The Sur­vivor

Exclaim! - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Ian Gormely

KYLIE MINOGUE DOESN’T MAKE TRENDS SO MUCH AS RIDE THEM. Like fel­low cul­tural icon Madonna (for­ever the fe­male pop ideal), the pint-sized Aus­tralian pop be­he­moth — at least out­side of North Amer­ica — has forged her own path. She tran­si­tioned seam­lessly from TV ac­tress to teen pop star to in­ter­na­tional phe­nom, fend­ing off com­mer­cial flops, can­cer and the pa­parazzi (thanks to a rash of celebrity paramours) along the way. As Minogue re­leases her 14th stu­dio al­bum, Golden, we look back on the megas­tar’s long ca­reer of hits and misses.

1968 to 1985

Kylie Ann Minogue is born in May 1968 in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia; sis­ter Dan­nii fol­lows in 1971. Both Kylie and Dan­nii take singing and danc­ing lessons; Dan­nii is the bud­ding star. At seven, Dan­nii en­rols in the Johnny Young Tal­ent School, and in 1982, joins the school’s very pop­u­lar TV show Young Tal­ent Time. Kylie sorts through her sis­ter’s fan mail af­ter school, of­ten forg­ing her sig­na­ture on pho­tos. Af­ter an au­di­tion Dan­nii is too young for, ten-year-old Kylie is cast as Carla in The Sul­li­vans, a WWII-era soap opera. (Dan­nii will later take over the part.)

1986 to 1988

Minogue gets her big break in 1986 when she’s cast in the soap opera Neigh­bours as Char­lene Robin­son. In Bri­tain, the show at­tracts a record num­bers of view­ers, and her ca­reer re­ally takes flight. Ja­son Dono­van, who she be­gins dat­ing in 1986, plays Kylie’s on­screen hus­band.

Mel­bourne-based Mush­room Records signs Minogue to a record­ing con­tract af­ter see­ing her per­form at a Fitzroy Foot­ball Club ben­e­fit con­cert along with other Neigh­bours cast mem­bers; she per­forms a duet of “I Got You Babe” and “The Loco-Mo­tion.” The lat­ter, reti­tled “Lo­co­mo­tion,” be­comes her de­but sin­gle — the high­est-sell­ing sin­gle of the decade in Aus­tralia.

Minogue’s suc­cess is met with de­ri­sion from many crit­ics, some co-stars and even em­ploy­ees of her own record la­bel. “There were peo­ple at the time say­ing, ‘This is the end of Mush­room — how can you be do­ing this?’” for­mer Mush­room head Michael Gudin­ski will tell The Sun­day Morn­ing Her­ald in 2012. “It didn’t faze me.”

For its fol­lowup, Minogue trav­els to Eng­land to meet with ’80s synth-pop su­per­pro­duc­ers Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Water­man (known pro­fes­sion­ally as Stock Aitken Water­man, or SAW) best known for their assem­bly-line style pro­duc­tion on ca­reer-defin­ing hits for Bana­narama, Rick Ast­ley and Dead or Alive. Minogue spends ten days in a Lon­don ho­tel room wait­ing for the pro­duc­ers to call; they’ve for­got­ten she’s in town. They fi­nally hook up on her last day and write and record “I Should Be So Lucky” in 40 min­utes. The song goes to num­ber one in both Aus­tralia and the UK, and charts on the Hot 100 in the U.S.

In July 1987, Minogue meets INXS front­man Michael Hutchence at the Count­down Awards. Ur­ban leg­end has it that Hutchence, eight years her se­nior, de­clares his de­sire to have sex with the 19-year-old singer, who is ac­com­pa­nied by Dono­van. “I’m not go­ing to say ex­actly what the line was, be­cause I like that it was just be­tween him and I. But it was some­thing like that,” she’ll tell 60 Min­utes Aus­tralia in 2014. “I was prob­a­bly taken aback, but quite in­trigued.”

In June 1988, Minogue films her fi­nal scenes for Neigh­bours; her de­but, Kylie, is re­leased in July. It hits num­ber two in Aus­tralia, num­ber one in the UK, and spawns six sin­gles. It only reaches #53 on U.S. charts.

1989 to 1990

In April 1989, “Hand on Your Heart,” the first sin­gle from her sopho­more al­bum, is re­leased. It’s an­other SAW pro­duc­tion and an­other chart-top­per in the UK. En­joy Your­self, recorded while Minogue is still pro­mot­ing her de­but, treads sim­i­lar mu­si­cal ground, fea­tur­ing plenty of bub­blegum syn­th­pop in the vein of Tif­fany and Deb­bie Gib­son. It fails to chart in the U.S. when it’s re­leased the fol­low­ing year by Gef­fen, a com­mer­cial fail­ure that en­sures none of her sub­se­quent records get a North Amer­i­can re­lease un­til 2001.

Minogue and Hutchence be­come an item and the sub­ject of gos­sip; a phone call to Dono­van ends that re­la­tion­ship.

In April, she re­leases “Bet­ter the Devil You Know,” an­other SAW pro­duc­tion. Its sound, lyrics and ac­com­pa­ny­ing mu­sic video present a more ma­ture, as­sured and less chaste Minogue. In Novem­ber, Rhythm of Love is re­leased, fea­tur­ing a more dance-ori­ented sound. SAW are its pri­mary pro­duc­ers, but seek­ing more cre­ative con­trol, Minogue brings in out­side writ­ers and pro­duc­ers, in­clud­ing Madonna col­lab­o­ra­tor Stephen Bray. Both the al­bum and its sin­gles do well com­mer­cially, but don’t match Minogue’s pre­vi­ous heights.

1991 to 1992

In fall 1991, Let’s Get to It is re­leased; de­spite flex­ing her new­found cre­ative free­dom, it’s a rel­a­tive fail­ure com­mer­cially. A tour, os­ten­si­bly to pro­mote the new al­bum, starts in May. In Fe­bru­ary 1992, amidst ru­mours of in­fi­delity, Hutchence dumps Minogue for Dan­ish su­per­model He­lena Chris­tensen.

1993 to 1994

With her con­tract with Water­man’s la­bel PWL up, the la­bel re­leases Great­est Hits. Kylie signs with De­con­struc­tion, takes a more ac­tive role in pick­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors, and spends much of 1993 work­ing on new ma­te­rial with both Saint Eti­enne and the Rapino Brothers, but the re­sult­ing tracks feel too much like her old ma­te­rial. UK DJs Steve An­der­son and Dave Sea­man from Brothers in Rhythm end up pro­duc­ing much of the al­bum. Re­leased in Septem­ber 1994, Kylie Minogue is her first record with­out the SAW team, and fea­tures a va­ri­ety of sounds and styles,

in­clud­ing house, techno and new jack swing.


In Au­gust, Minogue joins Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on stage in Cork, Ire­land, per­form­ing a new song. In Oc­to­ber, Cave re­leases “Where the Wild Roses Grow,” a duet with Minogue. Cave claims he’s had a “quiet ob­ses­sion” with Minogue for years and wrote the song specif­i­cally with her in mind. “I wrote sev­eral songs for her, none of which I felt was ap­pro­pri­ate to give her,” he’ll tell Jeff Jenk­ins and Ian Mel­drum for their 2007 book Molly Mel­drum Presents 50 Years of Rock in Aus­tralia. “It was only when I wrote this song, which is a di­a­logue be­tween a killer and his vic­tim, that I thought fi­nally I’d writ­ten the right song for Kylie to sing.” Though it only gets a limited re­lease in North Amer­ica, it goes top 20 in the UK and top five in the two artists’ na­tive Aus­tralia. It’s Cave’s high­est chart­ing song ever, even sell­ing Gold in Ger­many.

1996 to 1997

With en­cour­age­ment from Cave and cur­rent boyfriend/video di­rec­tor Stephane Sed­naoui, Minogue takes even more con­trol of her next al­bum. Com­pound­ing her new­found free­dom was the ab­sence of De­con­struc­tion’s A&R per­son Pete Had­field, due to ill­ness. In­spired by Björk, the Prodigy, Garbage and Eels, she wants a more elec­tronic sound.

Im­pos­si­ble Princess is re­leased in Oc­to­ber 1997. The record moves be­tween techno, drum & bass, trip-hop and even Brit­pop. By Minogue’s high bar of suc­cess, the record fares poorly in the UK and Europe. Its re­lease is de­layed in or­der to re­print al­bum sleeves af­ter the death of Princess Diana. Reti­tled

Kylie Minogue, it reclaims its orig­i­nal ti­tle when it’s re­mas­tered in 2003, at which time it also re­ceives crit­i­cal reap­praisal.

In Novem­ber, Hutchence is found dead in his ho­tel room in Syd­ney from an ap­par­ent sui­cide.

1998 to 1999

Af­ter the poor com­mer­cial per­for­mance of Im­pos­si­ble Princess, De­con­struc­tion drops her. Par­lophone signs Minogue in April 1999. “There was some­thing there that hadn’t been achieved by her last la­bel, and I didn’t think it re­ally had any­thing to do with her,” Miles Leonard, the EMI/Par­lophone UK A&R who signed her, will say in a 2002 in­ter­view with hitquar­ “The me­dia still loved her, be­cause she was al­ways a star. It was about turn­ing that per­cep­tion around.”

Work be­gins on her sev­enth al­bum, with the clear in­ten­tion of mak­ing an un­abashed pop record. Among her col­lab­o­ra­tors are Richard Stan­nard and Ju­lian Gal­lagher, part of the Bri­tish song­writ­ing team Bif­fco.


“Spin­ning Around” is re­leased in June and be­comes Minogue’s first UK num­ber one in a decade. The song is writ­ten by Paula Ab­dul, in­tended to be part of a come­back al­bum that never ma­te­ri­al­ized. A video, di­rected by Dawn Shad­forth, is set in a disco, with Minogue danc­ing in a pair of gold hot pants. “The most fa­mous hot pants in the an­nals of mu­sic,” as 60 Min­utes Aus­tralia will put it in 2014, cost less than a dol­lar and turn Minogue into an overnight sex sym­bol. They are now part of the Mel­bourne Arts Cen­tre’s ar­chives.

Light Years ar­rives in Septem­ber, boast­ing a host of kitschy dance-pop, house, Eurodisco and French touch sounds. Sub­se­quent sin­gles “On a Night Like This” and “Kids,” a duet with Rob­bie Williams, both hit #2 in the UK. All­mu­sic later calls the Rob­bie Williams-Guy Cham­bers penned “Your Disco Needs You” “prob­a­bly one of the best dance songs of the ’90s.”

Look­ing to cash in on the at­ten­tion, De­con­struc­tion shrewdly as­sem­bles Hits+ fea­tur­ing tracks from her pre­vi­ous two records, along with B-sides, acous­tic ver­sions and her Nick Cave duet.


“The most fa­mous hot pants in mu­sic cost less than a dol­lar and turn her into a sex sym­bol. They are now in the Mel­bourne Arts Cen­tre’s ar­chives.”

Fol­low­ing the com­ple­tion of the “On a Night Like This” tour, Minogue be­gins work on a quick fol­lowup, div­ing even deeper into club el­e­ments. Fever ar­rives in the fall and de­buts at num­ber one in Aus­tralia and the UK.

Minogue mod­els for Agent Provo­ca­teur lin­gerie; the “Proof,” ad, in which she rides a red vel­vet me­chan­i­cal bull, sound­tracked by the Hives “Main Of­fender,” gets banned from TV for be­ing too racy and is only shown in movie the­atres.


In Fe­bru­ary, Capi­tol re­leases Fever in the U.S., the first Minogue record to be re­leased there in 13 years. It even­tu­ally goes plat­inum. The puls­ing dance groove of “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” con­nects with Amer­i­can au­di­ences, reach­ing #7 on the Hot 100. Its video wins Best Dance Video at the 2002 MTV Video Mu­sic Awards.

2003 to 2004

Minogue’s par­ents do­nate 600 items from her cos­tume col­lec­tion to the Mel­bourne Arts Cen­tre. The cen­tre’s Re­search Man­ager Ja­nine Bar­rand cre­ates Kylie: The Ex­hi­bi­tion, fea­tur­ing clothes and cos­tumes from across her ca­reer. It tours the coun­try.

For the next al­bum, Minogue and her col­lab­o­ra­tors take in­spi­ra­tion from ’80s elec­tronic mu­sic, par­tic­u­larly Prince, new ro­man­tic/ new wave and elec­tro­clash; Body Lan­guage is re­leased in Novem­ber. On Novem­ber 15, a fan­sonly con­cert called “Money Can’t Buy” is held at the Ham­mer­smith Apollo in Lon­don. The show costs a mil­lion pounds to pro­duce and fea­tures out­fits de­signed by Chanel, Ba­len­ci­aga and Hel­mut Lang; it will be re­leased as the Body Lan­guage Live DVD in 2004.

Minogue wins her first and only Grammy Award when “Come Into My World” nabs Best Dance Record­ing.

2005 to 2006

In March, she heads out on the “Show­girl: Great­est Hits” tour to pro­mote hits col­lec­tion Ul­ti­mate Kylie. On May 17, 2005 she is di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer; she can­cels the Aus­tralian and Asian legs of the tour and four days later un­der­goes a par­tial mas­tec­tomy and be­gins eight months of chemo­ther­apy. Me­dia cover­age is over­whelm­ingly sym­pa­thetic and the singer is praised for mak­ing her bat­tle rel­a­tively pub­lic. While un­der­go­ing treat­ment, Minogue be­gins writ­ing lyrics for her next al­bum and re­turns to the stu­dio in May 2006. In Novem­ber, she is given the all clear from her doc­tors and re­sumes the “Show­girl” tour.

2007 to 2009

She fin­ishes her lat­est come­back al­bum in Au­gust. Many big name stars are asked to sub­mit songs for con­sid­er­a­tion — Pet Shop Boys, Boy Ge­orge, Gold­frapp and Hot Chip, among many oth­ers, re­port­edly all write songs that are ei­ther never used or re­main un­re­leased. Her tenth al­bum, X, is re­leased in Novem­ber; it sells plat­inum in the UK and Aus­tralia and peaks at #139 on the Bill­board 200 in the States, but clocks in at num­ber four on the Elec­tronic Al­bums chart, sig­ni­fy­ing the unique space she oc­cu­pies in the minds of Amer­i­can fans.

In 2009, Minogue em­barks on her first-ever North Amer­i­can tour. “On a purely fi­nan­cial, bor­ing lo­gis­ti­cal note, it’s not some­thing that bean coun­ters would say, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea!’” she’ll re­call to Rolling Stone in 2018. She plays just six dates, in­clud­ing one in Toronto; Kylie Live in New York, recorded at the Ham­mer­stein Ball­room in Oc­to­ber, com­mem­o­rates the tour.

2010 to 2011

Aphrodite is re­leased in July 2010. It’s a re­turn to the dance-pop/disco roots of Fever, up­dated for the new decade. Writ­ing cred­its in­clude Calvin Har­ris, Jake Shears, Richard X, Swedish House Mafia’s Se­bas­tian In­grosso and Keane’s Tim Rice-Ox­ley. The record de­buts at #1 in the UK and sells plat­inum. In Novem­ber, the live CD/DVD Aphrodite Les Folies: Live in Lon­don, as well as the A Kylie Christ­mas EP, are re­leased. That same month, she duets with Taio Cruz on his sin­gle “Higher.”

In Fe­bru­ary 2011, Minogue be­comes the first artist to hold two of the top three spots on the Bill­board Dance/Club Play songs chart, with “Bet­ter Than To­day” from Aphrodite top­ping the chart, and her Taio Cruz col­lab com­ing in at #3.

2012 to 2016

Cel­e­brat­ing 25 years in the in­dus­try, EMI re­leases an up­dated hits record fea­tur­ing no new or un­re­leased ma­te­rial called The Best of Kylie Minogue in 2012. A sin­gle box set called K25 Time Cap­sule ar­rives in Oc­to­ber. That same month, The Abbey Road Ses­sions of­fers 16 orches­tral re­works from across her cat­a­logue.

Kiss Me Once, her 12th stu­dio record, is re­leased in March 2014; ex­ec­u­tive pro­duced by Sia and fea­tur­ing a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Phar­rell, the sin­gles strug­gle to crack the Top 40.

Minogue plays her­self in 20,000 Days on Earth, Nick Cave’s 2014 docu­d­rama about his ca­reer; in a short scene, she dis­cusses both their col­lab­o­ra­tion on “Where the Wild Roses Grow” as well as her legacy. “I worry about be­ing for­got­ten,” she ad­mits, “and about be­ing lonely.”

2017 to 2018

In 2017, Minogue set­tles a trade­mark dis­pute with Amer­i­can re­al­ity TV star Kylie Jen­ner over the name “Kylie,” which Jen­ner tried to trade­mark in 2015. Minogue’s peo­ple file an op­pos­ing mo­tion, de­scrib­ing their client as an “in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned per­form­ing artist, hu­man­i­tar­ian and breast can­cer sur­vivor” while dis­miss­ing Jen­ner as a “sec­ondary re­al­ity tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity.”

In March 2018, Minogue re­leases her 14th stu­dio al­bum Golden, par­tially recorded in Nashville with Tay­lor Swift’s pro­ducer Nathan Chap­man. “The city’s so cool, it’s so his­toric,” she tells Rolling Stone. “I felt like I was at the al­tar of the song, and you get to watch all of these peo­ple per­form.” The ses­sions pro­duce three songs, and the coun­try in­flu­ence is ap­par­ent on lead sin­gle “Danc­ing.” Not only does the song re­turn Minogue to the UK sin­gles chart for the first time since 2015, it makes waves on charts and in ter­ri­to­ries where the singer has never had an im­pact, open­ing yet more fronts on her ever-evolv­ing ca­reer.

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