Having enjoyed unprecedented longevity in a dazzling career, the legendary singer remains the brightest star in the pop firmament. By Helena Lee
Bazaar’s Breakthrough Model has come a long way from her Kenyan childhood, lighting up catwalks all over the world – and now the halls of Knebworth House
‘Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale/ Her infinite variety.’ Shakespeare’s paean in praise of the Egyptian Queen seems curiously apposite, I reflect, as I journey to Nottingham to meet Kylie Minogue. After all, the star has defied the knee-jerk ageism of pop, which scorns
Helena Lee maturity in favour of the transience of youth, with a 30-year career notable for its diversity and a constant stream of enduring top-10 hits.
We meet in her dressing-room at the Arena, on the second day of her British tour; the tyranny of the schedule means that time is not her own – sound checks and rehearsals beckon – but Minogue is serenely sipping herbal tea, clad in a blush silk Ulla Johnson floor-length dress. Tiny, with glowing skin and only a smattering of laughter lines, she looks about 35; but her latest album Golden is an homage to turning 50 – a fact that elicits gasps from everyone I tell.
Minogue wrote Golden as a reaction to the intrusive critics who wanted to know how it felt to be her age in the music industry. ‘I didn’t know how to answer, all I knew was that it was annoying me,’ she says. ‘I wanted to tell them to stop asking me about it.’ The title song – with its rousing refrain ‘We’re not young, we’re not old… we’re golden’ – has put an end to such impertinent queries. ‘I’m now not being asked those questions,’ she says with a pardonable hint of pride.
The album, a heady mix of pop and Nashville, is perhaps Minogue’s most emotionally resonant yet. In contributing extensively to the songwriting, she was determined to convey her feelings in a way that was profound but not indulgent. ‘[Usually] there’s a public me, and a much more private me. It was good to let that private side go a bit,’ says the singer, who has had a turbulent time of late. Last year, she split from her fiancé, the actor Joshua Sasse, and experienced what she calls ‘a slow and steady breakdown’. ‘I wasn’t being myself, I was lying to myself,’ she says. ‘I knew I wasn’t being truthful to the people around me, trying to pretend that everything was OK. I just wasn’t OK.’
She poured her emotions into the album, which, as a result, feels totally authentic, I tell her. ‘That was literally the key word,’ she agrees. ‘It’s not a heartbreak album, it’s an album of discovery. I wasn’t heartbroken, I was broken. I found a way to phrase it, took some poetic licence, and made it relatable to people. But honestly, I’ve had worse rock bottoms in my life,’ she concludes, with typical bravery.
So, what is the secret to her success? ‘You need a lot of graft, a lot of courage and a bit of luck,’ she says with a smile. ‘ I definitely think I was born to do this… Well, I’ve left it pretty late to do anything else!’