When Kylie Minogue didn’t match the runaway success of her previous album Fever within the first few weeks of releasing Body Language, her hometown press wrote her off.
Perhaps the first sign of the album’s perceived failure was the fact critics actually liked it.
And it is a fairly decent album.
Minogue opted to work with a different set of producers this time out, and they crafted a sound for her that was definitely more mature.
But that was the problem.
A lot of the tweens who snatched up Fever back in 2002 have gotten older and graduated to hip-hop and nü garage. The twain have grown up, albeit in different directions.
Yet something else is happening with Kylie.
Body Language practically carpet bombs ’80s reference throughout the entire album.
She quotes Lisa Lisa’s “Take You Home” on “Secret”, a song subtitled after said Lisa Lisa reference. “Red Blooded Woman” drops a bit of Dead Or Alive (“You Spin Me Around”). And “Sweet Music” goes so far as to hint at Jody Watley’s “I’m Looking for a New Love”.
Anbody remember Shalamar?
The teens, tweens and twentysomethings who made Minogue a background music staple on the WB would be far too young to remember Watley’s win as Grammy’s Best New Artist — and her subsequent obsolesence.
So who is Kylie really courting this time around?
Following this circuitous line of thinking, Minogue sounds like she’s courting the audience who first propelled her to stardom in the late 80s with a bubblegum cover of “Loco Motion”.
But it doesn’t really come out very cleverly. In fact, all of those references — Lisa Lisa, Dead or Alive, Jody Watley — are so specifically dated, they’re pretty much one-hit wonders.
A strange reference for someone lauded as the international version of Madonna in terms of career longevity.
Body Language comes across as a mixed message. The electronica-influenced production of “Slow”, “Still Standing” and “Someday” all point to an artist wanting to push the edges of her pop career box.
There’s an edginess to the album that’s meant to appeal to folks who think they’re too cool to listen to Kylie Minogue.
But the 80s references, the more difficult melodies, the lack of any real blazing single — that points to the audience not cool enough to hang out with the people who think they’re too cool to listen to Kylie Minogue.
All the while, she’s ignoring the audience that, as sales may seem to indicate, don’t seem to have much room for her in the first place. And the Kylie who appealed to that audience was damn fun and in mighty fine form.
Yeah. It’s confusing what to make of this album.
But from moment to moment, Body Language feels like mature work. Very little about it screams “radio”, but it still works within in the strict confines of pop.
Kylie just needs to focus a bit more on who’s supposed to be listening.