Behind the many mirrorball anthems that Kylie Minogue has effortlessly produced for years, there has been something more to tune into. “Tightrope,” “Loving Days,” “Cosmic,” “Flower,” “If Only”—to name some—were typically tucked away as album fare or B-sides. Sometimes, the lyrics could be more personal, but the musical canvases for these compositions were always adventurous. And in a post-Impossibe Princess (1997) world, these types of entries attested to the fact that Minogue had mastered her own form of creative subversiveness.
This provides clarity and context for Golden, Minogue's fourteenth studio album in her thirtieth year of recording. For the first time in a long time, here is a Kylie Minogue album that wears its art—and heart—on its sleeve publicly and is the better for it. Though the gap of two decades is substantial, it's hard not to see a connection between Impossible Princess and Golden. The long players are linked by their unique sonic and lyrical shapes, both largely informed by the age of their creator at the time of each album's respective births. The darker emotional walkabout of Impossible Princess saw Minogue facing the uncertainty of her thirties with an unblinking confidence and curiosity, whereas Golden proves the well-worn convention true that with age comes wisdom, now that Minogue is readying to enter her fifties.
As that applies to the record making process, Minogue juggles imagination and pragmatism on this venture. She doesn't abandon hooks, and the set's first single “Dancing” attests to this. This song is as much an earworm as any of her past evergreens. But there's a beautiful blend of joy and melancholy at work on “Dancing” too, a vulnerability that operates at the center of some of her best works.
This intersection of music and words comes from Minogue herself, present and accounted for again as a songwriter within every entry on Golden. Her earnestness puts the new LP light years away from the focus-group feel of Kiss Me Once (2014), a project hampered by its engineered mood. Minogue's keenness for the specifics of song construction and the music needed to bring them to life was encouraged—and made possible—by a diverse collective of producers, co-writers and collaborators she enlisted to help her.
Much is being made of the “country colors” Minogue is painting with on Golden. Minogue has not “gone country,” what she has done is what any pop act should do—experiment. So Golden takes up with a bit of guitar pop, in country, acoustic and AOR accents, sometimes within the same pieces, such as “Stop Me From Falling” and “Shelby '68.” What's more exciting is that Minogue is willing to part with the supposed necessity to maintain a standard “BPM” for the album overall.
Tempos are not rangebound on Golden. Ballads (“Sincerely Yours”), midtempos (“Golden”) and tracks with a bit of dancefloor blush (“Raining Glitter”) all thrive in one space, together. Repeat listens will quickly reveal that underneath the guitar aesthetic, there are other musical elements to be found too—particularly in the cheeky UK soul pastiche of “Low Blow” and the wistful French pop posture “Music's Too Sad Without You,” a duet with Jack Savoretti.
As it is with any new Kylie Minogue record, the critical and commercial hubbub of the moment can slightly obscure what Golden's long reaching effects are to be on the artist herself and her canon. But time will likely be gracious to Golden, a stylish, sensitive totem that eschews stagnation and embraces continued artistic growth. In short, Golden is unequivocally something that Minogue can be proud of.
Notable Tracks: “Dancing” | “Music’s Too Sad Without You” | “Raining Glitter” | “Shelby ‘68”