Mid-20s Malaise

Struggling against the inevitable since 1986!

Kylie Minogue: Impossible Princess

For my twelfth birthday, I received Kylie Minogue’s Impossible Princess (and The Corrs’ Talk On Corners, but that’s another story). I enjoyed the album for a couple of years, but disavowed all knowledge of it when I discovered rock and roll. I positioned myself as pretty alternative in my teens, and only came back to pop in my twenties. I especially came back to Impossible Princess, which I think is an underrated classic, especially by Minogue’s own fans. It’s a strange avant-pop disc, a mixture of house and trance music, rockabilly and jazz. It was released at an interesting point in Minogue’s career: she left her major label after releasing her fourth album (thereby fulfilling the terms of her contract) and signed with indie label Distortion. She released a self-titled album that included Confide In Me, and accrued a bit of street cred with Where The Wild Roses Grow, her duet with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The single Put Yourself In My Place is pretty indicative of the album’s adult-oriented pop feel.

There are many parallels to be drawn with this career move and Sweden’s Robyn a decade later. Both were teen pop stars in their native countries, with some success abroad; both were written for and produced by professional songwriting teams; both felt like they’d painted themselves into a corner too young. Robyn had recorded a song with electro duo The Knife: she thought it was the future of her music; her label hated it. She started up her own Konichiwa Records, and released a self-titled album to much acclaim. Her label are probably kicking themselves now. Not so Minogue’s former label: Impossible Princess sank, bubbling out a couple of under-performing singles on its way down.

And that’s a real shame. It was a brave move. After having four albums written and produced for her, and co-writing a few songs on one, Minogue took creative control of the Impossible Princess sessions.

The album doesn’t fit in her ouvre at all. This is made especially clear when she performs songs from the album live. Kylie Minogue is a great performer – if you’re into that sort of thing – but the jarring songs from Impossible Princess don’t mix well with her shiny pop show: the desperate sing-speak of Too Far, the stream-of-consciousness mumbling of Say Hey, even the upbeat rockabilly of I Don’t Need Anyone and Some Kind Of Bliss. Nevertheless, Kylie herself obviously has a lot of affection for the album: the songs have made an appearance on every subsequent tour, and she recently mentioned Tears, one of the album’s outtakes, as her own favourite Kylie song.

The album sold poorly, but Kylie – who I think is an excellent businesswoman who knows exactly what she’s selling – turned this into a strength. Without the popular support and budget to put on a large-scale tour, she dubbed the concert series Intimate & Live, performing smaller venues with a stripped-down production. The resulting live album is an interesting record of her career at that point, as it contains dramatic reimaginings of her previous hits: I Should Be So Lucky as a jazzy torch song, Put Yourself In My Place as a folksy ballad, even the recent Did It Again as a country-style stomper.

Well, this has been a bit of a ramble, hasn’t it? I have a lot of affection for this album – I think it’s a classic, really – but can also understand when it doesn’t gel with people. If you’re a fan of Antigone, Roísín Murphy and other artists operating on the fringes of pop music, I suggest you check it out.

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2 Responses

  1. MC Grammar says:

    I always thought ‘Put Yourself in My Place’ had a pretty empathetic message. I love Kylie’s whole ‘hey now, let’s try to understand each other’ kind of thing. She makes me feel warm on the inside.

  2. Ian Higham says:

    “Dreams” is one of my favorite Kylie songs!

    Also, I still occasionally jam to “Leave me Breathless,” so don’t feel bad.

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