Kylie Minogue: Golden review – yearning country reinvention

(BMG)

The “Nashville album” offers artists a chance to work with bulletproof songwriters, foreground their craft, or age gracefully. This is the backdrop to Kylie Minogue’s 14th album, the product of two weeks writing in London (before recording it over there). Yet Kylie opts not for copper-bottomed songcraft, but the unholy intersection of country and EDM: drops beget scratchy fiddle breakdowns, while banjo clucks meet tropical house in a mush of mild euphoria. Even the most traditional track, Stop Me From Falling, is more Lumineers than Loretta.

Kylie’s country pivot is odd: she’s never troubled the States, and Golden’s down-home signifiers won’t fool country radio’s notorious gatekeepers. The only logical explanation seems to be that escaping her comfort zone offers a kind of welcome disassociation to counterbalance the intensely personal lyrics – something that Kylie has spent a career avoiding, the exception being 1997’s Impossible Princess. She experienced a nervous breakdown after splitting from her cheating fiance in 2016, and for once, that emotional devastation penetrates the music. “If I get hurt again, I’ll need a lifetime to repair,” she sings, showing unusual vocal sensitivity as she conveys desire, desperation and cynicism within a few lines.

An unsettling, fatalistic streak sets in. Every potential relationship is just another opportunity to get hurt. Despite sometimes sounding defiantly youthful – Shelby 68 is very Taylor Swift; Music’s Too Sad Without You as doe-eyed as Lana Del Rey – Golden is rife with death. The bittersweet Dancing explores Kylie’s determination to go out on a high; she yearns for One Last Kiss before meeting “a light in the distance”; and Sincerely Yours is worryingly valedictory. She wrestles with the urge to run away, to “find out who it is I’m supposed to be”, she sings on Radio On, a lovely ballad about the salvation a good pop song can offer: “I really need a love song that I believe.” Golden may lack writerly sophistication, but Kylie’s emotional credibility is startling. While aesthetic shifts have been crucial to her career, Golden feels like the first time the window dressing is a distraction from a flawed yet deeply admirable album.

Contributor

Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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