A Short History Of Kylie Minogue’s Riskiest (And Most Innovative) Dance Tracks
From career-defining hits to little-known bonus tracks, Kylie Minogue has pushed the boundaries of dance over and over again.
In recent years Kylie Minogue’s stilettos haven’t strayed far from her long-time stomping ground of uplifting, joyful, love-focussed synth-pop.
2018’s Golden saw her add some Nashville strains to her standard pop sound, while this year’s aptly-titled DISCO brought a wild, shimmery sheen to the genre’s 2020 revival. Despite these fairly risk-averse recent moves, though, Kylie’s long history as an electronic risk-taker merits attention.
Since first adopting the alias “Angel K” to eschew her mainstream ‘girl next door’ image and manoeuvre towards early ‘90s rave culture, our number one angel has taken several experimental electro shifts. A shrewd collaborator, Minogue has worked with an array of proven dance legends and up-and-comers — and the resulting songs range from career-defining hits to little-known bonus tracks.
#1. ‘Do You Dare’ (1992)
Aged 23 and with 13 UK top 10 singles under her belt, Kylie was feeling constricted. She’d achieved massive commercial success with production powerhouse Stock Aitken Waterman, but had been afforded little creative control.
According to Pete Waterman, the team’s early way of working with Minogue was “here’s the track, here’s how the song goes, here’s the lyric. Mike would teach her the song and it would be recorded in an hour.”
That changed with Minogue’s fourth album Let’s Get To It. Having developed an interest in club culture and been introduced to ecstasy by then-boyfriend Michael Hutchence, Kylie pushed the SAW team to produce more high-energy music. Some of the resulting tracks were issued as white label vinyls under the code name “Angel K”.
One example is ‘Do You Dare’. The track has all the features of a typical ‘90s house stomper: wailing, elongated vocals set against staccato piano stabs, prolonged instrumental breaks, non-specific lyrics (“can you feel it? do you dare?”) and grunting backing singers. ‘Do You Dare?’ was only ever officially released as a b-side, but it represents one of Minogue’s first real forays into club music.
#2. ‘Too Far’ (1997)
By the mid-‘90s Minogue had signed with dance label Deconstruction Records in pursuit of more control over her output. Fan lore positions Minogue in full creative flight for 1997’s Impossible Princess; she’s listed as a the sole or co-writer on every track on the album.
Album opener and promotional single ‘Too Far’ epitomises the dark tone and experimentation with dance sub-genres present throughout Impossible Princess. Minogue settles into her lower register during the song’s verses for a rapid-fire interrogation of her negative mindset.
The largely organic instrumentation (including spiralling piano melodies played by Minogue) is topped with a drum and bass beat that intensifies a building sense of chaos.
#3. ‘GBI (German Bolt Italic)’ (1998)
Between labels in the late ‘90s, Minogue approached Japanese producer Towa Tei, an alumnus of ‘Groove Is In The Heart’ dance group Deee-Lite, to suggest they collaborate. The result is one of Kylie’s most whimsical musical moments.
Atop a minimal house track that wouldn’t sound out of place emanating from the speakers of a grimy Melbourne club at 4.30am on any given Sunday morning, Minogue adopts the persona of a flirtatious, giggly, self-assured font on ‘GBI (German Bolt Italic)’. She spends seven minutes offering to help the listener craft “the bold design of you” in a variety of colours, supported by bouncy, runway-ready synths and bubbling drums. ‘GBI’ set a crisp sonic precedent for what would soon become Kylie’s signature brand of purring, house-lite pop. Gut, ja?
#4. ‘Light Years’ (2000)
Kylie appropriately used the titular (and closing) track of her Big Pop Comeback album Light Years to pay homage to the pioneers of dance-pop, and to blast those influences into the stratosphere.
The central synth riff around which ‘Light Years’ is built is clearly influenced by Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder’s foundational, genre-shaping 1977 hit ‘I Feel Love’. Minogue’s captivating topline, though, sees her take a more future-focused stance, as she posits that “maybe things that you don’t know are better” and pledges to “take us to the pop stars on the moon”. The track is aspirational, camp Euro-pop at its absolute best.
#5. ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ (2001)
Effortless, chilling and steely, ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ — with its hypnotic, synth-led production, undeniably catchy vocal hook and contrastingly obscure vocal passages that refuse to melodically resolve — remains a line in the sand of the history of pop music. Recently, Music Junkee labelled it the greatest Australian song of all time.
#6. ‘Slow’ (2003)
After the mammoth success of 2001’s Fever it must have been tempting for Kylie to replicate the album’s high energy dance-pop sound. Instead, though, she took a thrillingly minimalist swerve with follow-up ‘Slow’, which she co-wrote.
Built around a square synth arpeggio, the song eventually crescendoes to a fuzzy swirl of concurrent synth lines, with Kylie in full-on temptress mode. The use of negative space across the track makes it incredibly striking, and it sounds fresh today.
#7. ‘In My Arms’ (2007)
Years before ‘We Found Love’, underwear ambassadorships and Vegas residencies, a relative industry-newcomer named Calvin Harris was enlisted to work on Kylie’s post-cancer “comeback” album X. Two of the resulting tracks made the final cut, including the fizzy ‘In My Arms’.
Originally intended as X’s lead single, ‘In My Arms’ leaked months ahead of the album’s release and was subsequently relegated to third single in favour of the Goldfrapp pastiche ‘2 Hearts’.
Co-written by Minogue, ‘In My Arms’ is a fairly straightforward pop earworm, loaded with open hi-hats and the same synth pad present across Harris’ debut album I Created Disco. Kylie lends an artsy-fartsy flair to proceedings with her abstract spoken musings (“How do you describe a feeling?/I’ve only ever dreamt of this”), but the track is most notable here for Kylie’s recognition of Harris as a talent worth collaborating with, four years before many other mainstream acts would catch on.
#8. ‘Skirt’ (2013)
Heady and heavy, promotional single and Kylie co-write ‘Skirt’ was released exclusively through electronic music distribution service Beatport. The track is almost pearl-clutchingly sexual, with Kylie’s moans and robotic vocals set against an aggressive dub-step instrumental.
#9. ‘Mr. President’ (2014)
If Born To Die-era Lana Del Rey, ‘Barbie Girl’ pop-makers Aqua, and Swedish House Mafia collaborated in an alternate reality, it might have sounded something like ‘Mr. President’.
Snarling and sweet, the Melbourne Bounce-lite ‘Mr. President’ flings Kylie from patriotic declarations to drug-induced visions of tie dye with whiplash-inducing speed. Her vocals are pushed to a helium extreme, like a bunch of red, white and blue balloons being popped en masse.
Produced by Australian EDM DJ Tommy Trash, track was consigned to bonus track status on 2014’s Kiss Me Once, despite Kylie reportedly lobbying for it to be selected as a single.
#10. ‘Your Body’ (2015)
A captivating Italian monologue recited by disco legend Giorgio Moroder heralds the intersection of three electro heavyweights on ‘Your Body’. Released between Minogue albums as part of a collaborative EP with Fernando Garibay (best known for his work on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way), the track is mechanical and mesmerising.
It layers chant upon chant, and is perhaps most notable for the way Kylie’s voice is bent, stretched and otherwise manipulated into arresting (if not always flattering) shapes.
Eventually fading into a signature Moroder guitar outro, ‘Your Body’ exemplifies Minogue’s willingness to try on different musical guises, still maintaining that quintessential ‘Kylie-ness’. Sometimes noisy, sometimes minimal, always Minogue.
All this week, Music Junkee is exploring the music of Kylie Minogue. See more Kylie stories over here.