Kylie Minogue’s 50 finest songs
WHAT better way to celebrate Kylie Minogue's 50th birthday than selecting her 50 finest songs? From global hits to deep cuts, here's the ideal soundtrack to KM50.
1. Can't Get You Out of My Head (2001)
IF you could program a computer to formulate the perfect pop song, it would sound like this. From the first time Kylie heard this song, she recognised its simple brilliance and made sure her record company secured it for her - it'd already been turned down by S Club 7 and Sophie Ellis Bextor. Idiots. Minogue was so enthralled by the song, she played it live months before it was released - there's clips where you can hear the audience being underwhelmed when she introduces "a new song". That was the last tour where that'd happen. Can't Get You Out of My Head sounds like a happy accident, not a pop song forced out by a phalanx of writers. Kylie's best song is not only her signature song but also her highest-selling song - and that is a rare feat in the fickle world of pop.
2. Confide in Me (1994)
THE one that changed everything - where Kylie became instantly cool. It was August 1994, Kylie hadn't had a single out for two years after ending her contract with prolific hitmakers Stock Aitken Waterman. Confide in Me was a lush, six-minute experimental epic with middle eastern vibes and modern dance beats. Kylie's hushed vocals don't even start until the 90-second mark (Stock Aitken Waterman songs were knee-deep in a chorus by that point), and it automatically drew a line in the sand to reboot Kylie. Triple J played the song, it's been covered by Tame Impala and Missy Higgins, and it still sounds like nothing else before or since.
3. Love at First Sight (2001)
Cursed purely by being on the same album that had Can't Get You Out of My Head on it, indeed this was chosen to follow that song in the US (with a more urban remix for that market). The original version (written by Kylie and the team behind the Spice Girls' Wannabe, no less) is classic Kylie. It's everything you love about Kylie distilled into a four-minute direct hit of pure adrenaline with the most euphoric chorus of a career literally built on the love of a euphoric chorus. It's an immediate pick-me-up, manages to go underwater and then on the top of a mountain before your ears, and remains one of the most underrated hits of her career.
4. Better the Devil You Know (1990)
Another pivotal Kylie moment - she'd churned out two albums and started to gain confidence about her talent at this pop music lark. Minogue went rogue in St Kilda to make the sexually charged video (she had just started dating Michael Hutchence, who inspired her to push some boundaries) and Stock Aitken Waterman delivered one of the most finely crafted pop singles that ever left PWL studios. That synth intro is like a clarion call to the dancefloor. This is also Nick Cave's favourite Kylie song. Those two things are not related in any way, sadly.
5. Slow (2003)
This robo bop is Kylie's most subversive but sublime No. 1 hit. It's like Can't Get You Out of My Head's emo cousin - also with a deceptively simple electronic pulse, but taking a much darker tone: think Kraftwork trying to be sexy. Vocally Kylie moves from detached to carnal in the space of a verse, and somehow Slow sounds like everything and nothing is happening all at once. It came with a wildly sexy video that invented horizontal choreography around a pool, towels included.
6. The One (2008)
Even Kylie knows this is the one that got away. And she knows a few things about pop hits. The One suffered death by record company. It was the unloved fifth single from 2007's X, an album that had leaked all over the web like an incontinent pensioner before it even got released. Another misguided attempt at American R & B, All I See, was selected as the fourth single and didn't trouble any charts. By the time The One limped out - boasting precisely the kind of hands-in-the-air classic Kylie electro-pop the world loved - it was all over. How this wasn't a major hit is Kylie's own 'Who was the person who passed on signing the Beatles?' moment in terms of record company foolishness.
7. Where the Wild Roses Grow - with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1995)
Introduced via Michael Hutchence, Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave were the most odd couple in Australian music. And yet they are two of Melbourne's most successful musical exports ever. Imagine being in the Melbourne studio where Minogue met Cave. She'd just done a quick research on his CV (genius, junkie) and was handed a lyric to a song for an album called Murder Ballads where he'd kill her with a rock before the tune ended. And what a tune - a haunting lament unlike anything Kylie had ever done, which perfectly documents her mid-90s indie mindset: zero effs, game for anything. Who wouldn't want to tag along on a night out with Nick and Kylie?
8. What Do I Have to Do? (1991)
Stock Aitken Waterman's not-so-secret weapon was taking dance music of the day and shoehorning it into a killer pop song. And this song invented Club Kylie - it was her very own Ride On Time, an absolute rave pop masterpiece (that piano line and built-in ecstatic rushes) that suffered only from the fact it was released in the first wave of a Kylie backlash - a growing sense of Minogue fatigue from an unavoidable string of smiley Kylie pop. SAW even allowed her to grow up lyrically, with references to her bed that didn't involve sleeping. Play this alongside any of the same club pop hits of the era (Madonna's Vogue, Deee-Lite's Groove is in the Heart) and it fits in perfectly.
9. Hand on Your Heart (1989)
The imperial phase of Stock Aitken Waterman saw them manage to make bespoke pop for a variety of artists, all at once, almost daily. Hand on Your Heart is both uplifting and sad - a break-up song with a forced smile on its face and disguised with a signature dance routine. Jose Gonzales tapped into the bleakness with a, well, thoroughly miserable but utterly gorgeous acoustic version in 2006. Kylie reinvented the song in a similar glum manner on 2012's Abbey Road Sessions - this time sung not as a teenager, but a woman with experience in love and loss.
10. I Believe In You (2004)
Kylie's friendship with the Scissor Sisters made total sense. And when it moved from play to work, Kylie, Jake Shears and Babydaddy's creation I Believe In You (the new track for a 2004 singles compilation) was truly a stroke of magic. It's a kind of fairytale Donna Summer with pulsating synths and dreamy keyboards slow dancing together. Kylie's angelic vocals and those sky-high strings combine for one of Kylie's many signature singles.
11. Wow (2008)
The phrase 'classic Kylie' must be bandied around to every songwriter who works on every Kylie album. Greg Kurstin (Adele's Hello) and regular Minogue whisperer Karen Poole fired up this disco inferno that feels like someone's shaking up a bottle of soda for three minutes until everything gets more and more hectic and you're out of breath when it finally explodes. A joyful noise.
12. All the Lovers (2010)
It's that classic Kylie brief again. Luckily that is an incredibly wide brief - from '70s disco to '90s house. All the Lovers dropped a pin on 1982 and the kind of dizzying new wave synth majesty of Yazoo and Depeche Mode. But there's also a major dose of melancholy disco just under the surface and one of the best 'drops' in a Kylie single where it all slows down before the mammoth rush just before the end that sounds like it was played one-fingered on some vintage keyboard. This was her Believe, except it didn't top the charts the way Cher managed to. Your loss, people.
13. Shocked (1991)
Has any pop artist had a better run of flawless singles from one album as Kylie from Rhythm of Love - Better the Devil You Know, Step Back in Time, What Do I Have to Do and then Shocked? Seriously. Shocked got remixed for single release, which cheats a little, but who can hear this song now without the pioneering female rap work of Jazzy P? With Ms P off the radar, Ms M now handles the rap herself in concert. Another instant floor-filler for the right audience.
14. Falling (1994)
The Pet Shop Boys wrote this for Kylie. On paper that sounds like a winning combination. Except DJ producers Farley and Heller took their demo (which PSB later released, showcasing a great, straight-up pop tune) and rebirthed it as a seven-minute house slow-burner. Kylie whispered her lyrics, the bass went deep, the backing vocals went high, and a hypnotic Kylie classic was born.
15. Get Outta My Way (2010)
Soapbox time: this was released in 2010 after Kylie had turned 40. Which meant that the pop radio that once adored her now ignored her. If Katy Perry had released this, it would have been a global No.1. Instead, this criminally peaked at No. 69 in Australia. Straight out of some Danish pop production line, it's hook after hook after hook, and even the pre-choruses sound like choruses. Also breaks down the third wall with Kylie singing, "ain't getting me back at the end of this song". Canny recycler Alessio realised this was a lost banger and effectively used everything except Kylie on his song Cool. Uncool.
16. Put Yourself In My Place (1994)
Kylie has tried - or been forced - to cater for the American market many times. Unsurprisingly, the times she's had big US hits was when she sounded different to everything else America already does perfectly well. However, this power ballad was not only a vocal showcase, but just a damn fine tune. This grazed both the UK and Australian Top 10 by peaking, cruelly, at No. 11 in both territories, but it did serve up another iconic Kylie video - the script clearly reading Barbarella undressing in zero gravity. Tick.
17. Step Back In Time (1990)
Love is the most used topic in pop. Step Back in Time flips the script and makes it about the love of music. "Remember the old days? Remember the O'Jays," Kylie sang for people who weren't old enough to remember the O'Jays. Like herself. But this is a brilliant homage to the disco anthem - Motown meets HiNRG meets Studio 54 - and indeed may have single-handedly laid the path for Disco Kylie, a touchstone of her career to this day.
18. Kids (2000)
Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue were the king and queen of pop (North America excluded) in 2000 when this playful duet dropped. Robbie got Kylie to sing "I've been dropping beats since Back in Black", and indeed it's way heavier than anything either of them had done, at least in the chorus. The chemistry between the pair was undeniable, and the song is wonderfully bonkers but so potent they both still perform it (separately) in their shows. Bono subbed in for Robbie at Kylie's first post-cancer concert in Sydney, one of Williams' proudest moments.
19. Your Disco Needs You (2000)
Speaking of Robbie and bonkers, Williams and partner Guy Chambers deliberately set out to write YMCA meets Bohemian Rhapsody, the gayest song they possibly could eke out, for Kylie's camp-by-design Light Years album. Mission accomplished. The Village People never had a sense of irony, which meant Williams got Kylie to sing (with tongue nearly bursting through her cheek) "let's dance through all our fears, war is over for a bit". Only a hit in Australia and Germany. Video budget: $42
20. In My Arms (2008)
How do you describe a feeling? You get a young up-and-comer called Calvin Harris to sit down with Biff, the chap who wrote Wannabe, throw Kylie and some pals into the creative mix, and watch as a turbo-pop monster comes out the other side. There's something chaotic and unhinged about In My Arms that you don't get in many Kylie songs - it feels like a marathon crammed into three and a half minutes.
21. Some Kind of Bliss (1997)
The peak of indie Kylie. It's 1997, and Kylie records a song by Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers, who were channelling their inner Phil Spectors. Some Kind of Bliss is modern retro '60s girl band garage pop heaven, filled with brass, sass and class. At the time this was seen as career suicide in the UK, and struggled on the charts as it confused people expecting more of the same. Whereas in hindsight it was another smart creative collaboration to demonstrate the depth of the Kylie catalogue if you go diving.
22. Can't Beat The Feeling (2010)
More Classic Kylie made to order. Like The One, it was harpooned by bad choices that came before it. Someone decided Better Than Today (the worst Kylie single until I Was Gonna Cancel existed) should be a single, torpedoing the Aphrodite album. The album kept the best to last with this song from Richard X and Pascal Gabriel that Kylie once performed as a mash-up with Love at First Sight live. That's good company.
23. 2 Hearts (2007)
This was another delightful curveball, twisted glam-pop that sounded like Goldfrapp jamming with Blondie. A persistent car alarm buzzes throughout alongside bar-room piano and Kylie exclaiming 'I'm in love' followed by a chorus of 'woos'. An Australian No.1.
24. What Kind of Fool (Heard All That Before) (1992)
Kylie was eager to exit the Stock Aitken Waterman hit factory, but it was called a hit factory for a reason. Even this parting gift was a real treat - the trio knew Kylie was their cash cow and were saving their best material for her. She also smashes this vocally, though apparently she hates the song. Perhaps it holds up particularly well because it wasn't overexposed back in the day. Still, tune.
25. Where Is The Feeling? (1995)
This song began life as one of the deepest house cuts on her self-titled Kylie Minogue album in 1994. An absolute belter. Then for the single, Brothers in Rhythm (who sculpted Confide in Me for her) reworked the song into a sensual epic that was completely re-recorded from the original. Yet both distinctly different versions capture the extremes of Kylie - from dancefloor to bedroom. Brothers in Rhythm's Steve Anderson remains the brains behind her live concerts to this day.
26. Got To Be Certain (1988)
Originally recorded by Mandy Smith (who was famous for 15 minutes in the '80s after dating a Rolling Stone when she was underage), Stock Aitken Waterman wisely salvaged this for Kylie's debut album. And it's peak SAW - cute, cheesy and carefree, but also a cracking pop tune. SAW's relentless output meant they sometimes swapped quantity for quality, but Got to Be Certain is a literal snapshot of pop in 1988. Pop fact: this was the first song that ever entered the Australian chart at No.1.
27. Like a Drug (2007)
The X album covered a lot of ground and lost its way at times. But this storming uber-Euro electro monster was a triumph - recalling Visage's Fade to Grey, but with a way more sinister streak. Dark dance and a lost single in some parallel universe.
28. Enjoy Yourself (1989)
Almost thrown away as the last track on her second album, this is again everything that Stock Aitken Waterman did so ingeniously. Like ABBA, there's so much going on here, yet it sounds effortless. Presumably everything they wrote was designed to be a potential single, and this is better than many SAW singles, to be honest. Kylie dusted this fan favourite off for the Anti-Tour tour.
29. Red Blooded Woman (2004)
The Body Language album is a divisive one - the most R & B Kylie's ever been, presumably to capitalise on America loving Can't Get You Out Of My Head from her previous album. However, maybe it's because this is a couple of Brits (including George Michael collaborator Johnny Douglas) tackling hip-hop meets pop that this works. There's a fascinating Whitey remix of this which turns it into an electro punk track.
30. Light Years (2000)
A cheeky homage to Donna Summer's I Feel Love that transplants her erotic anthem to outer space, via KM Airlines. There aren't many pop stars who can pull off something as camp as this, but Kylie fully committed. Years of practice.
31. Into the Blue (2014)
See above comment about Get Outta My Way - another Kylie song not given a fair shot at commercial radio. This was easily the best thing on the dog's breakfast Kiss Me Once album where they tried a bit of everything, a lesson learned that explained the laser focused vision of this year's Golden. Into the Blue is a full-blown anthem and again better than the No. 1 hits most of her contemporaries were pulling out at the time. How did this peak at No. 46 in Australia? Oh yeah, radio didn't play it, they were too busy with the musical genius of LMFAO and MKTO. FFS.
32. Never Too Late (1989)
When they do Kylie Minogue: The Musical this is tailor-made for some emotional scene. It's like a classic showtune churned through the Stock Aitken Waterman machine and features that classic happy/sad pop vibe that the Swedish mastered.
33. Aphrodite (2010)
When Kylie came back from beating breast cancer people may have been waiting for the big comeback moment. This was it, just a few years late. Another for the bulging 'How was this not a single' file, this came from the same team who stunk up the same album with Better Than Today. The storming, percussion-driven Aphrodite is her I Am Woman wrapped in her Rhythm Nation. A lost anthem.
34. Give Me Just a Little More Time (1992)
Stock Aitken Waterman modelled themselves on Motown, so it was no surprise they often covered old soul and funk songs. This was a massive hit for The Chairman of the Board in 1970 and like Kylie's best SAW tracks, she genuinely sounds like she's having fun - an infectious quality that helps explain why she's still topping charts.
35. Did It Again (1997)
More guitars, more indie Kylie, more gold. This actually won her a new audience in Australia, because a great pop tune is undeniable. Iconic video too where Kylie took the piss out of all the different Kylies, ending in a scrag fight.
36. Rhythm of Love (1990)
The title track of the first album that tried to inject some R & B into Kylie, with Minogue allowed to work with some US producers. And she went right to the top - Stephen Bray co-wrote Into the Groove, Angel and Express Yourself with Madonna. And this features that funk/swing of early Madonna, with lashings of saxophone at a time it was probably desperately uncool.
37. Turn It Into Love (1988)
A single in Japan from Kylie's first album, this is low-key Hi-NRG heartache pop from Stock Aitken Waterman's golden era.
38. A Lifetime to Repair (2018)
IMAGINE how many times Kylie has had to endure reading the 'unlucky in love' headline. So what better plan than use your Nashville sawdust'n'glitter album to take the piss out of your love life first in these lyrics. Kylie's inner Dolly Parton isn't hidden too far down, but this hoe-down showdown is one of Golden's true greats.
39. GBI (German Bold Italic) (with Towa Tei) (1998)
A member of Deee-Lite samples Groove is the Heart, then morphs this frankly insane song into an electronic ode to a font. Kylie's had a few weird collaborations, but this is the strangest one and as the odd sock in her singles discography comes with a very special charm.
40. If You Don't Love Me (1994)
Originally an energetic pop song by UK act Prefab Sprout, Kylie transforms it into a showstopping piano ballad on the b-side to Confide in Me, which also includes Saint Etienne producing her cover of their majestic Nothing Can Stop Us. That was one flawless CD single (RIP).
41. Dancing (2018)
The first taste of Cowboy Style Kylie demonstrated that nobody needed to fear. It's a Kylie song with spurs attached and a smart double meaning - she wants to go out dancing, but she also wants to go out dancing. It's a party starter and curtain dropper all in one. And Kylie fans now a funeral song, as well as countless wedding songs.
42. Spinning Around (2000)
Paula Abdul is one of the co-writers of this song, originally planning to record it herself. The demo version of the song ended up at Kylie HQ and apparently was very different from the version that became a No. 1 hit. Remember at the time many thought Kylie was washed-up, so a 70s-soaked disco pop tune was the ideal way to recalibrate the good ship Minogue. It worked, with a little help from some very little hungry gold hotpants.
43. Disco Down (2000)
Only Kylie could have Your Disco Needs You and Disco Down on the same album - Light Years. Disco Down is a loving homage to the disco era, with chimes and charms bursting out all over.
44. Paper Dolls (2000)
The b-side to Spinning Around and the perfect antidote to the a-side. Written with Steve Anderson, this is a gorgeous ballad that probably wouldn't have found a home on an album, but makes you yearn for the days when b-sides were a thing.
45. Chocolate (2004)
Breathless Kylie is many people's favourite Kylie. Chocolate is the most breathless of all Kylie songs - she sounds like she recorded it after running around the block five times. Yet it's still ultra sexy - Kylie's never crossed the line from sexy to skanky and it's an increasingly fine line. There was originally a Ludacris rap on this song, thankfully wiser heads prevailed. You can still hear a few remnants of him in the background if you listen hard.
46. Too Far (1997)
Look this is here because it's the one and only time a wholly self-penned Kylie song has appeared on any of her albums. As such it's arguably the most Kylie of all songs. And it sounds like it was peak hour in her head when she wrote it - all musical turbulence and tumbling words. The dramatic opener to Impossible Princess.
47. Tightrope (2001)
WHEN the b-side is arguably as good as the a-side - In Your Eyes. This was promoted to bonus track on the Australian version of Fever, which was a canny move.
48. Burning Up (2001)
Fever is a bloody amazing pop album, there's no passengers, everyone did their job. It was just one of those moments where everything came together. Even the album tracks are excellent - like Burning Up. It's another square peg moment - from acoustic lament to space-age disco pounder - and somehow it works. Was lovingly mashed up with Madonna's Vogue for her Showgirl tour.
49. In Your Eyes (2001)
HAD the tough job of following up Can't Get You Out of My Head. This does everything it should do, even if Love At First Sight did it better.
50. I Should Be So Lucky (1988)
The one that started it everywhere but Australia, and the one song Kylie has to play but really does anyone need to hear it again? It's burned in your psyche forever. In the past 30 years Kylie has disowned it, reclaimed it and reinvented it on pretty much every tour - it's gone from torch song to club chill out - until going full circle on the Kiss Me Once tour and was delivered just as you remembered it, including the bubble bath.