Kylie Minogue’s ‘Dancing’ Is a Twangy Midlife Ode to Mortality

Kylie Minogue’s latest single isn’t so much about dancing as it is about coming to terms with one’s own final bow.

“When the final curtain falls, we could say we did it all.”

No, it’s no “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.” Nor is it an “All The Lovers.” Nor a “Spinning Around.” And yes, it’s got a twang that aligns with the country-leaning, Red State America-appealing trend that’s plagued at least several major pop records over the past year or so.

Nonetheless, “Dancing” – the Sky Adams-produced lead single from her forthcoming studio album, Golden, released on Friday (January 19) – is where Kylie Minogue is at right now, even if it’s not what we might have expected…or necessarily wanted.

There’s plenty of reason to bristle: it sounds like Dolly Parton (and/or Trixie Mattel) karaoke. There’s a banjo. (Is it a banjo? Sounds like one.) And for a song called “Dancing,” barring the stomping chorus and a Rita Ora “Anywhere”-slash-Avicii “Wake Me Up” style breakdown, it’s not exactly the usual glitter-filled, homosexual agenda-advancing Kylie Minogue floor-filler we’ve come to expect.

But then, the song’s not really about that. It’s about…the end, actually.

When I go out, I wanna go out dancing.

Get it? “Go out”? Not, like, go out on the town. She means for good.

“I guess on the surface, it is about dancing and going out and having a good time. It’s also about going out at the end, and having had a good time. Living life to the fullest. Trying to shine whenever you can. I know life’s difficult. Life presents all sorts of hurdles for us. But we’ll try to dance through that when we can,” Kylie explained in the days leading up to the track’s release.

She isn’t the first to ponder her mortality while dropping it low.

When fellow member of pop royalty Madonna turned 50 a decade ago, she also addressed the clock, throwing a middle finger up at the race against time with “4 Minutes.” “Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.” The defiant Hard Candy kept her moving and dancing 2night, on and on, on the beat goes – ’cause no one’s gonna stop her. (That album also ended up predicting the sound of pop five years later, but that’s another story.)

Kylie’s message is very much the same: unrelenting determination to dance another day. And knowing what she’s endured in past years, it’s an encouraging statement of survival.

“I don’t ever wanna stop / I’m gonna give it all I’ve got / And when they ask me, ‘who could ask for more?’ / Can’t stand still / I won’t slow down.”

Regarding the music itself: it’s tough to move from the discotheque to the saloon, for sure. The song isn’t particularly groundbreaking regardless of the instruments, nor does it inspire much of a reaction on the dance floor, as I quickly learned tonight while DJing once the song dropped at midnight.

But as fans of a pop icon now on her fourteenth record, perhaps it’s not the worst thing in the world if we allow Kylie to look back at her decades of pop dominance in these Golden years and dabble in the different sounds that tickled her creative fancy while writing songs in Nashville, rather than just demanding more dance-pop bangers like “Get Outta My Way” – fierce as those moments may be. (God, there has to be at least one on the album though, right?)

“I just felt it was a really good time to be honest, and to work through everything and give a snapshot of where I am in my life,” the pint-sized pop princess, who turns 50 in May, explained on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show.

“A lot of it was done in Nashville. It taught me about putting more story into the song and delivering it slightly differently. I think that was a good tool to be able to express myself.”

Yes, that description is mostly terrifying, and certainly suggests this is a full-on “Nashville album.” And yes, that means Kylie’s “My Most Personal Album To Date” is likely coming. (Definitely, actually. She describes it as such already.)

But before having a Britney Jean breakdown, consider what we’ve gotten in the past when she dug down deep: 1997’s Impossible Princess, easily her best record from an artistic standpoint. It’s not as though a little experimentation and deviation from straight-up disco doesn’t suit her. “Dancing” isn’t the dance-pop salvation some might have anticipated from Kylie, but it’s not an altogether mess, either.

And let’s not get too alarmist: to say that this doesn’t feel like a Kylie song would be untrue. This song isn’t that far off from something like “Better Than Today.” And she’s already given it to us cowboy style years ago.

If anything, “Dancing” is a perfectly fine first step into this bold new era, and an assurance that she’s going to keep doing what she does best until the very last shimmy: “Dance, it’s all I wanna do,” she once purred to us on “All The Lovers.”

That desire remains. The disco still needs its diva, and she’s not going anywhere.

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“Dancing” was released on January 19. (iTunes)

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