Dirty Hands, I Demand: In Celebration of Dannii Minogue’s ‘Neon Nights’ B-Sides
Here’s a fun, if not controversial fact: I got into Dannii Minogue before Kylie.
True, I’d already enjoyed the odd Kylie track or two that traveled across the pond in my earlier years (“Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” did make my critically acclaimed Bar Mitzvah mix CD, after all), but Dannii was my proper induction into the Minogue clan.
It happened about a year after Disco D dropped her 2003 effort, Neon Nights. I came across the imported record while perusing the shelves at Spin Street, an overpriced record shop at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, a casino where my parents would gamble while I’d hungrily scour every CD section for hours on end. (Want to see obsession/potentially undiagnosed mild autism in action? Set me loose in a record shop and grab a coffee and come back. Or take a day trip. I’ll still be in my own little world, browsing until forever.)
Eventually, I came across Dannii’s Neon Nights, which I’d seen pop up online occasionally on the various fan forums I was lurking at the time. On a whim, I went for it without knowing much of anything about Dannii at the time, mostly because of the fierce artwork (which, to its credit, is one of the few covers that lives up to its contents.) And ever since I first put the needle on it, it’s been nothing but everlasting love.
Neon Nights is one of my Top 5 records of all time (not sure exactly where it ranks within the 5, but it’s right up there alongside Britney‘s In The Zone and Madonna‘s Confessions). From start to finish, it’s an utterly pristine pop production. For further explanation, look no further than Mike Wass‘ excellent 10 year anniversary Neon Nights retrospective for Idolator yesterday (the inspiration for this post!), which offers a great summation of the glittering, flaw-free essence of the record.
But the greatness didn’t stop at the album tracks: The B-sides of Neon Nights, too, are positively gag-worthy. So much so, in fact, that I wanted to give them some lovin’ too in honor of the anniversary. Let’s vibe on!
“Nervous” is one of the most major bonus tracks from Neon Nights, originally appearing as a B-side to the ever-immaculate “I Begin To Wonder.” Funnily enough, I was battling a crippling 3-year bout with separation anxiety at the time it was released–more on that on upcoming debut LP, Confessions of a Gay Jewish Blogger–so it was only too fitting to hear my newfound favorite disco diva getting her nerves all worked up on the dance floor.
Penned and produced by longtime collaborators Thriller Jill (that’s Ian Masterson and Terry Ronald), the sparkling synth-pop cut packs a surprising punch with its pulsation, a glorious explosion of flashing strobes and flirty disco delight. It’s the kind of unapologetically effete, early ’90’s House glam that brings the slightest touch of Madonna‘s “Vogue” to mind (sort of!), and the soundtrack to a perfect strut (and/or mild-to-severe panic attacks).
“I’m so nervous, baby/Can’t you feel i-i-i-it?” Minogue sing-stutters across the chorus.
The spoken word bridge especially, with all its operatic coos and stone-cold dramatic delivery (“Swallow, I pretend to be strong/First time I discover/I am…nervous“) is as fierce as it is hysterically camp, further solidifying the track’s genius.
Perhaps the most forward-thinking of the bonus additions, “Hide & Seek”–again produced by Thriller Jill (they all are)–sees Dannii working some tribal beats and sensual flute-playing into her disco beats. “Falling down like rain,” Dannii gushes before the track cascades into a glitchy explosion of vocal stutters and pounding beats. “Hide and seek, hide and seek,” she repeats endlessly, each syllable unnaturally chopped together.
It’s not Dannii’s most avant-garde moment (for her weirdest, try the legendary 6 1/2-minute Girl opus “Everybody Changes Underwater,” which sees the Queen of Clubs getting sexy with dolphins–the original champion of seapunk), but it’s one of the more intriguing Neon Night cuts, for sure.
The ultimate kiss-off track: “Hey there, it’s me/I just checked my calls, there were 37 from you…sorry!” Dannii sasses in the opening line of “Goodbye Song,” the B-side for “Don’t Wanna Lose This Feeling”–and undoubtedly her most sarcasm-laden track ever. “Goodbye” gives us a little taste of what Dannii might have sounded like as a member of Vanity 6, serving up a mighty fine scoop of attitude atop glitchy, grinding electronica.
There’s about a million and one zingers packed into the glitchy uptempo dedicated to shading a dud of a dude (“I got more to say to the girl who does my nails!” and “I think I have a moment in 2029” are two favorites), all of which themselves to some serious finger-wagging action in the mirror. It’s a triumphant, gloriously fun sonic middle finger in the air.
Alright, so this one isn’t technically a new song, but how could I not include it?
The mash-up, which was released on the “Don’t Want To Lose This Feeling” CD single, took Dannii’s stellar single and mashed it up with Madonna’s iconic “Into The Groove.” It’s ridiculously amazing,but don’t take my word for it: The song was personally signed off by the Queen of Everything herself, who rarely gives the OK for other artists to use her music (M called it “brilliant,” no less!) The result? A true triumph of a pop diva collaboration. (Now, if we could just get M to sample “I Begin To Wonder”…)
No, but seriously: The breakdown at the 2:30 mark in particular is one of the most breathtaking, pearl-clutching moment of st-st-stuttering vocal genius, it’ll have you pulling all sorts of shapes and begging to never lose this feeling again.
Neon Nights was released on March 17, 2003. (iTunes)