Kylie-Minogue-Kiss-Me-Once-2014

At this point in her career, Kylie Minogue doesn’t really need to try.

With a dozen studio albums tucked inside her gold lamé hot pants, world tours, countless international smash hits (“Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” was recently named the Most Catchy Tune Of All Time), the beloved Aussie pop princess is one of the very few pop stars who has managed to not only survive, but flourish on top of the pop charts for nearly three decades. She sits on the throne of pop royalty, entirely deserving of the title of “legend” — a Goddess of Pop, really.

Even more impressive though is the freshness and consistency of her craft, which has continued all the way up to her latest studio album due out in March, Kiss Me Once — an album that feels effortlessly, endlessly Kylie.

And yet, we know that this record wasn’t effortless. She did try. In fact, it took Kylie over two years and one major management switch to get the album just right for release. “Making this album was quite a journey but I loved it,” Kylie confesses in the album’s press release. “It was through a time in my life where there were a lot of changes and new beginnings.” (And if she’s acknowledging that the album was “quite a journey,” you can only imagine what was actually going on behind the scenes.)

To a lesser degree, the situation mirrors her 2007 record X, an album recorded during an incredibly difficult period of her life following a bout with breast cancer. It was an understandably turbulent time, which led to her scattered-but-brilliant album; a record packed with glitchy electro-pop, “pink pound” camp, emotional balladry and slinky, sex-drenched romps.

Nearly seven years after X, following 2010’s sleekly polished and impeccably cohesive Aphrodite helmed by Stuart Price, that is exactly the kind of record we’re getting again — but smarter and stronger all around.

Although fans suspected Kylie would be going the #SomethingMoreUrban Body Language route after inking a management deal with Jay Z‘s Roc Nation early last year, they were thrown off the trail completely: Kiss Me Once is unabashedly disco Kylie.

“Into The Blue,” the album’s lead single, is a solid indication of the album’s general direction. The Del Rio-produced deep dive onto the floor saw Kylie supplying us with a euphoric self-empowerment anthem, armed with a thumping four-to-the-floor pulse and the kind of majestic chorus (“Buh-LOOOOO!“) that only Kylie could deliver. And that angelic bridge? “I’ll go where nobody knows, wherever the wind is blowing…even if I’m alone.” Chills. It’s classic Kylie, pure and simple.

“Million Miles,” an even fiercer follow-up, is essentially the “Get Outta My Way” to Aphrodite‘s “All The Lovers.” (Interestingly, both “Million Miles” and “Get Outta My Way” were produced by Cutfather.) The pulsing uptempo glides across a throbbing synth strut (which sounds like the Benny Benassi mix of Madonna‘s “Celebration,” #nerdtalk) and an instant earworm of a chorus: “‘Cause I feel like I’m a million, million miles away!” Note: The way she pronounces “mil-li-on” sounds more like “Milian” (of the Christina Milian variety), which is why I have since taken to singing “I feel like I’m a Milian.” That’s all you’ll hear now too, from AM to PM. You’re welcome.

Producer of the year Pharrell comes grooving in right after with his contribution, still riding high on the unbelievably massive success of the modern disco sound he’s cultivated for years — from Daft Punk‘s “Get Lucky” to Robin Thicke‘s “Blurred Lines.” The song’s based on a real life experience: Basically, Kylie was having a terrible day and started to cry while in the studio with Pharrell. (Can you even imagine a more devastating scenario?)

And so, he penned this encouraging number — and it really does work as an instant pick-me-up! “I was gonna cancel, then I realized that time is just like money and love/Watch how you spend,” she sagely advises. “I Was Gonna Cancel” is sonic gold, transporting us back to Studio 54 for some much-needed uplifting energy. (There’s also a “Go! Go! Go! Go!” bit that sounds like a nod to Beyoncé‘s “Green Light.”)

CONTINUE…

Kiss Me Once might also be Kylie’s sexiest album — at least, in print: There are no less than three (3) tracks on the album with the word “sex” in the title. To be fair, Kylie’s never been one to shy away from exploring her sexuality — from “Slow” to “Sensitized,” she’s always found a way to indulge. But unlike, say, Princess Rihanna, Kylie’s brand of sexy has always come in the form of a wink-wink coquette rather than a dominatrix demanding chains and whips. (Hey, everybody’s got their something.)

“Sexy Love,” the first dose of sexy, is pure Fever-era euphoria — and something that wouldn’t sound at all out of place sandwiched in between Katy Perry‘s “California Gurls” and “Birthday.” The punchy, guitar-driven jam is a summer smash just waiting to happen, full of feel-good melodies and huge hooks: “Step through that door like you know you’re fine/Step on that floor like you know you’re fine,” Kylie demands just before the bouncy chorus comes bursting into the speakers. Kylie’s got this incredible ability to force a smile while listening, and this song is certainly no exception: “You look so sexy, so sexy in my head/You look so sexy, so sexy in my bed,” she purrs.

And then there’s “Sexercise” — and that’s truly when the skirt comes down. The grimy, grinding The Monsters & The Strangerz-produced sleaze fest plays like an infinitely hotter sequel to X‘s “Nu-Di-Ty,” blending carnal lust with just the right amount of camp. (I mean, the song’s called “Sexercise.” Hello!) The song is no more or less raunchy than anything on Body Language, although all that heavy breathing and moaning will have you doing some seriously rude things up against every surface. Bounce, bounce, bounce…

Also, let it be known: No part of this album feels forced. The 45-year-old singer is in an incredibly rare position (eh heh) where can get away with putting out a song like this — one that begs her beau to “eat to the core” — without getting any flack for her age. (Thank God!) Perhaps it’s because Kylie’s come-ons are convincingly steamy enough without sounding desperate. (“Feel the burn!“) Or perhaps it’s just because we already know she’s a class act. Either way, it’s pure aural sex.

The most universally adored “sex” of the bunch, though, will likely be “Les Sex,” a sparkling MNDR-penned ode to hooking up and tossing labels around as quickly as your undies. “We could call it I don’t care/We could call it love!” Kylie offers up on the ridiculously hook-heavy, ’80’s electro-infused tune. It’s instant; an explosion of bouncy Euro synthesizers, twinkling bells (very ATC “All Around The World”) and flirty syllables flying around like mad (“Le-lo-o-oh!”). This one’s also got one of the most Kylie lyrics of all Kylie lyrics ever: “Take two of these and meet me in the shadows/If love’s a drug, we’re higher than stilettos.” Brilliant!

While all the excitement between the sheets is fun, it’s when Kylie slows down the BPM (REFERENCE) that the beauty truly shines through on Kiss Me Once: “Feels So Good” is the album’s most lush moment, and is essentially the Kiss Me Once version of X‘s “The One.” As a result, it’s my favorite song on the record. (Also, fun fact: The song was originally released last year by Tom Aspaul and called “Indiana” — Kylie’s version is essentially the same.)

The MNEK-produced (God, he’s good) electro-midtempo plays like an afternoon daydream, building up so, so gorgeously in the speakers as Kylie pines after a lover in the sweetest way. “People come, people go, but I’d like to get to know you now,” she gently coos. The earnestness of the lyrics, mixed with the hypnotic production — oh, that chorus — makes this one of the best listens from the very first play. (This may be a bit obvious to say, but it quite literally feels so good. )

But then, “If Only” is just as incredible — and will probably earn the highest critical praise on the record. For one thing, it’s produced by Ariel Rechtshaid and Justin Raisen, two talents who helped to craft the debut records by Sky Ferreira, HAIM and Charli XCX. The gorgeous electro-ballad is remarkably representative of both parties involved, combining the complex textures and cinematic production style of the producers with Kylie’s angelic crooning and dramatic delivery, resulting in the album’s most otherworldly production. Is it Impossible Princess-era experimental? Not exactly, but it is a pretty stunning highlight.

And then there’s “Kiss Me Once,” the album’s namesake — and the soon-to-be theme for many a gay wedding (or at least one of those viral proposal videos). The Jesse Shatkin-produced anthem is one of Executive Producer Sia’s two co-writes on the record (she also assisted on “Sexercise” — go figure!), and proof of Sia’s versatility as a songwriter and her ability to ‘get’ an artist. The chiming bells! The heavenly production! The sheer euphoria of it all! “Me and you, baby we made it through/Me and you, we’ve got some loving to do,” Kylie joyously declares on the sweeping chorus. It’s so grand and mighty, and clearly the stuff of Valentine’s Day dreams.

The album’s one and only real grower is “Beautiful,” her slow-burner with Enrique Iglesias. The Metrophonic-produced electro-ballad plays like Rihanna‘s “Stay (feat. Mikky Ekko)” as interpreted by “Hide And Seek”-era Imogen Heap. Vocoder overload? Oh, yes. And while the vocal processing can be a bit grating, it’s still a pretty tune — especially once we hit that glorious hook of a chorus: “And now I, I just want you to know/That after all this time, you’re still the one.” Considering he’s more known for sweat-drenched EDM club bangas lately, it’s nice to hear that “Hero” Enrique’s still hiding in there somewhere.

Kiss Me Once ends on an understated high note with the Loco-produced “Fine,” a blend of ’90’s House and the moody pulsations of Aphrodite, playing exactly like what Madonna’s MDNA should have sounded like: It’s mature dance music, relying on rich lyricism (no bottle poppin’ here) and even richer production. “You got it all, but you don’t feel complete/Even the sweetest things are bittersweet,” she sweetly sympathizes above an electronic pulse. It’s an #ItGetsBetter anthem that doesn’t feel like an #ItGetsBetter anthem — AKA, the best kind — delivered with sincerity and heart. When Kylie Minogue’s telling you you’re gonna be fine, you best believe it’s true.

In fact, if there’s any real theme to Kiss Me Once (intentional or otherwise), it’s an underlying sense of encouragement: Hop out of the bed. Face the day. Step onto the floor like you know you’re fine. Don’t need no one to rescue you. Dive into the blue. You’re beautiful. You’re going to be fine. Kylie Minogue: Your new favorite life coach!

Kiss Me Once is a fresh collection of glitter and feather boa-filled love songs from start to finish, and a reminder of what some of our favorite pop princesses seem to be forgetting lately: The marketing doesn’t matter. The live performances don’t matter. The music videos don’t matter. They can help, of course. They can even enhance the final product. But none of that really matters unless the actual music is good.

The music just has to be good. And Kylie Minogue has always been very good at that.

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‘Kiss Me Once’ will be released on March 18 in the US. (iTunes)