Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ten Years Gone: Kylie Minogue - Fever

This entry is part of an ongoing series in where I take a look back at landmark films and albums released 10 years ago.

While gaining international success throughout the '80s and '90s comparable to her fellow pop icon, Madonna, at the beginning of 2002 Kylie Minogue's lasting legacy in the U.S. was her 1988 hit "The Locomotion" and small roles in viciously panned flops such as Bio-Dome and Street Fighter. Her status in the States forever changed course with the release of "Can't Get You Out Of My Head," the lead single on Fever. With its infectious chorus of "la la la" and a velvety robo-disco track, Minogue had her biggest hit ever in America. Not only did it peak at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it found its way onto several year-end lists, even managing a top ten placement in the yearly Pazz and Jop poll from The Village Voice.

Pop music has always had a reputation as being for kids, which was still the case in 2002 with acts like Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and 'N SYNC fresh on the nation's mind. Occasionally, a major hit would be able to connect with both teenagers and critics, such as Hanson's "MMMBop" or The Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way," but such songs only seemed to occur when it involved an act that had breached the national conscience. With artists as ubiquitous as those, it's only a matter of time before you come across one of their songs. What was so unique about "Can't Get You Out of My Head" was that it was undoubtedly pop, but able to cross demographics without a huge initial marketing push and also came from an artist who was mostly forgotten.

With the advent of the blogsphere and online journalism in the early '00s, more differing opinions and tastes were allowed into a critical realm that had previously been rock-centric and approved token acts from other genres if they fit within certain guidelines. While today, acts such as Robyn, Rihanna and Lady Gaga are rarely viewed as guilty pleasures, there was much more of a facade to maintain when it came to approaching pop music ten years ago. The success and artistry of later efforts from Sugababes, Girls Aloud, Annie and Rachel Stevens provided the blogosphere with pop acts they could champion while still keeping their credibility, but Fever was the one that opened people up to the idea that pop may not be so bad, later paving the way for unironic embraces of Britney Spears' "Toxic" and Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone." Starting with "Can't Get You Out Of My Head," it slowly became okay to appreciate pop from unlikely sources.

Much of the cool factor for Fever came from the fact it was a comeback record for her in the U.S., plus with her maturity and veteran status, she did not appear as pre-manufactured than a lot of the reigning pop starlets at the time. Such factors as these made it okay to think Kylie was hip, but Fever itself turned out to be much more special.

The follow-up single, "Love At First Sight," took the same glossy approach to house and disco as its predecessor, creating a dancefloor atmosphere that was aggressive enough for club traditionalists to appreciate, but easily accessible for fans of melodically explosive choruses. The rest of the album followed this blueprint as well, only momentarily lowering the strobelight with the final track, "Burning Up," which featured brief intervals of only Minogue's vocals and an acoustic guitar, only to turn the flashing lights and the volume back on in full force.

The highlights were plentiful from the thumping leadoff track "More, More, More" to the methodical funk of the title song, but none were bigger to me than "Come Into My World," which also happens to be my favorite Kylie song ever. It kept the album's theme of house consistent with some of its rhythm, but it mostly drew its influence from Eurodance. The lyrics and how Kylie delivered them made it the most sensual track on Fever, a claim that is not lacking for competition since Minogue used her trademark breathy vocals effectively throughout the album. The chorus may have seemed simple with the words "Come, come, come into my world," but every time she sang the word "come" in a slightly hushed tone, it had a feeling of longing and optimism. With a killer pre-chorus and sweetly multi-layered synths, it was about as close as you could get to perfection in dance pop.

With the success of Fever, subsequent albums from Minogue were able to get released in the U.S., culminating in her first ever North American tour in 2009. Nothing since has brought her the acclaim of this album, but she is still considered one of the standard bearers in pop music, with singles such as "I Believe In You," "All The Lovers" and "Wow" providing her a steady fanbase. Although the mainstream didn't quite experience a disco revival afterward, Fever remains one of the first pop albums of the 2000's to be approved by tastemakers and critics and opened the door for a wider appreciation of the genre.

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