During her headline set at last weekend’s BBC Radio 2 in the Park festival, Kylie Minogue threw in her favourite ad lib: “Seems like I’ve known you a lifetime… and for some of you it’s been a lifetime!” From other performers, it might have come off glib, but Minogue made it feel heartfelt and even touching. Two generations may have grown up with her music, but pop’s eternal showgirl isn’t shimmy into her legacy act era. After popping off on TikTok, this album’s brilliant lead single ‘Padam Padam’ became a song of the summer and her first UK Top Ten hit in 13 years.
A hypnotic electro bop with a vaguely Eastern European lilt, ‘Padam Padam’ is a slight outlier on ‘Tension’, the singer’s 16th studio album. Elsewhere, Minogue and collaborators including Biff Stannard and Duck Blackwell – both of whom worked on her last album, 2020’s ‘Disco’ – rustle up a moreish dance-pop smorgasbord with flavours drawn from Minogue-appropriate pop trends and her own extensive discography. ‘Hands’ and ‘Green Light’ split the difference between recent Doja Cat and Dua Lipa hits, while ‘You Still Get Me High’ is a Coldplay anthem with extra froth. Minogue’s take on the ’80s drivetime revival spearheaded by The Weeknd is especially effective: ‘Things We Do For Love’ sounds a bit like Belinda Carlisle with a waft of poppers in the air.
Other songs hit their target by offering nostalgic nods to classic Minogue moments. ‘One More Time’ has echoes of the house bangers she made with Stock Aitken Waterman in the early ’90s, while ‘Vegas High’ is throbbing dance-pop in the mould of 2001’s ‘In Your Eyes’. The glittery, galvanising ‘Hold On To Now’ feels like an upbeat successor to her wistful pandemic-era single ‘Say Something’ – it’s the sonic equivalent of a burst of confetti. The whole album zips along in 36 minutes with no ballads and no duds, just tracks that either slap hard or shimmer infectiously.
Lyrically, ‘Tension’ is resolutely escapist and perhaps sexier than any Minogue album since 2007’s ‘X’. She begins ‘Green Light’ with a perfect pop come-on – “I know your star sign, what’s on your bedside?” – and delivers lusty imperatives on the euphoric title track: “Oh my god, touch me right there!” The result isn’t Minogue’s most cohesive or revealing LP, but it does feel driven by its own internal logic. Ultimately, ‘Tension’ plays like a fun, flirty night out with an old friend who isn’t the kind to burden you with her problems. Whether you’ve known Minogue for a lifetime – or just since ‘Padam Padam’ – you’ll want to lace up your dancing shoes and join the party.
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