Kylie Minogue’s breakthrough Fever was so sickeningly cheesy that it should have come packaged with a complimentary bottle of Lactaid. The Aussie hitmaker’s follow-up, Body Language, is less immediate and more experimental, a midway point between the alternative/electronica of 1997’s Impossible Princess and Minogue’s more mainstream post-millennium work. It’s no coincidence that Body Language is filled with ’80s pop music references (she tips her hat to Reagan-era hits like Janet’s “The Pleasure Principle,” Chaka’s “I Feel for You” and, more directly, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam’s “I Wonder If I Take You Home” and Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round”) since much of the album is steeped in early ’80s synth-pop and disco.
“Slow,” the aptly titled lead single (few of the tracks on Body Language approach the club-thumping zeal of Fever), is a minimalist electro-pop/disco fusion with percolating crackle-and-pop beats and sugary vocal overdubs. “I Feel for You” directly references the disco era with its muted guitar riffs and bouncy keyboards, while tracks like “Still Standing” follow in the nü-disco dance-steps of Goldfrapp’s Black Cherry and almost everything by Jamiroquai. Minogue sings (or chirps), “I’m still standing/Keeping you dancing…Guess who’s back on top?” like the EU’s equivalent to Madonna. “Chocolate” and “Someday,” which features guest vocals by ’80s new-wave band Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside, evoke the breathy, forlorn vocals of Mono and the gauzy melancholy of Madge’s Bedtime Stories, while the hip-hop-flavored “Red Blooded Woman” blends Timbaland-style beats with candy-coated la la la’s and a ghostly choir of men (the voices of those she’s devoured no doubt).
With the exception of two tracks, including “After Dark,” a lackluster contribution by the writer-producer of Minogue’s global smash “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” Body Language features all new, up-and-coming collaborators, but the album is surprisingly cohesive. The stand-out, bass-heavy “Sweet Music” is an ode to the magic of the modern singer/producer partnership: “I think we’re on to something/Your taste it mirrors mine/So hot and in the moment.” Though Body Language isn’t likely to fully recapture the ever-fickle stateside audience, Minogue’s devotion to the process and her willingness to try something new—even if it’s within the confines of dance-pop—is what’s made her an international sensation 15 years running.