To step onto a dance floor and not make a total ass of yourself, one has to be comfortable with a certain loss of control. Thinking gives way to moving. Logic is swept away by rhythm. Self-conscious thoughts evaporate. It can be an intimidating proposition, depending on your level of intoxication. Luckily, for those of us who think dancing in public is as scary as I just made it sound, there's a new Kylie Minogue album out this week, and it serves as an antidote.
Kiss Me Once, the Australian pop singer's 12th album, continues an impressive streak of ruthlessly addictive dance music that dates at least as far back as 2001's aptly titled career rejuvenator, “Can't Get You Out of My Head.” Smartly, Minogue and her deep bench of producers and songwriters stick with the winning formula of caffeinated synth-pop and disco, with a touch of dubstep tossed in for the kids. When it works best, it results in the kinds of choruses that make platitudes sound like rallying cries. The killer, clavinet-laden groove of “Sexy Love” does something to the human brain that makes us forget we're listening to a song called “Sexy Love,” with a chorus that goes “Gimme that sexy love.” Kind of like how John Lennon's harmonica tricked us into thinking “Love me do” was a sentence.
There are some forgettable moments in the album's latter half, thanks to filler like “Les Sex,” but none that truly ruin the party. Even the dubstep outlier “Sexercize” works as a counterpoint to the album's deeper themes; as Minogue's maniacally digitized voice repeats the dumb/wonderful portmanteau over and over, her commitment to sounding temporarily insane is admirable.
In terms of the number of classic, summer-ready Minogue singles on hand, Kiss Me Once is pretty much par for the course. But there's an element of that that makes it better than your typical Minogue album, in that it's not content with pleasing the people on the dance floor. It's bookended by two tracks that break from the expected narrative of people doing sexy things at sexy times in sexy places. Lead single “Into the Blue” opens the proceedings by describing how it feels to be dragged down by loneliness and regret, but by the chorus, all of it gives way to pure, resilient joy: “I ain't waiting up for no miracle/Yeah, tonight I'm running free.” Closer “Fine” is one of Minogue's all-time achievements (as well as the only track she co-wrote here). Using the album's most intricate and satisfying melody to deliver a triumphant self-esteem boost, this underappreciated pop star speaks directly to the people who line the walls of the club, staring at their shoes, afraid of how they'll be perceived: “You're gonna be fine/You don't have to worry.”