Album Review: Kylie Minogue - Disco

Album Review: Kylie Minogue - Disco | Random J Pop 
When Kylie unveiled the title of her 15th studio album, I was in two minds of 'Oh, that makes complete sense' and 'Ugh, but gurl, really!?'. Kylie doing Disco made complete sense. It's a style of music she's touched on numerous times throughout her career and done it well. But after the ol' heel-toe she did with Golden, I was left thinking that there could also be a chance that the album comes off as really kitsch and bandwagony - especially in light of 2020 seeing the resurgence of Disco, in the wake of Duolingo's Future Nostalgia, Jessica's What's Your Pleasure?, Tom Aspaul's Black Country Disco and Róisín Murphy's Róisín Machine to name just a few.

Then there was the lead single "Say Something" did absolutely nothing for me, and didn't sell me any hint of disco. It could've easily had been a song from Golden, as it had the same type of vibe and it didn't feature a lot of the archetypes of disco music. But then "Magic" came along, and I started to hear the vision and the prospect of what it could be. Then "I Love It" fly kicked me in my chest, and I was sold. And now the album is here, and I have to say, after Kiss Me Once and Golden, Kylie's fans needed this. Her discography needed this.

Album Review: Kylie Minogue - Disco | Random J Pop

Kylie going disco shouldn't be a surprise or much of a revelation. Kylie has touched on disco multiple times throughout her career. Her 2000 comeback Lights Years was pretty much a disco album that kickstarted a career everybody thought was long since deceased. Then we got Fever, another disco influenced record which changed the course of Kylie's career in such a monumental way, that it's not a stretch to say that it's the reason she is still here now.

Kylie is often seen as a safe artist who plays by the rules, and this is very true. Golden is seen as this crazy risk, but was it really, when hoe-down music was all the rage in pop when she released it? Sure she had that moment when she went all alternative, but even that was a popular sound at the time. It would be easy for me to say that the decision to go disco was safe and predictable for Kylie at this moment, but there's nothing wrong with riding a zeitgeist, especially if it feels right for an artist and it makes sense. Kylie returning to pop and campiness with Light Years made sense. Kylie doing it all again for Fever made sense. Kylie having Stuart Price executive produce Aphrodite after his work on Madonna's critically acclaimed Confessions on a Dance Floor made sense. Disco also makes sense. It feels like another full circle moment that was written in the stars. 20 years ago Kylie made a comeback with a disco song which featured the lyric ♪ Did I forget to mention that I've found a new direction, and it leads back to me ♪. And after a complete misstep with Kiss Me Once and a deviation with Golden, Kylie feels like she's returned to herself. I'm not gonna shit on a bitch for doing the right thing and making the right call. Of course her next album shoulda been disco. It was always going to be.

The nice thing about Disco is the familiarity of it. Whilst Golden was cute and artistically (and personally) did a lot for Kylie, it wasn't her most commercially or critically defining moment, and will probably be remembered as that time Kylie tried to do a Dolly Parton, and little else. It completely divided listeners, and had them run back Aphrodite to remember a time when Kylie just did what worked without try'na fuck about. Some found it reductive because every white person was tapping into their whiteness back in 2018 and giving us cowboy boots. Kylie did back then what she's done with Disco. She's jumped on a trend. Except this one feels like a natural step for Kylie, because it feels like the type of album she honestly needed at this point in her career and she knew it. 

I personally was not a huge fan of Golden (if you couldn't already tell), but even I can acknowledge that Disco wouldn't exist without it. Golden was a cathartic release for Kylie, giving her a newfound confidence in her artistry in the studio; being the first of her albums since 1997's Impossible Princess where she co-wrote every song, just as she does on Disco. One of the driving forces on Golden, songwriter / producer Sky Adams, is once again along for the ride for Disco, having co-written and produced more than half of it.

Whilst Golden felt like a departure somewhere else, Disco feels like a voyage home.

Sometimes you gotta go on a detour and venture out to realise where home is.

Album Review: Kylie Minogue - Disco | Random J Pop

Disco is a very self aware homage to disco; paying its due to popular figures of disco Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers, and the divas Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor. But whilst Kylie is committed to the sound, she doesn't always find the sweet spot of moving beyond paying homage into ownership. There are cuts on Disco which sound like songs Kylie has done before and would have done regardless, whether this album was disco themed or not. We were always gonna get "Magic", "Miss a Thing", "Real Groove" and "Supernova". This a large part of what makes this album good. That it still feels like a Kylie album. But sometimes Kylie stays in emulation mode and refuses to move out of it, as though she's too afraid to put her stamp on a song out of fear of being disrespectful to the genre. "Where Does The DJ Go?" is a fun song, but Kylie's performance on it is like she chose to place herself dead centre in a lane and not move out of it by a millimetre. Some songs are so reminiscent of other songs, that it's the other song that's playing back in your mind as you're listening to them. I can't listen to "Last Chance" and not hear ABBA's "Voulez-Vous". I can't listen to "Fine Wine" and not hear Donna Summer's "Bad Girls". I can't listen to "Spotlight" and not hear a song from Shalamar. Then there are on-the-nose references to Studio 54, Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" and all the toot-toot's and beep-beep's. I will give it to Kylie for one of these references though. Talking about dancing in the middle of the club singing "I Will Survive" really does hit when you're wondering if you're gonna even make it out of 2020 before the world implodes.

I just wish Kylie was a little less concerned about how she'd be perceived by disco purists and she just went for it to truly own every song. Because as far as the sound is concerned, it's accurate, undoubtedly disco and nobody could say otherwise. So Kylie could and should have thrown all caution and wigs to the wind and said 'Fuck it' on every song. Kylie should have sought to answer the question 'What would a disco song for me in 2020 sound like' as opposed to 'Let's just stick to this strict list of things of what everybody knew disco to be'.

Album Review: Kylie Minogue - Disco | Random J Pop

The sequencing on Kylie albums is often hit and miss. I don't know why sequencing seems to be of zero importance to Kylie Minogue, but Disco suffers the same fate. The sequencing is nowhere near as bad as Fever's, but there are some odd choices which disrupt the flow of the album at points. "Miss a Thing" most certainly should have opened the album. I don't get why it opened with "Magic". "Monday Blues" being slapped between "Real Groove" and "Supernova" makes no sense. "Dance Floor Darling" sucks all the energy out of the dance floor left by the titty-jiggling "Where Does the DJ Go?". Maybe Kylie was influenced by Diana Ross' bangin' but horrendously sequenced Diana album. But a track re-ordering would have done wonders. And then there are the song selections themselves. "Say Something" is cute, but it does feel out of place. It sounds like one of the songs Kylie recorded before the disco concept took shape, and she decided to keep it because she figured fans would appreciate the "All The Lovers" and "Into The Blue" vibes.

The Deluxe edition of the album further highlights the sequencing and selection problem, because the additional tracks drag the tail end of this album down like a motherfucker. They are also more funk than disco, which isn't a problem when you've got "Say Something" sat in the middle of the album in its Nene Leakes shake 'n' bake asking why it's there. There is a lot of overlap between disco and funk, so I won't hold this against the more funk driven songs. But when so many of these songs sit at the back-end of the album, it does create this slight divide from track 10 onwards where the album feels like it's no longer wholly disco. The Deluxe edition songs would have fared far better had they been woven into the standard tracklist. "Celebrate You" was clearly intended as the album closer and should have stayed as such on both editions of the album, and the mid-point of the album could have done with a song like "Spotlight".

Album Review: Kylie Minogue - Disco | Random J Pop

Kylie's vocals are an acquired taste, and some can find them a little too high-pitched and squawk like. Me? I don't have a problem with them, and think that she actually sounds really damn good on this album. In fact, I think it's the best I've heard her sound. She does things with her voice that she usually only does during live performances when she clearly feels more free. Kylie seems a little bolder than usual, which may be down to her having to record and engineer her vocals at home by herself. But I still wish Kylie had gone even further. Kylie gives us tastes of something good and then recoils each time. So we end up with songs like "I Love It" where Kylie is giving us great ab-libs during the final runs of the chorus, but they're muted and hidden away in the music. Or a song like "Supernova" where Kylie's vocals soar and pierce through on the bridge, where she sounds amazing. But then she's like 'Okay, I think I'm done now' and we don't get more, when I'm sat desperately wanting Kylie to keep giving me more. Kylie can do more with her voice than I think she realises. But I get the feeling that whilst she enjoys singing her heart out and exploring her voice, she doesn't see her voice as much of a necessary component on songs as they actually are. I don't know if there's a part of Kylie that still feels twinges of anxiety from her Stock Aitken Waterman - a sense that her music is only what it is because of everything but her. But Kylie needs to believe more in her vocal ability and what she can bring to songs, because the next step for her music will be her vocals.

I want Kylie to really push herself to not only feel freer on her studio recordings, but to also start pushing herself with her arrangements. There are cool harmonies, stacks and vocal moments on songs, but they're so far and between, and sat so far behind the music that you wouldn't pick up on them unless you were really listening out for them.

Album Review: Kylie Minogue - Disco | Random J Pop

Whilst the disco sound is accurate and the songs are well produced, I do wish there were more live instruments on this thing. This entire album being put together during quarantine undoubtedly restricted band sessions and the recording of strings and the like. But this album would have been so much better with live drums, live horns sections and orchestrated strings to add that extra sense of gloss, sheen and finesse to the songs. "I Love It" and "Where Does The DJ Go?" would have shot already great songs out into the stratosphere. They would have added a greater sense of texture and warmth to what feels like a generally cold and crisp album. Listen to Jessica's What's Your Pleasure? or Daft Punk's Random Access Memories. Or disco albums those from the sources; Donna Summer's A Love Trilogy and Diana Ross' Diana. Then listen to Kylie's Disco. You'll get a greater sense of what I mean. Sonically, the album lacks that warmth factor.

The song structures are also too basic and lacking across the entire album. Some songs end in just under 3 minutes and deny us full delves into euphoria with Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder style 7 minute extended mixes. Kylie makes hits for radio. So this is of course a factor when producers and writers put together songs for her. But disco music didn't give a fuck about radio edits. So it would have been great if the producers on this album said 'Fuck it' and stretched some of these songs out. "Miss a Thing" just calls it a day and fades itself out in the midst of its own groove. "Where Does The DJ Go?" is severely short. The piano intro should have been a whole entire Donna Summer "Last Dance" type moment, and there should have been a whole additional minute of just the beat and some live strings before it ended. "Fine Wine" just ends abruptly ends. Some songs just don't flow all that well. "Real Groove" has this build that leads you to believe you're going to get this big chorus, but then everything drops out. Then it builds back for the verses. Then drops out again when the chorus hits again. It creates this really strange stop 'n' start sense of rhythm which is jarring, similar to Dua Lipa's "Break My Heart", which the song also sounds a lot like. A weirdly interesting occurance, given that "Break My Heart" samples an INXS song, and Kylie used to date Michael Hutchence. "Dance Floor Darling" is a mid-tempo jam which ramps up its tempo in its final minute, but the moment only lasts 30 seconds, when we could have had a two-for-one type of song as Justin Timberlake did for FutureSex/LoveSounds and The 20/20 Experience, and as Donna Summer often did. It's strange that the producers nailed the sound of disco so meticulously, but not the song structures.

It would be really great if in 2021, to prolong the life of Disco, Kylie put out Continuous Disco - a version of the album with extended mixes of selected songs, and transitions between each of them.

Album Review: Kylie Minogue - Disco | Random J Pop

Disco is one of Kylie's most consistent albums. Well produced, well written and a great energy running through every song. Disco seeks to make you dance, and it succeeds in doing that from start to finish. Kylie needed an album like this in her discography after the mess that was Kiss Me Once and the deviation that was Golden. And having an album be so unashamedly joyous and fun in the thick of 2020 makes Disco feel even more necessary. But whilst Disco sounds good and has no skips, its shortcomings are that it sometimes feels like little more than a homage to disco. The album is so stuck on nostalgia that it doesn't look forward. When I think of other albums that did disco, such as Jessie Ware's What's Your Pleasure? or Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, I think of what great disco albums they are in their own right and how they respected the genre, whilst pushing it in different ways to make their own marks in history and push the artists forward. With Kylie's Disco it constantly reminds me of other songs. Everything sounds good, but nothing pushes Kylie or her sound forward enough in the ways that I felt songs from Light Years, Fever and even Body Language did - and they should have. The clear confidence that Kylie had coming out of Golden should have shot these songs far further out into the cosmos. Then again, Kylie has never been the type of artist to move the needle in huge ways with her music or deliver something new. Her thing has always been doing what other people do, but in a Kylie package. But still, there was a real opportunity for her to have done so here.

But Disco is still a good album and a definite return to form. It's not a trend setter, nor is it revolutionary or evolutionary, but it's a good top to bottom album which is fun. The fact that Kylie can still knock out solid albums like this after 30 years and add to what is already a great repertoire of songs is not something to be scoffed at. Even if it is a little by numbers. There are songs on this album which can sit alongside some of Kylie's best, and Kylie's best is phenomenal.


■ Magic
■ Miss a Thing
■ Supernova
■ I Love It
■ Where Does The DJ Go? 🏆 J's fave
■ Unstoppable