music

Kylie’s Disco: New Mastery of a Familiar Genre

November 24, 2020

Mark Yin

Kylie Minogue’s Disco isn’t the first disco revival album we’ve seen this year and at this rate it won’t be the last. It is, however, arguably a hot contender for the best. 

Kylie’s 15th studio album sees her return to the genre that launched her career—but Disco is not just another disco-pop record. After all, Kylie’s career is one of subtle experimentation: on the surface, a catalogue packed with disco-pop hits, but beneath her blaring commercial successes she ducks and weaves through jack swing, electroclash, even moving in and out of a brief flirtation with indie-house in 1997’s Impossible Princess. With each new release, she finds more room for herself, expanding her artistic voice—until, at last, here we are.

The result is a watertight and groovy record that fully channels Kylie herself. Disco is a natural yet distinctive development from her most forceful disco-pop work: it is a next step and a cut above Light Years (‘On A Night Like This’), Fever (‘I Just Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’), Aphrodite (‘All The Lovers’). And, though it may sound hard to believe…a cut above Fever?—it’s what Kylie asks of us from the opening track: “Do you believe in magic?”. In the accompanying music video she is dripping in gold, and for the next 11 tracks she delivers on this promise. In a time when joy is so sparse, what is disco-pop if not magical? From the sublime, club-ready ‘Last Chance’ to the timely ‘Real Groove’, Kylie reminds us that “it’s been a while, baby/Do you still feel the fire?”. By the time the last track comes around—on which she sings, “Can’t stop it when it feels so right”—you’ve lost yourself in Kylie’s living room, where she is throwing a party for you and her only. It’s the closest we’ve ever gotten to her in an album, and no, you don’t want this to stop. 

It may be counterintuitive, but the secret to this success, this tightrope between a familiar genre and her growing capacity for intimacy, lies in Golden, her 2018 country album. There, we saw for the first time—at least since Impossible Princess—what Kylie could do with genre. She took country music, polished out the grittiness until it resembled something blissful, campy, insouciant, and then infused it with her trademark, oh-so-danceable joy. Sure, there’s a heartbreak song or two, but the album still feels like Kylie without needing to be anything like disco-pop. It’s no coincidence that Golden was the first time since 1997 that she had co-written every track. She does this again on Disco.

As such, she brings a newfound sense of self to a genre that she knows better than perhaps any of her contemporaries. The result is a disco-pop album that feels familiar at first, but this time—and surprisingly for the first time in her career—on her own terms.