Happy 15th Anniversary to Kylie Minogue’s ninth studio album Body Language, originally released November 10, 2003.
On November 15, 2003, just five days after its release, Kylie Minogue gave a “one-night only” live showcase for her ninth studio affair, Body Language. Housed for the evening within the prestigious halls of the Hammersmith Apollo in London, the audience for the “Money Can’t Buy” concert was made up of journalists, colleagues, family and die-hard fans. Never had Minogue put on such a grand exhibition for the disclosure of a record, then again, Body Language was a unique collection of compositions as exciting now as it was then. But, Body Language had not happened by accident or by design. Rather, it was actualized by several different career events.
Later to be rightfully canonized as pioneering, Minogue’s deConstruction Records epoch was seen, by and large, as a commercial misstep when it concluded. So, when she inked a deal with Parlophone Records in 1999, her mission was to make long players with a thoughtful, but mainstream appeal. Light Years (2000) and Fever (2001) followed making good on this intention and they triumphed.
Outwardly, Minogue was content with her newfound power. However, one could assume that the itch to create in a less constricted way hadn’t completely left her. Closer listens to Light Years and Fever gave credence to this theory as there was a markedly subversive current running beneath both albums. In 2003, as Minogue began to plot and plan her ninth recording, she tapped back into the artistic abandon of her deConstruction expanse, but tempered it tactfully with a chart consciousness gained from her recent experiences.
The past and the present became sources that Minogue aurally drew from for Body Language—initially titled City Games—as it took shape. The former aspect looked to a specific stretch in popular music (1985 to 1987) when freestyle, synth-funk and electro-hop reigned. The latter aspect had its eye “on the moment” as it related to tonally variegated electro-pop and dance music. Minogue sent out the call for collaboration to help her whisk these disparate elements into one groovy gestalt.
Cathy Dennis, Johnny Douglas, Green Gartside (of Scritti Politti), Kurtis Mantronik, Karen Poole, Richard Stannard and Ash Thomas were only some of the songwriting/production/cooperative luminaries to answer Minogue’s hails. The appearance of Gartside and Mantronik is significant, each were prominent figures from the halcyon ’85 to ’87 period Minogue was referencing. Having them present on Body Language brought legitimacy to the sessions; Gartside gifted his vocals to “Someday,” while Mantronik gifted Minogue with “Promises” and “Obsession”—all three cuts were highlights. Of all the Body Language entries across its assorted international pressings—and the B-sides earmarked for the record’s three singles—Minogue features as a co-writer on nine of them.
As the song cycle developed, it became a curiously compelling study in supposed musical contrasts that, with Minogue’s supervision, found itself convincingly blended into an esoterically charged set. Body Language’s introductory number, the simmering, midtempo synth jam “Slow” unabashedly displays Minogue’s affection for (and command of) modish electro-pop. The track’s snake-like bassline, however, yielded an irrepressible rhythm and blues vibe that felt more pronounced than ever before. R&B wasn’t completely new for Minogue; it had contributed handsomely to certain sides of Minogue’s last two antecedent albums and been a major factor in the innovative air of Kylie Minogue (1994). Yet, the urban-pop immersion of Body Language rendered those past interactions with the genre demure in comparison.
And so, in this way, the record strikingly carries on in mixing digitized soul with crisp live instrumentation—as heard best on “Still Standing”—or taming the sample savvy hip-hop beats of “Secret (Take You Home).” The two cuts blow reverent kisses to the likes of “Skin Trade” era Duran Duran and early Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam with Full Force. Still, Body Language doesn’t restrict itself to retro-modernist fusion strategies. Layered noir ballads (“Chocolate”) and ambient song pieces in a wealth of organic (“After Dark”) and inorganic (“You Make Me Feel”) textures are spread out throughout the LP making it uniform in tone, but diverse in function.
Vocally, Minogue uses the upper range of her voice to aesthetically color the engrossing lyrical pictures on the record of romance either for her craft (“Sweet Music”) or for an individual (“Loving Days”). While this may not be to everyone’s tastes, it does evince one of the many risks Minogue willingly embraced on Body Language and grants it the distinction of being her most sensual project to date.
Preceded on November 3, 2003 by its first smash single “Slow,” Body Language manifested in nearly all global markets the following Monday. America received the record a few months later in February of 2004. Even though Body Language had enough of a general commercial surface to make it chart accessible, the LP did not bow to the unspoken demand that Minogue recreate what had come before. As such, sales and notices for it were respectable, but lacked the enthusiasm that greeted Fever. Two further singles emerged during the lifespan of Body Language in “Red Blooded Woman” and Chocolate,” both yielding healthy returns in numerous singles charts around the world.
Accordingly, with the passage of time, Body Language has outstripped all of the hurdles that initially impeded it. Besides its singles becoming perennial performance pieces in Minogue’s concerts years afterward, the album’s experimental heart now finds favor and complementary comparisons to the peaks of her deConstruction phase. Written, recorded and released at a time when Minogue could have done a textbook redux of her most successful album, the ever-enterprising pop vocalist instead drafted one of the subtlest and most creatively defiant vehicles within her canon.
Editor’s Note: Read more about Harrison’s perspective on Kylie Minogue’s ‘Body Language’ album in his forthcoming book, ‘Record Redux: Kylie Minogue,’ available November 2019. His current books ‘Record Redux: Spice Girls,’ ‘Record Redux: Carly Simon,’ 'Record Redux: ‘Donna Summer’ and ‘Record Redux: Madonna’ are available physically and digitally now.