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 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