Is Ms Minogue pop’s most ar­ti­fi­cial star, asks Tara Brady,

The Kylie fem­bot first went on the mar­ket in 1986 via the soap opera and went on to be­came ubiq­ui­tous in house­holds across the world – but, with twin rev­o­lu­tions in me­dia and pop mu­sic over­tak­ing the once state-of-the-art in­ven­tion, ob­so­les­cence can’t be

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

THE EAR­LI­EST pro­to­types were dinky, but there was noth­ing to sug­gest that it would one day be­come a ubiq­ui­tous house­hold prod­uct. Launched with lit­tle fan­fare dur­ing the 1980s, the Model T looked like just an­other nov­elty in a decade de­fined by Ru­bik’s Cubes and foam ham­mers.

The orig­i­nal – an of­fi­cial sis­ter prod­uct to the al­ready suc­cess­ful Danni – was a rel­a­tively un­so­phis­ti­cated but for­tu­itously timed at­trac­tion. Like early Bar­bie vari­ants cut from pa­per and veg­eta­bles, its homely charms ar­rived on the mar­ket just as mum­mies and pre-teens were cre­at­ing an en­tirely new de­mo­graphic: the twee­nie.

The Model T was not avail­able in any shops but was dis­trib­uted ex­clu­sively through the day­time drama Neigh­bours. At a time when Aussie soaps were the new must-have im­ports, and gap years in the Out­back were be­com­ing stan­dard, this proved an as­tute plat­form for the Oz-based multi­na­tional we now know as Kylie Inc (for­merly Kylie Minogue Inc).

Nowa­days, the same brand en­joys enough cor­po­rate razzmatazz to make those mes­sianic Ap­ple ral­lies look like two-bit re­vival tents. “Fifty tonnes of equip­ment” val­ued at $25,000,000! A 4D Wet Zone util­is­ing some 11,000 gal­lons of wa­ter nightly! 9,000 amps of power! Strangely, this is not an emer­gency res­cue plan for Ja­panese in­fra­struc­ture; this is the pub­lic­ity lit­er­a­ture for the oxy­moron­i­cally ti­tled Kylie Minogue: Aphrodite – Les Folies 2011. Try not to look sur­prised. Kylie Inc has al­ways been about the tech­ni­cal specs. Reg­u­lar cus­tomers and share­hold­ers can and will ar­gue that there’s more to it than the hard­ware. But long-term mar­ket watch­ers know that the diminu­tive ma­chine’s power has al­ways de­rived from the im­per­sonal and the elec­tronic.

From the get-go, the cor­po­ra­tion’s for­ays in to the mu­sic in­dus­try have de­pended on cross-pro­mo­tions and in­hu­man sounds. Run a slide rule across the back cat­a­logue and the me­chan­ics be­come ap­par­ent. The more ro­botic and bland the com­mo­tion, the more units are shifted.

Kylie Inc ac­cord­ingly owes its great­est mu­si­cal suc­cesses to early Stock Aitken and Water­man key-change soft­ware and to the ver­i­ta­ble army of synth hacks – Steve An­der­son, Rob Davis, Cathy Den­nis, Pas­cal Gabriel, Ju­lian Gal­lagher, Tom Ni­chols – hired in to as­sem­ble the 2001 al­bum Fever.

All at­tempts to be­stow hu­man­ity on pop’s most man­u­fac­tured sen­sa­tion have been thor­oughly and re­peat­edly re­buffed by clients. Re­leased in 1997, the fake in­die musings of Im­pos­si­ble Princess failed to im­press even loyal con­sumers.

They wanted a Fem­bot Kylie, not a Real Girl. And that’s pre­cisely what they got.

Launched at the dawn of the millennium, just as lad cul­ture and raunch cul­ture hit fever pitch, the KylieBot was em­blem­atic of a screwy new era in gen­der-ma­chine re­la­tions. This was not a Me­trop­o­lis dy­namo; this was a Step­ford Spin­ster. Fe­male yet an­drog­y­nous, the KylieBot was al­ways happy to flash her hot pants at the boys, yet lacked the wom­anly at­tributes to fill out de­signer Fee Do­ran’s iconic white hooded dress.

A marvel of the mod­ern age, KylieBot was pre­pro­grammed to zigzag across all known de­mo­graph­ics. Lad­dette con­sumers could ex­pect a se­ries of toe-tap­ping hen party an­thems. Lads could en­joy the way the new model might gig­gle real­is­ti­cally and play dumb at a va­ri­ety of oc­ca­sions. Ac­cept­ing a Q Idol Award in 2007, KylieBot flut­tered its eye­lashes and made like Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe: “I would like to thank those of you who con­tin­ued to sup­port me – in­clud­ing my dress . . . Just don’t ask me what it means.”

We won’t. If the Fem­bot has a se­cret in­tel­lec­tual life or emo­tional cir­cuitry, she keeps it well hid­den. No­body knows any­thing about KylieBot. Her per­son­al­ity specs have ev­i­dently not been up­dated in more than 20 years. On 2007’s X, she wanted to write a “per­sonal” song called Cos­mic. Hence, the track opens with the lyrics: “I wanted to write a song called Cos­mic.” Sleuth hard and you’ll stum­ble on pre­cisely the same fac­toids one might equally glean from an­cient yel­low­ing Neigh­bours an­nu­als. KylieBot might like backgam­mon. KylieBot loves fash­ion. KylieBot hates it when peo­ple ac­cuse her of copy­ing some­body else’s style. KylieBot keeps ei­ther ham­sters or guinea pigs.

Who could tell re­ally? She speaks, al­most ex­clu­sively, in Mal­ibu Stacy plat­i­tudes: “I have a black girl booty”, “ev­ery girl should have a GBF”, “I never imag­ined what im­pact a 50p pair of hot pants would have” – and “Madonna is the queen; I’m happy to be the princess of pop.” KylieBot ought to avoid


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