Kylie Minogue on Making Everlasting, Modern Pop: ‘I Enjoy Being A Chameleon’
The Australian star released ‘DISCO: Guest List Edition’ recently, heaping on additional features with artists like Gloria Gaynor, Jessie Ware and Dua Lipa.
About 20 years ago, Kylie Minogue released “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” invading the airwaves with her suitably addictive style of dance-pop. It wasn’t the first time or the last time the Melbourne artist championed a powerful yet accessible sound; one that we’ve heard with her version of “The Loco-Motion” all the way back in 1988, her song “Better the Devil You Know” in 1990, and right up to her 2007 album X.
The locked-down year that was 2020 spawned her 15th studio album, simply titled DISCO. Glimmering singles like “Say Something,” “Magic” and “Real Groove” further cemented Minogue’s long-standing chart-topping habits, even as her signature sound gained from modern pop production. On November 12th, Minogue dropped DISCO: Guest List Edition via BMG. The two-disc offering includes the album and an added record featuring all-new songs, including “Can’t Stop Writing Songs About You” featuring disco’s feted voice Gloria Gaynor, “Kiss Of Life” with Brit artist Jessie Ware, and “A Second to Midnight” with electronic pop act Years & Years aka Olly Alexander.
To top it off, the singer called upon one of the most lauded pop stars today, Dua Lipa—fresh from critical and chart acclaim for her album Future Nostalgia—for a Studio 2054 remix of “Real Groove.” Minogue adds over an email interview about heaping on more material to the DISCO album cycle, “Guest List Edition was indeed an opportunity to have some more fun. Like icing on the cake!”
In an interview with Rolling Stone India, Minogue discusses DISCO: Guest List Edition, her Infinite Disco livestream performance in 2020, learning production during the lockdown, her Bollywood stint and more. Excerpts:
What was it like putting together the collaborations that made it to DISCO: Guest List Edition?
The Dua collaboration was an extension of our performance together on her live-streamed show, Studio 2054. I have referenced Studio 54 many times but most directly on my Golden tour in 2018. The penultimate section was set in my fantasy version of the famed club and I knew each night that I wanted to spend more time in that world so, ironically, it was on a Country-inspired tour that I knew my next stop would be disco.
Olly Alexander had asked me to jump on his amazing track from early this year, “Starstruck”, so it felt like a natural next step to ask if he would join me for the Guest List Edition. We’ve been on the same stage many times before at various festivals (including Glastonbury) but we had only performed together once before at my Kylie Christmas Show at The Royal Albert Hall in London in 2016. I’ve watched him over the last 10 years and just adore him!
Jessie Ware interviewed me for her hugely successful Table Manners podcast and we spoke about working together that day. Her last album was also very disco-inspired, so we felt like we were on the same page.
Gloria Gaynor. Where do I start? She’s a true and forever disco ICON! I was over the moon that she agreed to be part of this project. Our song together, “Can’t Stop Writing Songs About You,” sounds like a Kylie song up until the second verse where Gloria comes in and it’s like a total mic drop [laughs]. She is amazing.
I’m guessing remote collaborations aren’t new to you but was there something different about the whole process?
All of those songs were done remotely and I recorded all the vocals myself. This is something I had to learn to do at the start of lockdown and it’s a skill I’m really glad to (finally) have.
Of course, I would have loved to be in the room with all of these awesome artists but it wasn’t possible at this time.
It’s also been a year since the Infinite Disco began live streaming. How do you look back at that time? Did it feel like a “concert” despite there not being an audience?
It felt like a hybrid of various things. Performance obviously, but not as we had known it before. It was a mix of TV and concert spectacle. It was a challenge for me and my team to deliver something from the heart that would really reach people. [We] filmed with strict protocol and a lot of unknowns but with a ton of desire to be able to connect with an audience through art. When it was aired, it did feel like an event and I was blown away with the emotional response.
DISCO: Guest List Edition is a massive way to put out new and recently released music. Has this helped bridge the gap whilst you are unable to tour and perform in front of fans due to the pandemic?
Yes, you are so right, this has been a nice way to bridge the gap! As and when I can do shows again, it will be so amazing to share some of these new Disco songs with the fans.
Then there’s the extended mixes of the tracks on Disco. That in itself has a throwback feel and it seems that fans of the album are loving it!
You picked up production and using a DAW like Logic during the pandemic. You mentioned it was a steep learning curve. What was the most fulfilling part of learning something you’ve always had to rely on others for your whole career thus far?
It was a steep learning curve but as we were stuck at home, it was the perfect opportunity to deep-dive into it. I also had help at the end of the line, if I needed it, with my producers. I also used a search engine a lot when I somehow pressed a wrong key. Literally, any question I had, the answer came up straight away. As I got more into it, I learned some shortcuts, which became super handy. And better organizational skills, ‘housekeeping’, so I could send my vocals to my producer with some kind of structure!
Since then, I have had the opportunity to record my vocals in a proper studio but I was more comfortable doing it myself. It’s very liberating. Plus, I tend to record late at night and into the early hours so I can do it in my own time, at my own pace.
I think dance-pop is synonymous with you and that’s not new. What is it like for you to go back to different branches of dance-pop and disco and find new inspiration in these sonic spaces?
Dance-pop offers so many places to go and in that sense, I’m an eternal tourist! I love, love, love exploring different ways of making and delivering music. The experience for me and what experience it offers for the listener. There is inspiration absolutely everywhere but for this album, it was obviously referencing original and timeless disco songs. Then other iterations of disco, like when Daft Punk stole all our hearts with Random Access Memories in 2013.
It’s really quite something that among your top streamed songs on Apple Music in India is “Chiggy Wiggy.” Did you feel like that song had a life beyond Bollywood and India?
I know! “Chiggy Wiggy” does seem to have taken on its own life. I love seeing people dancing to it on TikTok!
It feels like you walk a fine balance between always championing a distinctive style of pop that seems timeless, but also absorbing everything that’s current in the music world and working it into your songs. How do you see it?
I tend to absorb what is around me, mix it up with whoever I am at that point in my life and see what happens! I enjoy being a chameleon. I’ve been asked a lot in the past about my ’constant reinvention’ and I found it a little difficult to explain because to me, it was always more of an evolution than reinvention. We change through life and our surroundings and environment and influences change so, to me, it always felt natural to shape-shift.
What else is coming up through 2022?
I’m actually on my way to a studio! New music? 😉
Watch the video for “A Second to Midnight” featuring Years & Years below. Stream ‘DISCO: Guest List Edition’ here.