For hard-working Aussie singer, songwriter and actress Kylie Minogue, 2012 is better known as K25, the ongoing celebration of her 25 years in the music business.
The year’s surprises have thus far included the release of a commemorative singles box set and the critically acclaimed Anti Tour, on which she boldly and completely eschewed expectations and performed, in Sydney and Melbourne, a stunning set-list solely comprising rarities and b-sides.
Continuing in the same celebratory vein, tomorrow sees the release of her much-anticipated twelfth studio album, Kylie: The Abbey Road Sessions.
Photos on this page by William Baker.
Copyright Darenote 2012.
As the name suggests, the album was indeed recorded at London’s famed Abbey Road Studios, the venerable creative space that occupies a place so esteemed in popular music history that Minogue’s finally recording there seems somehow fated.
After all, why should the woman who has sold more than 68 million records worldwide, won Grammy, ARIA and Brit Awards not follow in the footsteps of other seminal pop artists to have recorded there, The Beatles, Kate Bush and Lady Gaga among them?
Kylie: The Abbey Road Sessions is a massive departure for Minogue.
Not only does its tracklisting span her entire career, the sound of the album itself is also representative of yet another phase in the ongoing metamorphosis that has characterised her career for the past two-and-a-half decades.
Drawing on Minogue’s massive back-catalogue, The Abbey Road Sessions is the performer at her most stripped-back. Though every song on the album remains instantly recognisable, she has unquestionably laid herself bare, pared the songs down to their very essences and, in many cases, radically reinterpreted them.
Thus, where ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ and ‘Locomotion’ were undeniably very much products of the 1980s bubblegum pop era, here Minogue casts off the shackles of her slickly produced, auto-tuned Stock, Aitken and Waterman days and infuses the songs with the knowing swagger and sultriness of a slinky chanteuse, clad in an evening gown and cradling the microphone close to her mouth as she sings, her voice at the fore.
Minogue’s voice, of course, has always drawn criticism.
Cruelly dubbed “the singing budgie” early in her career, she admits that, in the beginning, her voice wasn’t her best asset.
“My voice is my voice. I’m cool with that these days. I still work at it.”
But, speaking to Same Same from London, she also admits to ongoing irritation and frustration with the adamant way in which her detractors have consistently continued to deride her singing skills down through the years.
“I get it! I do! In the early years, you know, my voice wasn’t particularly here or there or anything, but you practice, and you learn things, and you build up experience. In those days, I was terrified of live performance, but I still went out on the road and I performed and I really earned my stripes as a live performer, I think, over many, many years,” Minogue says.
“My voice is my voice. I’m cool with that these days. I still work at it. I do my training. I know, technically, what I need to do, but I’ve come a long way. I was really attacked in the beginning and I get that but then, after a few years, I was like ‘come on guys, give me a break! Are you just saying this out of laziness now? Or are you just being spiteful or trying to be mean?’”
Not surprisingly, Minogue admits she has taken criticism of her vocal abilities very much to heart. She also says that she sees her voice as an extension of herself and it’s an acutely personal perspective that makes barbed attacks sting all the more.
“If that’s what they really think, that’s fine, but it was becoming the tagline of everything and [criticism] became like a voice that I wanted to turn the volume down on, a voice that was criticising me. I guess, because it’s my voice, it seems that much more personal.
“If it’s someone criticising the way that you play the guitar, then it’s at least one step removed from your body, you know? But it’s my voice, it’s my tool to communicate and the most important part of what I do is communication, it’s part of what I am.”
Minogue’s new album features 16 songs – a mix of her best-known tracks and personal favourites. The process of choosing which ones would make the final cut was something she concedes was “easier than I’d initially though it would be.”
“The time was right and various elements were right. I’d just come off the Aphrodite tour last year and wanted to do something this year that was quite the opposite. It was refreshing for me to perform in a different way over many, many years now, primarily always doing big pop shows and putting in an acoustic moment or a ballad moment. The first torch version of ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ was back in 1998, so I’ve kind of been experimenting through the years,” Minogue explains.
She also says that one of the most exciting aspects of Kylie: The Abbey Road Sessions project was the opportunity it offered her to once again metamorphose as a performer and, in doing so, to radically reinterpret well-known material and present it entirely anew.
“It was just experimenting, just jamming, and some songs worked and some didn’t. Some took longer to arrive at what they would be. Something like ‘Better The Devil You Know’ that was the brainchild of [producer] Colin Elliot. He really had a vision and it became very Burt Bacharach,” she adds.
“I’ve done ‘Devil’ lots of ways, but never like that. Something like ‘Locomotion’ is reinvented in that it kind of comes back full circle to sounding like a 1960s song. Something like ‘Never Too Late,’ God, who would have thought that would be such a heartbreaking song?”