Album Review

Kylie Minogue - Tension

There’s no pretension to its greatness - just our Kylie.

Kylie Minogue - Tension

Few artists straddle both commercial success and cult fandom like Kylie Minogue. She’s not only her adopted nation’s sweetheart (and every dad’s biggest crush) but her devoted queer fanbase reveres her legacy career as highly as Madonna’s. Previous albums ‘Golden’ and ‘Disco’ - country and disco records respectively - scored high on both the mainstream and hardcore scales, sustaining solid positions on traditional charts before only really living on in memory through dedicated stans. Perhaps the issue was a younger generation of streamers unfamiliar with her cultural peaks, an assumption that her work solely belongs to mums and aged gays. But this time around on sixteenth studio record ‘Tension’ she’s here for her flowers, and has global listeners - old and new - gripped.

Yes, trending tracks can be fleeting, but ‘Padam Padam’ continues to be a gargantuan moment still, four months following its release - marbleised in memes, parodied by drag queens and danced along to by Hobbycraft staff on TikTok. It charted globally, too, and cemented the fifth consecutive decade that Kylie has achieved a Top Ten single in the UK. Perhaps its success is owed to its reference to a time of pop music immemorial when Top Tens were blissfully free from the shackles of seriousness.

‘Tension’ pushes the carefree energy of ‘Padam Padam’ to a thousand. Using 2003 hit ‘Slow’ as a reference point, Kylie’s intention was to stray from genre-locked records towards a collection that “celebrate[s] each song’s individuality”. That it does - there’s a commitment to make each the best on the album. Ironically, there’s an ease in ‘Tension’ then, a welcome flourish of authority over pop that’s pulsating and vibrant, a gift for a preoccupied culture. It’s got the sort of effortlessly glamorous swish that will have gays screaming “mother!”, while noughties Scandipop, synthpop and Eurodance infuse the album with sweaty dancefloor catharsis. It’s quintessential Kylie - throughout she touches on classic monolithic Kylie sounds - while imagining what a future Minogue Club Utopia might look like, where perpetual dance and ecstasy push an agenda of, well, just having a load of fucking fun and not thinking about too much else.

Its highlights include the title track, the dancefloor euphoric ‘Tension’, featuring experimental robotic vocals; the preppy Scandipop and whispering sax of ‘You Still Get Me High’, and ‘Vegas High’. Then there’s ‘Hands’, a cut that throws back to the ’90s with ‘Vogue’-ish vocals that will surely have her fanbase grinning with glee: “Big trap on the baseline / Tick tock on the waistline / Don’t rush, baby, take time,” she instructs rhythmically.

It’s been suggested ‘Tension’ is more a promo album for More Than Just a Residency - Kylie’s Las Vegas run later this year - than a fully fledged creative project, but that’s not the case. There’s no sign of cash-grab radio pop; it has more perspective than that. But even if so, there’s enough originality pumped throughout each track that ‘Tension’ will undoubtedly stand as one of the most favoured contemporary Kylie eras. There’s no pretension to its greatness, just our Kylie, once again, humbly proving how easily she can forge gold and transform into pop culture phenomenon. Padam? Padam.

Tags: Kylie Minogue, Reviews, Album Reviews

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