Happy 25th Anniversary to Kylie Minogue’s eponymous fifth studio album Kylie Minogue, originally released September 19, 1994.
The soft sales and mild reviews that met Kylie Minogue’s fourth album Let’s Get to It upon its landfall in late 1991 signposted that it was time for a change. The singer had done all she could at PWL Records and it was time to move on.
A customary singles package assembled and released in 1992 detailed Minogue’s first four years with the British songwriting/production troika Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman. This story began in 1987 when the antipodean actress translated her television star power from the beloved daytime soap Neighbours into a lucrative recording career with a cover of Little Eva’s chestnut “The Loco-Motion.” Later, following the Stock-Aitken-Waterman synth-pop schematic on her first two offerings Kylie (1988) and Enjoy Yourself (1989) via Waterman’s own PWL imprint—in Australia she was signed to Mushroom Records—Minogue became a commercial sensation.
The relationship between Minogue and Stock-Aitken-Waterman was initially mentee-mentor based. It wasn’t long before Minogue realized that her classroom at PWL was a cage, but that didn’t stop her from trying to find her voice. To the slight consternation of her teachers, Minogue’s third album Rhythm of Love (1990) became her first foray into limited musical independence. Swapping out the pre-fabricated pop of Kylie and Enjoy Yourself for the vibrant energy of the London nightclub scene, Rhythm of Love was possessed of Minogue’s own spirit.
By the time construction was to start on her fourth LP, Aitken had defected from the trio’s ranks which left Minogue, Stock and Waterman to put the project together. Out of those adverse drafting conditions Minogue still managed to shake out a fair curtain call for her PWL tenure with Let’s Get to It. The album’s last single “Finer Feelings” pointed to Minogue’s future as she intersected with two promising writer-producers, Dave Seaman and Steve Anderson, known collectively as Brothers in Rhythm. Seaman and Anderson oversaw the lush radio edit for “Finer Feelings” and when the reviews for it came back strong, Minogue was emboldened to forego renewing her contract with PWL. In Australia, her contract with Mushroom continued to stand.
Minogue wasn’t without a label in the United Kingdom and the rest of mainland Europe for long. In 1993, she inked a deal with deConstruction Records, a boutique arm of its larger parent company BMG Records. “Kylie is regarded as a trashy disco singer, we regard her as a potential radical dance diva,” deConstruction founder Pete Hadfield remarked upon signing her, as documented within the liner notes of Kylie Minogue’s 2003 remaster. “Any radical dance diva has a home at deConstruction.” Attempting to use dance-pop and R&B tones on Rhythm of Love and Let’s Get to It to divorce herself from the identikit sonics of her first two records had worked all too well. Minogue went from being written off as a manufactured puppet to being viewed as a rote dance act—neither of those perceptions were correct.
With all parties at deConstruction encouraging Minogue to explore the variegated musical options available to her, she did just that. And while dance music certainly wasn’t off the table, she knew it wouldn’t be the only avenue ventured on her fifth album, Kylie Minogue. As early as Rhythm of Love, Minogue had begun scripting her own material, but made the conscious decision to lower her pen on this eponymic effort to open herself up to fielding songs that she thought would suit her best. Only “Automatic Love” bore Minogue’s co-writing stamp on the finished product.
Excluding two renditions of Within a Dream’s “Where Is the Feeling?” and Tobi Legend’s “Time Will Pass You By,” the remaining eight of Kylie Minogue’s 10 sides were original compositions. Behind these selections was an eclectic assemblage of writers and producers, foremost among them Jimmy Harry, the Rapino Brothers, Heller & Farley and Brothers in Rhythm. Minogue, Seaman and Anderson teaming up again confirmed that their interaction on “Finer Feelings” had helped her to reimagine the possibilities as to how she could make music. Now, with the room to create freely, the three of them formed the collaborative core for Kylie Minogue.
Unlike the songs Minogue cut with Stock-Aitken-Waterman that relied primarily on keyboards, programming and guitars, she now had access to some of the best session players and technology in the business. She took full advantage of these tools and had her collaborators utilize them to cast rich, fully realized soundscapes courtesy of a healthy blend of live instrumentation and studio craft. Now, Minogue could go to all of those places she had wanted to go on Rhythm of Love and Let’s Get to It, and beyond.
“Confide in Me,” the salvo of Kylie Minogue, is an orchestral, trip-hop tempest built around an interpolation of Edward Barton’s 1983 indie-pop piece “It’s a Fine Day,” later to be covered by Opus III in 1992. Minogue turns in a knockout performance that finds her using her middle and higher vocal register to indelibly sketch a seductive tale of adult romance and connection. Minogue doesn’t lose this momentum when she immediately pivots into the luxe pop-soul of “Surrender,” where she expounds upon her newfound growth as a singer.
From the hip-hop soul, acid jazz and worldbeat fusion heard on “If I Was Your Lover,” “Where Is the Feeling?” and “Time Will Pass You By” respectively, Minogue approximates a cordial balance between R&B grooves and pop melodies that is second to none. Then there are the straight-ahead floorfillers “Where Has the Love Gone?” and “Falling.” The two suite-like jams are fashioned from the refined brick and mortar aspects of house music and meant for long play consumption either in a discothèque or in the comfort of one’s home.
On the balladic end of Kylie Minogue reside “Put Yourself in My Place,” “Dangerous Game” and “Automatic Love.” These adult contemporary entries are nothing short of palatial and saw Minogue tighten her hold on her own brand of soulful pop. Taken as a complete body of work, Kylie Minogue was a stratospheric leap of progress.
“Confide in Me” led the charge for Kylie Minogue in August 1994 and was an instant smash that dressed the stage for its parent album to enjoy similar success upon its arrival. Kylie Minogue accorded the singer gold and platinum certifications in her two largest markets—the United Kingdom and Australia—and spun off two more singles in “Put Yourself in My Place” and “Where Is the Feeling?” That third and final single went on to a distinct life of its own separate from its originating acid jazz iteration when it was reworked into a misunderstood alternative pop masterpiece for its single treatment.
As the campaign for Kylie Minogue cooled post-“Where Is the Feeling?,” the music press was of a divided opinion on Minogue’s self-titled set. While many cheered her on for a triumphant reinvention, many more stopped short of acknowledging Kylie Minogue as anything more than a classy, but ultimately shrewd credibility grab. The latter view has unfairly—and erroneously—shaped a considerable portion of the historical discourse around Kylie Minogue decades since its unveiling.
Maybe it was its epigrammatic denotation that implied that Kylie Minogue should have been some sort of autobiographical affair that confused and incensed the pundits. Ironically, she would go down that path with its equally ambitious follow-up Impossible Princess (1998); it only served to further fuel a split critical consensus about the singer. But that wasn’t the reason Minogue opted to use her name as the designation for her fifth LP.
Instead, it’s more likely to consider that Minogue did so to make an urbane declaration of independence from her previous incarnation as a Stock-Aitken-Waterman kewpie. The truth is that without Kylie Minogue, none of what came later for her would’ve been possible. Her eponymous album was the bridge that let Minogue walk into her future with the skills, confidence and control necessary to set her own artistic agenda as she saw fit.
Editor’s Note: Read more about Harrison’s perspective on Kylie Minogue’s self-titled fifth album in his forthcoming book ‘Record Redux: Kylie Minogue,’ available November 2019. Other entries currently available in his ‘Record Redux’ series include the Spice Girls, Carly Simon, Donna Summer and Madonna.