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Hear Me Out: Kylie Minogue is the best popstar of all time

IMAGE VIA @THEKYLIEHISTORIAN/INSTAGRAM

WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

Kylie’s brand of pop is life-affirming and dancefloor-filling, and there’s no one else quite like her.

The original mononymous Kylie (don’t even think about copyrighting the name anytime this century Ms Jenner) has a new album out. I saw her in all her glittery, eternally radiant glory performing live (as much as one can during a pandemic) on Jimmy Fallon last night and for a brief, fleeting moment, everything felt okay. Better than okay – it felt electric and fun and brimming with possibility.

The new song was neither here nor there (this new era is not my favourite Kylie era and I firmly believe nothing can top Fever), as Kylie Minogue has always had that effect on me. From the moment seven-year-old me first saw her oozing an easy, carefree brand of sexiness in tiny gold booty shorts in the ‘Spinning Around’ music video (truly one of the most iconic songs and videos of all time) I was sold.

I’ve always loved pop music – as in really, really unashamedly loved it – for its ability to help you transcend reality momentarily. For three glorious, saccharine-filled minutes, the feeling of having an all-consuming crush or being at an incredible party is siphoned into your veins. I can, and do, talk about pop music for days. I firmly believe that even the most adamant pop-hater can be swayed by the right popstar, or the perfect sticky sweet hook, a theory that has been proven correct time and time again by my insistence on playing Kylie at any and every house party I attend.

Without fail, every single person, even people who moments prior were bemoaning whatever top 40 ‘trash’ was playing, are brought together by the pure, unbridled joy that is a Kylie bop. Kylie is now 52 years old (not that you’d know it, as she looks cryogenically frozen in time) and in the process of releasing her 15th (yes, 15th) album, which means there is literally no better time for me to take the stand and make my case for Kylie being, unequivocally, the best popstar of all time.

 

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Kylie makes pure pop and is one of the last truly great, consistent popstars of our time

For all the flak it cops, you’d think that pop would be an easy genre to master. Sure, if you’re making phone-it-in pop music it might be, but there’s no longevity in that type of pop. A true popstar knows how to play the long game – they’re not a flash in the pan. They’re a tastemaker, someone with their finger on the pulse and an ability to blend music and style in a genius way – an album cycle becomes an entire era, with its own unique sound, persona and beauty and fashion aesthetic.

Some would argue that Kylie hasn’t had the cultural impact that a popstar like Madonna has. While it’s true that she hasn’t been as transgressive or boundary-breaking, in her own more subdued way she has made an indelible mark on the fabric of pop culture over the last 30-odd years. She’s released a bevvy of albums that undeniably transformed the pop landscape and still influence so many artists today. 

The sheer amount of grit, ambition, vision and raw talent it takes to sustain a pop career across more than three decades and 15 albums is hard to comprehend, but Kylie somehow makes it look effortless.

To save this article becoming a small novel, I’ll only touch on a few key Kylie eras. The albums she released in the ’90s under indie label Deconstruction, particularly her self-titled 1994 album and 1997’s Impossible Princess, showcased a Kylie that wasn’t afraid to steer away from commercial pop. Her sound became infused with trip-hop, electronica, drum and bass, techno and rock, and, despite the albums not being recognised as such at the time, this era of Kylie has since reached cult status. Watch the video for ‘Did It Again‘ and you’ll see what I mean.

The year 2000 brought with it a return to pop pop, with the album Light Years, which featured ‘Spinning Around’ and, perhaps Kylie’s most unassuming but hard-hitting dance floor filler, ‘On a Night Like This’. The following album, 2001’s Fever, give or take a few tracks, is an utterly perfect dance-pop masterpiece – the fact that ‘Come Into My World’, ‘In Your Eyes’, ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ and ‘Love At First Sight’ all exist on one album is literally mind-boggling to me – in their own right, each song is a career-defining track, but all four on one album? Simply incredible. Popstars of today can only dream of having an album packed with that many timeless hits.

2003 brought us Body Language, one of my personal favourite Kylie eras, and with it came a very vampy, sexed-up aesthetic. All I’ll say is if you haven’t seen the video for ‘Red Blooded Women’ then you need to remedy that right now. I could go on and on about all the eras of Kylie, but if this four year period in the early 2000s solidified anything – aside from the fact that Kylie is a popstar who isn’t afraid to experiment – it’s that she has serious staying power, and staying power is the mark of a true popstar.

She just seems really, really lovely

Look, there is not a lot to say here, mainly because everything I’m going to write is based on other people’s accounts and an excessive amount of time spent watching Kylie interviews and reading fan’s heartwarming anecdotes, but I think Kylie has got to be one of the nicest, most genuine popstars to have graced this spinning blue ball we call earth. Her personality is effervescent – she is the human form of a glass of delicious yet affordable French champagne. I say affordable because Kylie would want everyone to taste the delicious French champagne, not just rich people.

If you happen to be a popstar who is also a diva (popstar speak for insufferable asshole) you might be able to conceal the true nature of your personality from the public for a few years, but there is simply no way you can pretend to be humble, kind and caring for this long. If Kylie was a diva, we would well and truly know by now, but thankfully, she is the real deal – a down to earth, genuine Aussie gal and the best popstar of our time.

She is a gay icon and a style icon

Gold hot pants, a white, hooded navel-gazing jumpsuit and more sequins, leotards and thigh high boots than you can shake a stick – it’s no wonder Kylie is one of the most enduring gay icons of our time. She told Billboard in 2018 that the first time she became aware of her devoted LGBTQ following was in the late ’80s while visiting Sydney’s “Gay Golden Mile” and realising that there was a Kylie-themed drag night taking place.

Kylie’s fan base – more than any other popstar – is heavily populated with gay men. She’s performed at Sydney’s Mardi Gras countless times, and has said that it was the gay community who stood by her in the early 2000s when she fell prey to the uniquely Australian affliction of tall poppy syndrome. “I think they felt a bit protective of me. There’s no judgment – just support,” she told the New York Post in 2018 when reflecting on that period.

 

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Like the living legend she is, she has wholeheartedly embraced her status as a gay icon, campaigning for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2017 and even vowing to not marry her then-fiance until it was legalised. She’s even included on Wikipedia’s ‘Gay Icons’ page, alongside icons like Cyndi Lauper, Bette Davis and RuPaul.

Style-wise, Kylie has pulled some serious looks in her time, and has been a champion of numerous emerging designers like Richard Nicolls, Gareth Pugh and David Koma. Unlike other popstars of her era, Kylie’s look has always felt very authentic and honest – it never feels like she’s trying to become something she’s not.

Elle US’s former creative director Joe Zee has described Kylie as being “very different” to other popstars. “From what I see, her image is much more reflective of who she is. It’s about being fun and sexy.” Pop, at its core, is fun and sexy, and the fact that Kylie has embodied this inimitable combination throughout her career solidifies her status as pop’s true queen.

Let’s just admit it, everyone loves Kylie

Because I talk to a stupid amount of people about Kylie, I can say this with total confidence – I have quite literally never met a single person who doesn’t like her. Sometimes I find myself in a heated debate – generally with a man – about pop music, me trying to prove its brilliance and them trying to write it off as meaningless fluff. But bring Kylie up, and they suddenly switch tack. “Oh, well Kylie is different, she’s a classic. Who doesn’t love Kylie?”, is the common refrain. Precisely. Kylie is uniquely beloved the world over.

Her music is the soundtrack to my most memorable moments – belting out ‘In Your Eyes’ on Singstar as a precocious 11-year-old at a friend’s birthday party to a somewhat lacklustre audience, and hours spent working with close friends in a secondhand clothing store in my early twenties playing ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ as we closed up on a Friday night. Walking down the street in Berlin a few years back, four aperol spritzes deep on a summer evening, ‘Come Into My World’ on full blast in my headphones.

Hearing the swelling of strings marking the opening of ‘Confide In Me’ at Hopkins Creek Festival and grabbing my friends’ clammy hands in utter delight, dancing along with thousands of people at Golden Plains to the infectious ‘I Believe In You’, and straining my vocal cords to sing ‘On A Night Like This’ at the top of my lungs in a private karaoke room on my 26th birthday, my leopard print mules sticking to the pleather couches as I strutted across them, living out my popstar fantasy. Here’s to many more years of pure, unbridled Kylie.

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