Published Apr 05, 2018The tie that binds the many phases of Kylie Minogue's career is a dedication to dance-pop. Rarely has the Australian superstar strayed far from tunes that split the difference between chart-conscious accessibility and dance-floor grooves. What constitutes such a track is a moving target, and it's allowed her to mutate with the music across her 25-year plus career.
Golden, Minogue's 14th full-length, opens a new front on that balance: country. Opener and lead single "Dancing" is a great addition to the Kylie singles arsenal of earworms. Despite recording just three of the record's tracks in Nashville (the rest in London and L.A.) it sets the tone; songs begin with arpeggiated guitars or banjo, build with the addition of a kick drum beat, then blow wide open for the chorus.
It works great for the first couple of tracks — "Stop Me From Falling" is another highlight. Yet over the course of the record's dozen tracks, the trick wears thin. Moreover, it's an old one. Kylie isn't after the kind of pop-country crossover that everyone from Shania to Taylor have adopted to crack the mainstream. Rather, she's chasing the sound Avicii "pioneered" with Aloe Blacc way back in 2013 (every generation gets the "Cotton-Eye Joe" they deserve). Five years later, it's as tired as tropical house — syrupy ballad "Radio On" is actually a welcome respite.
Props to Kylie for crafting an album anchored by cohesion of sound — there was a time not long ago when that kind of forethought was anathema to pop. But from one of the world's biggest stars, we expect more. No one's looking for Kylie to blaze some new sonic territory — we have Charli XCX for that. But at her peak, Kylie could ride a cultural wave like few other artists. Golden is bereft of relative stinkers, but there's little to bring listeners back. (Liberator/BMG)