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Kylie Minogue “Disco” (2020)

So…. normally I wouldn’t write about such an obvious chart-topping album, I figure these types of releases generate enough word of mouth and press on their own, but I have found myself literally addicted to Kylie Minogue’s “Disco” album since I got it. I seem to be unable to concentrate on any of the other articles I am currently trying to complete. So I guess I just need to get this out of my system!

Now, before you roll your eyes, hear me out. I am NOT one of her legion of fans. I enjoyed “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” (from 2001’s “FEVER” album) but I can count on one hand the number of other Kylie songs I have listened to and enjoyed. Before 2020, I did not own any of her albums. I’ve never sought out her music or gone out of my way to hear it. I knew of her, but no more than in passing.

That said… “Disco” is infectious. And I mean that in the best way possible. It makes me smile from ear to ear every time I play it… which is a lot.

Although it seems that most pre-release reviews were positive, I remember reading a couple that were less than enthusiastic, but I enjoyed the lead single “Magic” enough that I was willing to risk it, so I pre-ordered it. I am really glad that I did. With the exception of one song that annoys the crap out of me (“Monday Blues”), I can listen to the entire album on repeat all afternoon, and have done so quite a few times. I have also played it to a few unsuspecting friends who have also become addicted to it.

The overall production is brilliant. The bass is deep and clear, especially on my vinyl (though I must admit that the Spotify playback isn’t too bad). There is some amazing bass work on many of the songs, complimenting the beat and driving the melodies forward. The bass bubbles, pops and bounces along with some surprising presence on most songs. In fact, there seem to be little bits that surprise me every time I listen with the headphones on.

The guitars are funky and the keyboards are sweeping and uplifting. This album sound joyous and ready to party. Each of the twelve songs on the standard vinyl release seems to be channeling a different aspect of the best pop music from the late 70s and early 80s. In a nut shell, it just makes me indescribably happy. Playing this album and singing along (yes, I’ve already learned most of the words!) just brings me a feeling of freedom and excitement that I haven’t really experienced since high school. Kylie has definitely managed to catch an elusive “something” that sounds and feels like an infusion of the freedom of youth into your ears. I just FEEL younger listening to this album, all cares and worries wash away and there is only the exuberance of becoming enthralled to the rhythm.

All of this is even more impressive when you realize that, for the first time in her career, Kylie Minogue recorded and engineered the entire album by herself at home, where she was stuck as a result of COVID-19 lockdown measures. According to Wikipedia, about 90% of the album was created via her home studio. Being stuck at home seems to have helped her brought the album’s theme of escapism into focus, and each song, in it’s own way, seem to be a dream of better days, of friends, of parties, of freedom. The overall effect is that this is an album of celebration.

The music buying public seems to have taken notice because the album, her fifteenth studio album, debuted at number one in her native Australia and in the United Kingdom, making her the first female artist to have a number-one album in five consecutive decades in the UK! (1980-2020) HOLY CRAP! That’s impressive!

As with most releases the album is full of songs that could be classified as either potential singles or obvious album tracks. Songs like “Unstoppable” and “Dance Floor Darling” are definitely deep cuts. The way they have been mixed is great as part of the whole, but I don’t expect either could command the dance floor. They don’t quite reach the highs of some of the other songs.

Now, with that out of the way, lets talk about the rest of the songs on the album.

(A1) “Magic” was released as the second single and it is a fantastic album opener. The tried and true “do you believe in magic” may not be the deepest lyrics you’ll come across, but they don’t need to be. They are accompanied by a sound that instantly transports you through time to a dance floor somewhere in the 70s, when the world was simpler and the only thing that mattered was dancing and strutting your stuff out on the floor. The song isn’t trying to say anything else. It doesn’t need to. The lyrics carry the song along from verse to chorus to bridge, but they aren’t even what the song is about. “You got me started, and nothing on earth can stop it”. That happy feeling you get when you sing along is all you need to know.

(A2) “Miss A Thing” starts with a funky vibe reminiscent of Daft Punk’s “Around the World” then moves into a slinky groove with Kylie crooning “Run away with me tonight, come dance with me”. This is a song that I can easily see couple-dancing to. I don’t mean couples as in two people, I mean couples, as in dance partners moving in sync across the floor. Forget all the ridiculous finger pointing and jumping around that John Travolta made famous in “Saturday Night Fever” (even though it makes a cameo in the music video). This song begs you to actually dance together, hands on shoulders, spinning, dipping and and moving across the dance floor as one. In a world that’s been driven apart by social distancing, this song yearns for that kind of intense connection between dance partners moving fluidly in sync. “Baby, I just don’t wanna miss a thing”.

(A3) “Real Groove” is the latest song that I can’t get out of my head. In fact, I have caught several of my students humming it as well. They don’t know the words, but they have the melody down pat. “We got something better, got that real groove, baby”. This song has so many adorable nostalgic tricks to it that I can’t help but smile. It’s a got a funky robot voice during the chorus (a vocoder working overtime, that sounds like something from Earth, Wind and Fire. It’s got an hint of digital stutter that reminds me of that remix effect that got overused in the 80s, but sounds adorable when Kylie does it (We-we-we-got that real groove) followed by something that can best be described as bubbles popping…. It will make you smile. It has wisely been chosen as the upcoming third single from the album.

(A4) “Monday Blues” Yeah… no. I have tried a few times to get through this song and I just can’t. I don’t know what it is, maybe the minor chord progression in the intro or the faux-latin feel, but… Yuck. Maybe it’s because it sounds too much like Kool and the Gang‘s “Celebration”? Whatever it is, it just doesn’t do it for me.

(A5) The whole album is pretty high octane, but “Supernova” kicks the whole thing in to an even higher gear as the BPMs sound like they suddenly increase tom 120 to 150. This song sounds like the love child of Abba and Giorgio Moroder. The synths are used to full effect to bring the sweeping sounds of a string section to compliment the staccato bass while Kylie sings insane lyrics like “shining like a supernova, brightest of the stars/from another galaxy lke Jupiter and Mars”. It makes no sense really, but the intent is clear and the music will make you move. Despite the fact that the lyrics are utter nonsense, this is another song that always seems to get a really positive reaction from people when I play it.

(A6) “Say Something” was the first single released from the album and it is pure pop brilliance. It sets up the whole “Disco” experience: you know exactly what you’re getting on this album: pure pop delight. The uplifting “Cause love is love it never ends/can we all be as one again” is a balm for these times, and the pseudo-gospel choir that shows up sporadically only adds to the feeling of being lifted away to better days.

“Say Something” is also really well positioned as the final track on side 1 because it leaves you wanting more. Now you’re stuck with the difficult decision of playing side A again, or flipping the LP over… unless you’re streaming, then it just continues on its merry way….

(B1) “Last Chance” is another one of those songs that just begs to be sung along to. It reminds me a little but of ABBA‘s “Voulez Vous”. You know how you always sing “Voulez vous…. AHA!” when that song is playing? In this case, every time the chorus starts on I find myself singing the backup vocals “Last Chance” over and over and over while my butt develops a mind of it’s own and starts dancing.

(B2) “I Love It” was released as a promotional single on digital platforms, which is disappointing because I think it has the potential to be a huge single if it had been given a proper release. It is an earworm of epic proportions. It is just so much fun to sing along to. “So come on let the music play/we’re gonna take it all the way/I love it, I love it, I love it”.

I have played the whole album a few times during classes recently, while the students are writing or otherwise not engaged in speaking or listening. This song has popped up a few times and one of my students had the cutest reaction. As the song was playing, a little girl of about 7 years old looked up at me from her work and said “I don’t love it!”, so I agreed to change the song for her. Not ten minutes later, when the music had stopped and we were all engaged in doing some other work, I caught her humming the chorus to herself. This wasn’t the only time I’ve caught her doing it either, but she refuses to admit that she actually does love this track.

(B3) “Where Does the DJ Go” is definitely a high tempo party song. It even features a wee bit of DJ scratching! I get a major kick out of this song and I often find myself singing it while driving around. This song is just grin-inducing. Now, I remember seeing a review of it that essentially said “Where does the DJ go? The DJ goes home and the music is over. DUH”… which is the exact opposite of the vibe I get from this song. My feeling is that the song is actually asking “once the DJ finishes working, where do THEY go to party? Let’s go THERE!”

It features some wonderful call backs to some major disco hits of the 70s like Gloria Gaynor‘s “I Will Survive” and the guitar scratching of Donna Summer‘s “Bad Girls”, and of course it has a subtle nod to Indeep‘s “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life”… but my favourite is probably the most obscure: the chorus features a “Whoop! Whoop!” That reminds me of the Michael Zager Band‘s 1977 floor filler “Let’s All Chant”. And let’s be honest: It don’t get more disco than that, haha.

(B4) “Dance Floor Darling” The only problem I have with this fantastic song is the sudden pointless increase in the tempo of the song during the guitar solo and the final chorus. It ruins the whole thing for me. The chorus features a supper catchy chant of “no regrets”… but I hope they regret that decision.

(B5) “Unstoppable” this is a good track, but not a great song. It’s filler, but not the kind of filler you feel the need to skip. It’s fine if it comes up during a mix, but it’s just not a song I can foresee ever actually choosing to listen to… but like I said, I’m happy enough to bop along to it while I wait for the album closer, which I *LOVE*.

(B6) “Celebrate You” This is a wonderful album closer and it sums up the overal theme of the album: we need to celebrate each other and be there for each other. Life is an adventure best shared with those you love. “Everything I like about myself is better with you”.

And once this last note fades on this song, you’re stuck with the difficult decision of playing side B again, or flipping the LP over… (or, if you’re listening digitally, you can just set your device to repeat… that would be my suggestion).

Of course, if you buy the deluxe version (doesn’t it seem that there is *ALWAYS* a deluxe version these days?), there are 4 bonus track, but since they are “bonus tracks” and not part of the core album itself, I am not going to review them here except to say that they are top notch. The basic album is a perfect length at 12 songs, but the 4 bonus tracks are a wonderful surprise, even if they aren’t essential. I can see why they were cut from the basic album, but they have grown on me.

These 4 tracks don’t really take anything away from the album if you’re just a casual listener but it was definitely the right decision to leave them off the final track listing because, as good as they are, they are lacking a certain “spark” that the rest of the album has. And don’t get me wrong: they are GREAT tracks. All of them except “Spotlight” have become steady favourites. In fact, I absolutely rate “Fine Wine”, “Till You Love Somebody”, and “Hey Lonely” higher than “Unstoppable”.

The bonus tracks are tacked on at the end of the CD. If you buy the deluxe vinyl edition, the original album is spaced out over 3 sides instead of 2 and the bonus tracks comprise the entirety of side 4.

On the plus side, this arrangement of only 4 songs per side gives the grooves a bit more breathing room and allows for a louder pressing, giving the bass some extra room to rumble and allowing for a nicer mid-range if you find a good pressing, but my basic edition album sounded fantastic and dead quiet on only 2 sides of wax.

My Deluxe vinyl pressing (yes I bought one of each) was pressed on glow-in-the-dark vinyl (which I have heard tends not to sound as good as regular coloured or black vinyl, though this may be a rumour) and so I don’t really know if this is the best sounding press available, but it sounds damn good and the since music is pressed slightly louder than on the single album edition,this further eliminats background noise during playback on an already quiet vinyl pressing… so that’s a bonus!

If you have the choice between buying the regular version or the deluxe version, I recommend going for the Deluxe version unless the cost difference is substantial. Initially, my recommendation was to go for the basic version instead, but having sat with the album for quite some time now (Yes, I have listened to it at least once a day since I got it!), I find myself singing along and enjoying every song right through to the end of the bonus tracks. To date, the only song I always skip is “Monday Blues” and the only song I sometimes skip is “Unstoppable” (and, to be completely honest, when I ripped my MP3s of the album, I faded out “Dance Floor Darling” before the annoying sped-up ending).

This album wasan absolute joy to find at the end of the dumpster fire that was 2020… and it is still providing smiles and good times well into spring 2021. I can’t recommend it enough! 🙂

**[note: This post was originally created on December 16th, 2020, but I edited it on March 9th 2021 because, after listening to the album regularly for the past two months, my opinion of the bonus tracks has changed tremendously and they have really grown on me!]**

ANOTHER NOTE: it’s now January 2023 and this is still one of my most played albums! 🙂

Do you agree? Check out the album here on this handy Spotify playlist and let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear what you think.  Is it as much of an ear worm for you as it is for me?

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