Kylie Minogue played some of the biggest venues of her 26-year career in music on 2011's Aphrodite: Les Folies Tour, including a five-night stint at London's O2 arena and her first proper North American run with stops at the Hollywood Bowl and Las Vegas' Colosseum at Caesars Palace. So London's tiny Old Blue Last, with a capacity of 120, was a peculiar place for Minogue to kick off the album cycle for "Kiss Me Once," her 12th studio album and first for Warner Bros. in the United States. (Her longtime label home Parlophone was acquired by Warner Music Group in 2013.)
"It's like every Thursday down at the pub, isn't it?" Minogue joked of the Shoreditch bar, which was re-dubbed "Into The Old Blue Last" in honor of her new single, "Into The Blue" – replete with Kylie karaoke, Kylie bingo and a "Kiss Me Once" photo booth.
But the change of scenery was fitting for Minogue, 45, who's undergone a bit of a transformation since 2010's "Aphrodite." In early 2013, she parted ways with longtime manager Terry Blamey after 25 years and joined Roc Nation, signed by president Jay Brown. That new relationship inspired her to team up with a bevy of first-time collaborators on "Kiss Me Once," including Pharrell Williams, Enrique Iglesias, Ariel Rechtshaid, MNEK, Greg Kurstin and executive producer Sia. She's also newly single, having split with long-term boyfriend Andres Velencoso last October, which could account for the album's playfully promiscuous vibe. There are no less than three songs with the word "sex" in the title, with the Sia-penned "Sexercise" the most primed for a GIF-worthy music video.
Minogue says all the change is the result of an "epiphany" she had during her "Kylie 25" campaign in 2012, celebrating her first quarter-century as an entertainer since making a fluke dance-pop hit out of "The Locomotion" in 1987. "I felt like I needed a new landscape, and once you've got your feet on the ground you're raring to go," she says. "So far the support has been great, and it's just another part of this amalgamation of 'new' that I had wished for and was struck by."
One constant, however, is Parlophone chairman Miles Leonard, who's worked with Minogue ever since 2000's "Light Years." Though Minogue had initially announced a break from recording in early 2013, that quickly changed in a matter of months, which coincided with the finalization of Parlophone's acquisition by Warner. As a result, "Kiss Me Once" is the label's first priority release under the new ownership. "The thing is with Kylie, whenever she says, 'I'm gonna take a couple months off,' two weeks later it's, 'I'm bored.' She always wants to go straight back onto the the treadmill," Leonard says. "She understands the work ethic and attitude you need to make things happen, and we're immensely proud to have been with her for the more successful period of her career."
Finding new ground for such a veteran performer was at times a challenge. "When we sat down to come up with ideas, I'd say, 'What if we do this?' And she'd say, 'I did that in '92,'" says Nadja Rangel, Minogue's manager at Roc Nation. But that helped shape the album's touchstone moment, the Pharrell-produced "I Was Gonna Cancel," a slinky futuristic funk jam inspired by a recording session Minogue nearly skipped out upon. "I was just having one of those days where you can't face anyone and you're ready to burst into tears at any point," Minogue says of her time with the uber-producer last May. "But luckily this wasn't the first time Pharrell had someone emotional at the studio, and it gave him so much subject matter to write this positive, inspiring song."
Though Minogue has yet to reach the same heights in the U.S. as she achieved in 2002 with "Fever," which sold 1.3 million copies (according to Nielsen SoundScan) and spawned the Top 10 hit "Can't Get You Out Of My Head," she plans on making North America a priority in May once she wraps commitments as a coach on the U.K. and Australia editions of "The Voice." "The fans I have over there are smaller in number, but pretty mighty in their devotion to the cause. And I'm always asked, 'Is this the album that's gonna work over there?' I don't know. I can only make the album that feels right for me."
I'm sad the single and album are going to flop :(