Like a flamboyant exercise in urban planning, each new musical offering from iconic showgirl Kylie Minogue brings with it a workmanlike architectural appeal. For more than 20 years, Minogue’s signature hiccups and seductive whispers have congealed into a big gay infrastructure to rival a bustling Asian metropolis: stopping, starting, speeding and braking in systemic harmony with the breaths of a sleepless city. She is many things – a wind-up geisha, a blow-up doll, a cartoon superheroine, a curling iron – but she’s not human. She is so much more than that.
Fitting, then, that X arrives as a corporate mixed-use triumph. Hangar-like echo chambers give way to twinkling curios, eventually winding down ornate hallways and up glass stairwells to the top of a sonic skyscraper, where a seemingly suicidal tumble only ends with a satin pillow landing somewhere in a swank nightclub. You should see the chandeliers.
The proceedings kick off deceptively with the Goldfrapp-by-way-of-Scissor-Sisters honky romp of “2 Hearts” but soon explode into the expected fit of glittering asterisks and couplet platitudes. “Like a Drug” lifts its predatory stomp-synth with flirty winks (“Damn right I got my radar on you”). “In My Arms” welcomes itself into the room with a spoken “How do you describe a feeling? I’ve only ever dreamt of this,” before slapping its hips into a bubble-gum roller boogie sweet enough to crack your teeth.
None of this pop perfection is a coincidence. Minogue’s collaboration Rolodex is stuffed with tastemakers like Guy Chambers (Robbie Williams), Bloodshy & Avant (Madonna) and Calvin Harris (Roisin Murphy), who playfully tie our diva to whatever Catherine wheel they have lying around their respective assembly lines.
“Speakerphone” is particularly amusing. It sounds like Kylie is literally being pressed through a vocoder meat grinder; the result is stunning when Kylie sorta sings, “Do the pop-rock, body-rock, let the beat drop, drop, drop … ” in a manner that suggests she might be on the floor.
The best of the lot is current U.K. single “Wow,” a Xanadu recast of Madonna’s “Holiday” that builds up to a chorus of “You’re wow wow wow wow!” before doing that signature aural bleeding trick that mimics going into a disco bathroom for a quick toot.
It all ends with a sweet slowie called “Cosmic.” Why? Well, as Kylie sings in the first line, “I wanted to write a song called ‘Cosmic.’” And what Kylie wants to do is exactly what Kylie does. Perfectly.