Having reviewed pretty much every Kylie release since I entered college (and she made her big U.S. return), I feel obligated, having chewed on “Kiss Me Once” since its release, to say something about it. My initial reaction, carried through from the album preview I posted here a few weeks back, wasn’t that great, and I still can’t say I’m quite as enthused about this as her previous efforts.
My biggest beef with the album deals with the forced sexiness. Now, Kylie’s always encouraged a playful sexiness to her visual image, but when you examine her lyrics, the songs were much more universal and, well, tame. Whether it’s her debut hits like “I Should Be So Lucky,” big hits like “Spinning Around” and “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” or even newer, sultrier tracks like “Slow,” sex wasn’t really forced upon the listener.
The number of times, meanwhile, that the word sex or sexy appears in the lyrics of this album probably add up to more than her other albums combined, and most of the time the sexiness feels as disconnected as it did on Justin Timberlake’s “Futuresex/LoveSounds,” which was equally contrived and, at times, forced.
I also felt the production wasn’t as forward looking as previous albums; “Fever” and “Body Language” pushed the envelope, “Aphrodite” held back the beats at a time when radio was hitting them hard, and even “X” had moments that felt ahead of their time, and the tracks hold up years later. The songs on “Kiss Me Once” feel very of the moment, but feel a bit more disposable, which is concerning for an artist that has banked on longevity.
Yet upon repeated listens, the tracks I was drawn to I like even more, songs I wasn’t so keen on have grown on me, and the overall tone of the album has won me over a bit more, even if it’s less cohesive and less ambitious in some ways.
“Into the Blue” isn’t the strongest first single, but the following three tracks on the album still to me feel among the best the album offers. The story that Pharrell Williams, who produced track 3 “I Was Gonna Cancel,” wrote it about Kylie almost canceling studio time with him, is a nice authentic song, performed well by Kylie and produced well by Pharrell. It also shows the ongoing strength of the artist’s ability to perform more universal songs.
“Les Sex,” with its dubstep influences, has grown on me, but “Sexercise,” a song that got a parental warning video released with it, still doesn’t work for me. Olivia Newton-John covered this topic with much better results more than 30 years ago; Kylie just sounds out of place here. Near the end of the album, “Fine” has also grown on me, as has the album title track.
Overall it’s still decent pop, but I still feel a bit let down, like I was expecting more. Still, many artists would be grateful to have access to material like this, and Kylie still puts on a good show, so this will certainly suffice for the time being.