued to needle at the boundaries of her sound. Fever (2001) cast a heady hex on the entire world, notably America, but Body Language (2003) recalled the experimental embrace of her deConstruction tenure with its use of city beats and light urban funk. Later, even with what could be arguably agreed upon as her first true misstep, Kiss Me Once (2014), there were gems amongst the dreck.
Minogue’s creative director and friend William Baker remarked in the 2007 documentary White Diamond about the egregiously limited perception of his friend, “People see you as a result of Neighbors, “I Should Be So Lucky,” Michael Hutchence, gold hot pants, “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” cancer = Kylie. Nobody really knows what makes you tick.” That “tick,” the ethos of this one-time pre-fab pop upstart, now an artistic force all her own, is all there, in the music.
As we celebrate Minogue turning 49 years young today, I’ve curated 70 tracks across her discography to capture the “joie de vivre,” paradox and dreams of an impossible princess.