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Kylie Minogue’s ‘Tension’ Delivers Pop Perfection: Album Review

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Because the platonic perfect of a pop star getting older gracefully in her profession, Kylie Minogue is aware of what sort of artist she is and for 35 years has caught to that identification — and higher than that, embraced it. “Tension” is her sixteenth album, and it’s not solely nearly as good as those she launched 10 or 20 or extra years in the past, it’s identical to them: stuffed with shiny, irresistible, simply digestible songs whose sole objective is to make listeners fall in love and dance, if not at all times in that order. As constant as her 2020 launch “Disco” (if palpably extra exuberant for being recorded and launched post-pandemic), “Tension” exudes a return-to-normalcy pleasure that showcases her well-established strengths as a singer, songwriter and performer of pop music.

The primary single “Padam Padam,” launched in Might, threw down a formidable gauntlet. Although it solely floated to No. 34 on the Prime 40 chart, it immediately grew to become a contender for the nebulous, casual however at all times contentious prize of “song of the summer,” particularly after her LGBTQ followers appropriated it for his or her worldwide pleasure occasions. Without delay classic and ultra-modern Kylie, the content material of the tune appeared like a warm-up for the love affair that was but to come back with the album: its singer finds an acceptable companion on the dancefloor and sparks ensue. Written by Norwegian singer/songwriter Ina Wroldsen and songwriter/producer Peter Rycroft (aka Lostboy), the tune captures the precise vitality of the second as music lovers flock again to golf equipment and festivals, and Minogue’s plastic vocals adapt effortlessly to the futuristic, pulsating throb of producer Rycroft’s musical accompaniment.

Whether or not the selection exemplifies a barely extra conventional launch rollout than the seeming current-day technique to hammer listeners till one other tune sticks or displays a shrewd persistence to let “Padam Padam” absolutely embed itself within the pop firmament, it was nonetheless stunning that Minogue waited till the tip of August to challenge a second single, “Tension.” But the tune appears to right away present an evidence: providing robotic precision directions to “Touch me right there / Don’t be shy / Boy I don’t bite / You know where,” she fantastically escalates the heart-pounding romance of “Padam” into bed room provocation, even over a keyboard riff (courtesy her longtime collaborators Biff Stannard, Duck Blackwell and Jon Inexperienced) that feels lifted from a Nineties membership basic.

Overtly horny compared to its flirty predecessor, “Tension” goals for dancefloor ecstasy that results in a extra furtive sort of enjoyment, however collectively they provide a kind of template for listener expectations: slightly than making the perfect of a difficult cultural state of affairs — as she did with “Disco” — by creating a group of throwback songs that pay tribute to the musical hedonism, each foolish and symphonic, of the Seventies (and your complete pre-pandemic period), Minogue is plunging ahead as if our collective alternatives to bop and have enjoyable had been by no means kneecapped. “Hold On to Now,” as a lot in its musical as lyrical content material, explicitly says as a lot, constructing from a burbling synthesizer melody to a sweeping four-count beat that feels destined for an unforgettable end-of-night music pageant encore, full with a gospel choir backing Minogue up.

The place the earlier report drew inspiration from disco, “Tension” pulls extra closely from ’80s pop, particularly on tracks like “Things We Do for Love,” a extra stripped-down model of which you can simply think about Kevin Bacon dancing to again in 1984. “You Still Get Me High” delivers a dancefloor sneak assault by opening at half-tempo, grafting the dreamy love of the Vehicles’ “Drive” to the propulsive craving of Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” throughout choruses the place Minogue speculates “maybe it’s the moonlight” earlier than admitting “you still get me high.” Later, “Green Light” encompasses a saxophone solo that would have come from a misplaced recording session for Sade’s “Smooth Operator.” Conversely, “One More Time” looks like a clearinghouse for the singer’s many influences, injecting a flute riff stolen from Van McCoy’s “The Hustle” over an uptempo beat that evokes Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better With You” as she sings a refrain that had completely higher get overlaid with Daft Punk’s tune of the identical identify. In any other case, the performer of the mashup basic “Can’t Get Blue Monday Out Of My Head” is sleeping on the job.

Sequencing “Hands” and “Green Light” proper subsequent to 1 one other looks like a response to the youthful artists who’ve picked up Minogue’s mantle lately — a loving one, however a reminder that she will be able to comfortably maintain tempo. On the previous, she “raps” in the identical manner that Ariana Grande may; on the latter, she delivers a easy, string-laden get together jam that in a perfect world will quickly be blended on dance flooring worldwide with Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night” from the “Barbie” soundtrack. Of the album’s 11 tracks, solely “Vegas High” feels barely calculated, a geographically particular anthem that cynical minds may counsel was created as an compulsory theme tune for her upcoming Sin Metropolis residency. But if the metaphor (“We’re just a moment that’s written in the sand / I see you shimmering like a fantasy”) feels a bit pressured, Kylie sings it with sufficient conviction to promote it, whether or not or not it will definitely finds a life past the doorways of the Venetian.

Though there are few latest mainstream tributes to ballroom tradition and its surrounding group larger and extra open than Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” (and actually the whole thing of “Renaissance”), Minogue’s collaboration with producer Oliver Heldens, “10 Out of 10,” ably stakes a assured declare on this increasing canon. With six credited songwriters (together with Minogue herself), it looks like Heldens may have rattled off a minimum of one or two extra classes for the thing of the tune’s affection to attain the eponymous prime rating. However after she sings “Wanna kiss me where the sun don’t shine / Wow, wanna devour me boy, I might get wet, bring a towel,” simply the raunchiest lyric on the album, it’s clear that the tune is extra fascinated by serving “sex siren” than talking about it.

“Tension” ends with “Story,” a love tune that feels only a bit extra pointed than the others on the album — probably about somebody particular — however it shouldn’t be confused with a deeper confession of feeling. As a veteran pop star, Minogue has lengthy since discovered the best way to rework and elevate her private experiences into shared, even common sentiments. That mentioned, the observe spotlights her vocal vary higher than every other on the album, as she hits excessive notes within the refrain that it’s straightforward to overlook she’s able to, and he or she captures all of that palpable, loving emotion whereas additionally placing the listener via a hardcore exercise (anticipate this observe to indicate up in aerobics class playlists quickly) in simply over three minutes.

After all, that’s what she does, and has accomplished for 3 and a half many years. Removed from minimizing her abilities, a lot much less the style during which she’s develop into an everlasting staple, she’s burnished pop music not by making an attempt to show it into one thing that it’s not, however exhibiting her followers — and the world — how good it may be when accomplished with ardour, sincerity and consistency. Consequently, after delivering a report of such unrestrained pleasure and enjoyable, my solely quibble is with “Tension’s” title, although perhaps what she’s referring to isn’t just that nice second single however the problem she points for the remainder of the trade sustain with what continues to be an impeccable run.

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