It is fitting that in 2020, a year when unexpected directions from beloved pop stars have been about as welcome as a second lockdown, Kylie Minogue has not only returned to her roots with a disco album, but also ensured that there is no margin for error by calling it Disco.
Two years ago everyone’s favourite Australian daytime soap star turned pop diva made an unconvincing detour into Nashville country, and there was real fear among fans that this might have begun a new exploratory phase in her career. What if she ended up on a jazz odyssey? Thankfully, Disco puts her back where she belongs: on a brightly coloured dancefloor, singing appealingly shallow words about DJs and supernovas, on an album rooted firmly in the 1970s and 1980s golden age of glamorous music that is ideal to stick on while dressing up and — for the time being — staying in.
Minogue’s 15th album, put together from her flat in London with the help of various producers and musicians on Zoom calls, lacks a killer track guaranteed to make everyone creak up from their chairs at wedding receptions forever more, but it is good-natured and upbeat, and just what we need from her right now. The style is classic Philadelphia disco, with handclaps, big piano chords, orchestral arrangements and that bittersweet melodic blend of escapism and melancholy all the best dance music has.
Meanwhile, Minogue has resisted the urge to give in to present trends and get all earnest. Instead, she sticks to such breezy themes as seeing your boyfriend dancing with someone else, getting over the Monday blues by thinking about the weekend, not wishing to miss a thing (not that there’s much to miss right now) and other lyrical themes that do not demand anything as strenuous as thought. And the best thing about Disco, coming at a time when hopefulness has been at a premium, is how optimistic it sounds.
“We’re a million miles apart in a thousand ways,” Minogue sings on the Donna Summer-like Say Something, which is the closest she gets to commenting on the conditions of the pandemic, but this is used as the starting point for a sweet and uplifting song about having something to look forward to. “Can we all be as one again?” she pleads. Coming from a less pure soul, such hands-across-the-ocean sentimentality would be trite. From Minogue it seems like a perfectly reasonable request.
Don’t come here for any personal revelations. This is pure fantasia. “Rock’n’roller, bring your body closer, shake it on the floor now, like Studio 54 now,” she suggests on Dance Floor Darling, and that’s about as deep as it gets.
There is a sad pop song at the end called Celebrate You in which Minogue exhorts a woman called Mary to feel better about herself, but in the main Disco aims for the simple, but noble task of providing music that cheers you up, while making you want to dance; “grown-up disco”, as its 52-year-old creator puts it. Right now, that’s all we need from Kylie Minogue. (BMG)