Thursday, July 29, 2010

Aphrodite (album) - Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue has just released the most solid, consistent and likely durable album of her entire career: Aphrodite. There are no absolute stand-out tracks like “Confide In Me” or “Can’t Get You Outta My Head”, just start-to-finish well-produced, slick, up-tempo electro pop. And what pleasing pop it is. As she slyly says in the title track, she’s going “back and forth”.

The decision to cast Stuart Price as executive producer ended up with Price’s always-developing nous being the lynch-pin for Aphrodite. This is probably the secret behind the album’s success.

Aphrodite launches with Minogue’s first single, "All The Lovers”, a paragon of what great up-tempo dance pop should be. Its bittersweet, soaring chorus and cracking production do, in fact, as Minogue says, sum up what the rest of Aphrodite holds.

There are a few forgettable tracks on Aphrodite but these are moderate, forgiveable exceptions, for example, "Put Your Hands Up If You Feel Love" and “Too Much”.

Despite Minogue‘s, Price’s and Parlophone’s claims that this an album without ballads, ironically “Closer” and the extraordinary “Everything is Beautiful” are the first tracks to stand out on first listen; and they’re probably the best ballads on the album. Sparked with intricate, slow-rocking percussive elements, both are exemplary. Perhaps the most beautiful, open lyric comes thus: “And when good things are good/I want to share them/I don‘t want to be alone” from the string-tinged electro-ballad, “Looking For an Angel”, later in the album.

Another highlight comes in the form of “Better Than Today”, which compels dance on first listen. It has a great chord progression and stretches Minogue’s vocal ability both in terms of range and nuanced emotiveness. This is one of the few points on the album where Price successfully introduces an acoustic guitar, albeit placed low in the mix. Minogue’s vocal prowess is also tested on “Cupid Boy” (resultant moronic puns entail), again a sweet mix of rhythmic electro ruptures, acoustic guitar and astute vocals. There is an ingenious three-part bridge with vocals that progress from the clear to the robotically-challenged. Minogue also injects her vocal control into the otherwise-forgettable “Illusion”, giving it a sense of pathos, together with the bittersweet synths.

Minogue’s confidence that Aphrodite would serve well as a “farewell” album is well-placed. And Minogue is confident these days. You can hear it in her voice - the kind of artiste status difference that arose out of nowhere on Justin Timberlake’s second album. Aphrodite rivals even Impossible Princess in terms of substance, production values and coherence. Stuart Price’s handling of the track listing, content and vibe of the album no doubt delivered what Minogue lovers have craved her entire career: a coherent, well-paced album without filler. Price should be congratulated for his rapturous soundscapes; Minogue for her courage, vision, tenacity, artistry and ear.

Minogue has finally delivered an album her loyal fan base can actually put on repeat.

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