Let’s talk about Kylie

“A woman so famous we only need to say her first name”.* The highest-selling Australian-born artist of all time. Kylie Minogue, often known professionally as just Kylie.

Whether you’re a pop music fan or not, I bet you know at least one of her songs. And it’s pretty hard to ignore her accomplishments Down Under and in the world, too. So let’s briefly talk about Kylie.

PART 59 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE

She has been in the music biz for over 30 years. With multiple Australian and international accolades, and collaborations with the best of the best in the industry under her belt, the artist’s just released her 15th studio album.

But how did this tiny woman become the face of Australia overseas doing only what she knows best – performing? I’m especially curious because, for some reason, her music has accompanied some of the most decisive moments in recent years.

Interestingly, Kylie has already lived abroad longer than she’d had in her own country before moving to London. So, many people tend to forget that she’s originally from Melbourne. Apparently, she has no plans to go back Down Under anytime soon, either.

But Australia hasn’t forgotten the “Pop Diva”. The music industry Down Under keeps honouring her international achievements in the local context once in a while.

It wasn’t always the case.

Pop is this tricky music genre that is sometimes considered very uncool in certain circles. And not everyone can spin it the right way from the start. So when Kylie was taking her first professional steps in the music biz in the late 80s, she wasn’t taken very seriously, to say the least. If we take into consideration the competition she was up against (Madonna, George Michael or Michael Jackson), I wouldn’t have wanted to be in her shoes.

Unfairly dubbed a “Singing Budgie”, she has, nevertheless, managed to gain the industry’s respect through hard work, perseverance and a bubbly personality. (Okay, and perhaps also because she’d been previously known from the popular Aussie soap opera, Neighbours, where she starred alongside Jason Donovan).

One of the first global hit singles performed with the Neighbours co-star

After scoring a few solid hits and recognition in the UK, Kylie won the hearts of faithful fans all over the world. She eventually convinced the Aussie music industry that she meant business, too.

It surely had something to do with a decisive image makeover: from the “girl next door” to a seasoned showgirl and sensual performer. And I’m not only talking about her brief relationship with Michael Hutchence of INXS or the highly regarded collaboration with Nick Cave on “Where The Wild Roses Grow”.

To date, the Australian Pop Princess has sold over 80 million records worldwide (including nearly 24.5 million albums). She is the most successful Australian female recording artist of all time. In the career spanning more than three decades, she boasts Australian ARIAs, American Grammys, Brits and awards from other countries (i.e. Japan).

To top it all, in 2011, she was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame – the highest achievement in the Aussie music industry (other inductees include Midnight Oil, The Bee Gees or Olivia Newton-John). It was a pretty notable moment for the singer that reflected her status as the Ambassador of her country overseas. Kylie was welcomed on stage by the then Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard.

In my humble opinion, the best “tribute” to Kylie Down Under today is the digital collection assembled by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA). It was made available to the public in October 2020.

The virtual exhibition includes a wealth of different resources revolving around the singer. Videos and pictures show her career highlights (both in music, TV and cinema) and bits and pieces about her private life. A glimpse at her relationship with different communities and the press over the years is also presented (not always a bed of roses, it turns out).

There’s heaps of rare footage, fun facts and less explored topics. I spent four hours going through it all on one fine morning. It’s totally worth it.

As to the music itself, I respect Kylie for her contribution to pop. I reckon she’s found her niche, and she successfully caters to her fans’ needs.

You can’t deny that some of her tunes are genuinely catchy, though. Who doesn’t know “In Your Eyes”, “All The Lovers” or “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” (which, by the way, is her highest-selling single but definitely not my favourite tune)?

The same goes for the singer’s latest album, Disco. I’m not necessarily as amazed by it as the rest of the music journalists. But again, I’ll have to give it to her – it’s a fun and dancy record that will brighten these weird times we live in, for sure. It feels like Kylie’s going back to her roots after a few experimental detours (like on the previous record inspired by country music, Golden).

The artist celebrated the new album’s premiere with a global event on 7 November. Infinite Disco was a virtual Studio 54-type party, a one-off livestream with new music and the biggest hits in fresh arrangements. If you find yourself in a place where life outside your humble abode is still a no-go, it would have been a groovy Saturday night in for a change. More official listening parties are coming up, though. So stay tuned.

Thanks to her style and image, the Princess of Pop is famous in many circles. As she stated herself, “my gay audience has been with me from the beginning … they kind of adopted me”. Whilst touring Australia in 2019 with Golden, she even made a surprising stop at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. (The crowds went nuts and I missed her having left Sydney earlier that evening, damn it.) She’d previously headlined the event in 1994.

As a philanthropist and activist, Kylie has openly talked about a personal tragedy (cancer), calling on women to get regular check-ups, and battled a natural disaster in Haiti, recording a single for fundraising efforts after the 2010 earthquake.

Called “Mother of Reinvention”, she’s been an informal yet effective advocate of Australian-British and Australian-American relations, sometimes going beyond the music industry. And that’s just a fraction of what she’s been up to in her busy schedule.

When I decided to leave my old life behind a few years ago, I bid everyone farewell with Kylie’s rendition of Kool & The Gang’s song “Celebration”. It turned out to be very fitting for the chapter that came next for me.

Similarly, when I landed Down Under in 2017, one of the first things I did was checking out Kylie’s stage outfits at an exhibition put together by Arts Centre Melbourne. And even though the singer is famous for her elaborate showgirl costumes, it was a pretty surreal experience to see them all up close. And there were soooooooooo many pretty ones.

There’s another significant event in my life where Kylie made an appearance (but I didn’t). She played a concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne the night before my last departure from Australia. Sadly, a last-minute work-related thing came up, and I missed the opportunity to see the artist in her home town. Hopefully, next time, though. If only “I should be so lucky” 🙂

Kylie’s first ever single from 1987

Kylie diversifies her areas of interest and investment. Check out her passion for wines that I wrote about in this post.

*Taken from Primer Minister Julia Gillard’s introduction of Kylie when the singer was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.

Cover image: NFSA