Deconstructing Kylie Minogue: An Analysis of Kylie’s Artistic Input with Deconstruction Records
The Early Years
Kylie Minogue is Australia’s most influential pop exports. Her 26 year career found its beginnings on Aussie soap, Neighbours before stepping out into the music business with the help of PWL Records, also known as The Hit Factory.
During her contract with the Stock-Aitken-Waterman producer-songwriter team, Minogue released four studio albums – Kylie (1988) , Enjoy Yourself (1989), Rhythm of Love (1990) , Let’s Get to It (1991). These albums consisted mainly of pop songs, inspired by sub-genres like dance, electronica, and R&B. Minogue had little artistic input during this time, however, she started negotiations with PWL Records for more artistic input and a different image during her 1990 and 1991 albums and got four writing credits on Rhythm of Love and six on Let’s Get to It.
After the lukewarm reaction of her fourth album, she decided to leave PWL Records. Minogue reportedly claimed there was no musical progression with PWL and wanted to concentrate on a more personal album.Operating from 1987 to 2001, Deconstruction Records was renowned for its cutting-edge electronic dance and house artists.Kylie Minogue signed a contract with Deconstruction Records in 1993.
“Kylie is regarded as a trashy disco singer. We regard her as a potential radical dance diva. Any radical dance diva has a home at Deconstruction.” Pete Hadfield, founder of Deconstruction Records.
Minogue started working on her fifth studio album in late 1993. The initial goal was to complete an album entirely co-written by Minogue herself. The sessions resulted in songs recorded with the alternative dance band, Saint Etienne and record producers, The Rapino Brothers. However, the A&R of Deconstruction Records found that the songs were too reminiscent of her early albums. So they recorded collaborations with Brothers in Rhythm, Jimmy Harry, Gerry DeVeaux, Pete Heller, Terry Farley and M People. Despite the fact these new songs weren’t credited as co-written by Minogue, she was heavily involved in the writing and recording process with control over her interpretation of the songs.
‘Confide in Me’ and Kylie Minogue
The first single from the then unreleased album, ‘Confide in Me’, was a big return for Kylie and topped international charts. Critics claimed the song was Minogue’s best single to date and it was praised for its composition, which is a fusion of different styles like classical, dance, techno, and Middle Eastern music. The song was also compared to the work of Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk.
The album was finally released on 19 September 1994, with the eponymous title Kylie Minogue. It consists of ten songs, surprisingly, only one song is co-written by Minogue, called ‘Dangerous Game’. Musically, the album is a mixture of different sounds. It is strongly influenced by electronic dance, house, acid jazz, R&B, trip hop and adult contemporary. Lyrically, the songs were mainly concerned with topics like love, heartbreak, sexuality, but in a more mature, grown-up way, so it can be seen as a departure from the PWL days.
The album artwork represented a departure from the imagery of her PWL albums, featuring black and white photographs depicting Minogue in a suit with glasses, interpreted by many as a representation of Minogue as a more serious and mature artist.
The music videos accompanying the album were also Kylie’s most colourful and provocative videos to date. ‘Confide in Me’ presented Minogue singing in front of six different colourful paintings symbolising murder, war and peace, sexuality, and drug use (as a nod to the 90’s clubbing culture). The video also featured the singer as a femme fatale, as well as a cute girl, reminiscent to her career beginnings. The second music video, ‘Put Yourself In My Place’, showed Kylie undressing in a spaceship, and is a remake of the opening sequence of the 1968 cult classic film Barbarella. The third single, ‘Where Is The Feeling’, was also accompanied by a music video. It was shot in black and white and featured Minogue swimming in the sea before reuniting with her lover.
Following the release of Kylie Minogue, Australian alternative rock artist Nick Cave approached Minogue and asked her to record a duet on his band’s next album. The song, ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’ is a lyrical a dialogue between a murderer and a victim. The music video was inspired by John Everett Millais’ painting Ophelia. The song became a worldwide hit, and is featured in the celebrated Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album, Murder Ballads.
“He taught me to never veer too far from who I am, but to go further, try different things, and never lose sight of myself at the core. For me, the hard part was unleashing the core of myself and being totally truthful in my music.” – Kylie Minogue talking about Nick Cave during the promotion of her 1997 album Impossible Princess
Around the same time, Minogue returned to acting, starring in the video game-remake Street Fighter (1994) and the stoner comedy Bio-Dome (1996). Although the films were box office bombs and didn’t represent her as a serious artist (which was her goal at the time), Minogue commented that her only intention with these movies was to earn experiences in film making.
Impossible Princess/Kylie Minogue
Kylie started working on her next album during the summer of 1995. The first songs were electronic dance songs, recorded with the producer duo, Brothers in Rhythm. However, as the recording sessions progressed, they changed musical direction. Minogue started a relationship with French photographer, Stéphane Sednaoui, who she claims introduced her to the works of artists like Björk, U2, Towa Tei and Garbage. From these inspirations, she started to study forms of lyrical songwriting. Minogue and Brothers in Rhythm had huge artistic control over the material they would release and by the completion of the album, Kylie had a writing credit for every song on the album, with two songs entirely written by her. Other collaborators include Dave Ball, Ingo Vauk, Rob Dougan, and Britpop band Manic Street Preachers. Minogue was not only involved in the songwriting process, but also in composing the songs, with two producer credits on ‘Too Far’ and ‘Breathe.’
During the time, she also worked with Japanese DJ Towa Tei, resulting in one of Minogue’s most avant-garde songs, ‘German Bold Italic.’ This song about a typeface was released on Towa Tei’s 1998 album.
The release of the new album was postponed many times – finally, it was released on 1 November 1997 in Japan, early February 1998 in Australia, and in mid-year in the United Kingdom. The original title, Impossible Princess, referenced Billy Childish’s book Poems to Break the Harts of Impossible Princesses. The line is also featured in the closing track ‘Dreams.’ After the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the album was renamed Kylie Minogue in the UK, resulting in the second eponymous album in a row by her. The album is predominately a very dark trip hop album, but is also influenced by other electronic genres like techno, drum and bass, dance, trance, and even by jazz and alternative rock.
Minogue’s songwriting appears to be more earnest and the lyrics are much darker than her previous efforts. One of Kylie’s self-written songs, ‘Too Far’ is often compared to Beat poetry, while another self-written song, ‘Say Hey’ stands out because of its intentionally simple words. The lyrics of the entire album revolve around Minogue’s insecurities and doubts, but love is also an important theme in some songs. However, these songs are more about Kylie’s own relationships in the present and past. It is a significant departure from her earlier work, which dealt with being love with a theoretical person rather than talking about her own experiences.
The artwork was handled by Sednaoui. Most of the pictures are heavily influenced by Eastern cultures and were more artistic than her previous album artworks, noted by many as mysterious and dark. The album also came with a limited edition three-dimensional cover.
The album received critical praise, and became a success in Australia. However, the UK reaction to the album was very negative. Minogue received huge media backlash, many critics commented negatively about her new imagery and musical output. Impossible Princess was also frequently compared to Madonna’s 1998 album Ray of Light. Because of the release of some rock-inspired songs, this time of her career was often tagged as “Indie Kylie”, which divided her fan base. Impossible Princess became one of Kylie’s least successful albums. It also became a frequent topic of discussion in interviews.
Later, Minogue released a press statement, announcing that she had left Deconstruction Records. During her five-year contract with the label, she released two studio albums, and undoubtedly reached an artistic peak. She later commented that she would never release Impossible Princess 2, because of the backlash she got after releasing her most personal album. However, this era of her career helped her to establish herself as a postmodern artist. Her later career became more like a fusion of the dance-pop oriented PWL-days and the grown-up Deconstruction-days. But she remains an artist willing to take risks and experimenting became a key element of her later studio albums.