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Reviewed by Will Harris
The lovely Ms. Minogue has been deemed a national treasure in just about every nation on this planet except for these United States of ours; though she needs far more just than her fingers and toes to count all of her Top 40 singles in most countries, she requires the services of just the one hand here in America. The first three (“The Loco-Motion,” “I Should Be So Lucky,” “It’s No Secret”) were in 1988, but it took well over a decade for her to make any further chart headway, and despite the Top 10 success of 2001’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” the follow-up single, “Love at First Sight,” only made it to #23, and a further pair of tracks only charted long enough to make it into the upper 90s before vanishing into oblivion. Minogue’s subsequent album, 2004’s Body Language, earned no hits, and…well, here we are in 2008, with X.
Will it change her Stateside fortunes? Not to be negative, but it almost certainly will not.
It’s clear that Kylie has no interest in changing her style to make America happy, as is evident from the glam-rock stomp of the opening track, “2 Hearts”; though it’s followed by “Like a Drug,” which starts off by sounding like a Madonna homage, the song drifts comfortably into a very traditional Minogue chorus. Speaking of paying homage, “In My Arms” isn’t actually a Daft Punk production, but it might as well be, given how much it resembles their work. Similarly, the recitation of the phrase “love me” on “The One” is immediately reminiscent of The Cardigans’ “Love Fool,” even if the music itself is unabashedly ‘80s in feel, coming in not so terribly far from When in Rome’s “The Promise.”
“Speakerphone” may well feature the dumbest lyrics Minogue has ever recorded (“Drop your socks and grab your mini boom box”), which makes it all the more annoying that song’s hook, “Playing on your speakerphone,” really sticks with you. Not as successful is the similar-sounding “Nu-Di-Ty,” which tries to be sexy but ends up being just plain annoying. “Sensitized,” meanwhile, is destined to be massive in England, partially because it’s a co-write by Guy Chambers and Cathy Dennis, but mostly because the Brits are cool enough to recognize the sample from “Bonnie et Clyde,” by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot, that drives the track. On a Brit-related note (well, Australian, actually) Minogue lets her accent fly on the verses of “Heart Beat Rock,” allowing her to make a bid for acceptance by Lily Allen and Kate Nash fans.
There’s really only one overt attempt to score US airplay, and it’s tacked onto the end of the record. Someone got the idea to take the already-funky “All I See” and get Mims (“This Is Why I'm Hot”) to offer up a bit of rapping at various points of the song; both the original and Mims-heavy versions of the track are available on the album, and with all due respect to this fine, upstanding young rapper, the song works just fine without his presence.
X is another solid Kylie album, offering up exactly what her fans around the world want from her – catchy dance-pop – but given all the advance hype about Kylie’s collaborators in the various sessions for the record, one still has to look at the end result as being less than it could’ve been. When you know that lying in the vaults somewhere are collaborations with Goldfrapp, Scissor Sisters, Boy George, Mylo, and Daft Punk that didn’t make the cut, how can you feel otherwise? Still, the quality of the songs that are here are certainly nothing to sneeze at…not that music buyers in the States are likely to be biting any more this time than they were last album.
Bloody Americans. Don’t they know good dance music when they hear it?