33 years into her career, she’s better than ever.
The entire music industry is a bit fascinated with the genre of disco this year. Dua Lipa did disco on Future Nostalgia. Doja Cat saw a #1 from “Say So.” The Weeknd found his biggest single yet (following a career of pretty big singles) with top Record/Song of the Year contender “Blinding Lights.” Jessie Ware found tremendous success with What’s Your Pleasure? And Lady Gaga…attempted it on Chromatica.
And, the generous queen that she is, Kylie let them have their fun before she swooped in and showed everyone how it’s done.
Retro disco camp pastiche has been Kylie’s thing for a while now, dating back to 2000’s Light Years, a contender for campiest album of all time (if you think I’m exaggerating, listen to “Your Disco Needs You” and get back to me). Subsequent records such as Fever (arguably her signature record), X, and Aphrodite cemented her status as a considerable force in nu-disco, as well as pop in general. Simply put, no one can do what Kylie does; her frenetic nu-disco poptimism is wholly singular, while still managing to feel comfortingly familiar.
So when she announced her fifteenth (!!!) studio album would be called DISCO, it was a huge deal. The album, recorded mostly in her home studio in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown and self-engineered on Logic, is a return to form for the singer after a brief flirtation with country on Golden (recorded in Nashville!).
Befitting the title, DISCO feels like a nonstop Studio 54 party, an hour-long jolt of adrenaline to the system. As the best disco is, it’s pure escapism filtered through the lens of deliriously dancing your ass off. To listen to Kylie’s vision of DISCO is to travel to another dimension entirely, one where the President isn’t having a temper tantrum over the process of counting votes and elections last a day or two at most.
Delirious is probably the most apt word to describe the feeling of listening to—nay, experiencing—DISCO, in all its euphoria. You can practically smell the sweat dripping off this record as you succumb to reality blurring around you. There is no objectivity. Only Kylie.
On tracks like opener and single “Magic,” Minogue expertly conveys the horrifying bliss of falling in love. It’s uninhibited, uncensored, and delightfully feral—and impossible not to dance to. There’s an inherent joy in every fiber of this record’s being—even when she’s coming from a place of yearning, of contemplation, or even at times of utter brokenness.
It’s hard to overstate just how much joy is contained in this record. At 52, Minogue has never sounded fresher and more vivacious, jumping expertly between stupid, giddy camp (“Where Does the DJ Go?”) and more mature, lived-in downtempo grooves (“Miss a Thing”).
A major testament to DISCO, as well as Kylie’s artistic vision as a whole, is how well it manages to engage with nostalgia without ever feeling reductive. Even as she looks back into disco’s past and evokes the Donna Summers and CHICs of the world, Kylie always has one eye looking toward the future, playing with house and tropical pop on tracks like “Real Groove.” (On my drunk release night notes for that track, all I wrote was “this is a CHORUS!!”)
Nothing encapsulates the album’s general energy, escapist thesis, and forward-thinking nostalgia (sorry, Dua) better than “Dance Floor Darling,” a downtempo ode to love on the dance floor. It’s just earnest enough to avoid being completely cheesy, hitting every kind of standard pop formula beat (there’s a reference to Studio 54 immediately followed by a drum fill and the instrument’s introduction) to thrilling effect. It’s a remarkable track throughout, but the final breakdown is what really cements it as the standout of the album. I won’t give more details in the interest of spoilers, but I will say I can’t remember the last time I was this awestruck by a musical moment.
2020 has been a hard year. It’s a bit of a cliche at this point to say that, and we’ve all internalized it a bit to the extent where it’s like “oh yeah, 2020, haha,” but this has been hard. And I know I’m not sharing any new information by saying that, but I think it’s important that we name just how much we as a collective have been through this year. It is a heavy time to be a human.
And as much as I may personally believe it, I’m not saying that Kylie Minogue is going to save the world. But in such a challenging year, it’s so affirming to listen to a release this peppy and bright-eyed. Friends and I have bemoaned, just as we did for Future Nostalgia, the lack of an opportunity to hear DISCO at gay clubs or pregames or anything of the sort. That’s a loss for sure—I imagine this record would be a smash in the club scene—but it’s also part of what makes this such a special release for this moment in time.
The collective power of congregating over music and just dancing has long been a theme of Kylie’s music; “All the Lovers” off 2010’s Aphrodite has become a career anthem for this reason, and she affectionately calls her stans Lovers as a result. DISCO is no exception to this mission, with lead single “Say Something” seeing the singer yearning for a time when “we [can] all be as one again.” It’s reminiscent of Charli XCX’s “anthems” in that way, directly naming the challenges the pandemic has posed for those of us who share her interests and values.
My Kylie standom is kind of a bit at this point; it’s inherently pretty funny that I go feral over this Australian woman who’s rather obscure to American audiences and who’s been making music since way before I was even born. But listening to DISCO reminded me why Kylie was such a source of comfort the entire pandemic. As someone who lived for live music and clubbing and the like in the Before Times, listening to Kylie is a reminder that even in the absence of those physical spaces, I’m far from alone. Listening to DISCO makes me feel like I’m back on a dance floor, full of hope and life, a world that wasn’t pulled out from under me. It’s bright, vital, and—above all—an absolute blast.
Simply put, I love it.
Essential Tracks: all of them? “Dance Floor Darling,” “Magic,” “Supernova”
You can stream DISCO below.