Kylie Minogue Biography
Her recording career has been marked by periods of outstanding success and comparative failure. Despite criticism, particularly in the early stages of her career, she has evolved her musical and visual style to attain longevity in the competitive field of pop music. As she has matured from a teenager into an adult, she has become one of her generation's most recognisable celebrities and sex symbols. In many parts of the world, she is known simply as Kylie.
Early life and Neighbours
Born in Melbourne, Australia, Minogue is the eldest of three children. Her sister Dannii Minogue is also a pop singer. She first came to attention as a child actor in Australian soap operas at the age of 11, and her first performances as a singer were occasional guest appearances on the weekly music program Young Talent Time, which featured her sister as a regular. She appeared in Skyways, The Sullivans and The Henderson Kids, before rising to prominence in 1986 with her role in the Australian soap opera Neighbours.
Minogue played the character of Charlene Mitchell, and a storyline that created a romance and eventual marriage between her character and that played by Jason Donovan culminated in a wedding episode in 1987 that attracted a record audience. Her popularity in Australia was demonstrated when she became the first person to win four Logie Awards in one event, including the 'Gold Logie' as the country's 'Most Popular Television Performer', with the result determined by public vote. 1 (http://televisionau.siv.net.au/logies.htm) The program began screening in the United Kingdom in 1987 and was highly successful. As in Australia, Minogue was considered to be one of the program's most popular and charismatic performers. In 1988 she left the show to concentrate on her music career.
Recording and performing career
Stock, Aitken and Waterman—1987 to 1994
During a charity event with other Neighbours cast members, Minogue performed Little Eva's 'The Loco-Motion' and was signed to a recording contract with Mushroom Records in 1987. Released as a single, and retitled 'Locomotion', it spent seven weeks at number one on the Australian music charts, and was the year's highest selling single. Its success resulted in Minogue travelling to London to work with production team Stock, Aitken and Waterman. Her first album, Kylie, a collection of dance songs, reached number one on the British albums charts and became the year's highest selling album. It sold over 7 million copies worldwide, with most sales occurring in Europe and Asia, and it contained six hit singles, including the biggest hit, 'I Should Be So Lucky'. The United States, where she was signed by Geffen Records, was the only major record market in which the album did not sell strongly, although 'The Loco-Motion' reached number three on the US Billboard Magazine Singles Chart.
A duet with Jason Donovan, titled 'Especially For You' was a major hit in Britain in early 1989. The critic Kevin Killian wrote that it was 'majestically awful... makes the Diana Ross, Lionel Richie 'Endless Love' sound like Mahler'. 2 (http://www.departments.bucknell.edu/stadler_center/how2/current/others/killian.shtm) Another critic named her 'The Singing Budgie', and this tag continued to be used by her detractors over the coming years. Chris True's comment about the album Kylie for All Music Guide suggests that Minogue's appeal transcended the limitations of her music, by noting that it possessed 'some rather endearing qualities', but that 'her cuteness makes these rather vapid tracks bearable'. 3 (http://launch.yahoo.com/read/review/14177772)
Her follow up album, Enjoy Yourself (1989) was a success in the United Kingdom and Australia, and contained several hit singles, but it failed in the United States, causing Geffen Records to release her from her contract. She embarked on her first concert tour in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Australia, where Melbourne's The Herald Sun wrote that it was 'time to ditch the snobbery and face facts—the kid's a star' and Music Week in Britain called it a 'triumph', 4 (http://www.kylie.co.uk/biog/index2.html) but her costumes led to criticism that she was 'imitating Madonna'. Minogue had become Stock, Aitken and Waterman's highest selling act, so in the face of widespread comment that the second album was a poor imitation of the first, it was decided to adjust the overall style of her music.
Rhythm of Love (1990) presented a more sophisticated and adult style of dance music and also marked the first signs of rebellion against her production team and the 'girl-next-door' image. Determined to be accepted by a more mature audience, Minogue took control of her music videos, starting with 'Better the Devil You Know', and presented herself as a sexually aware adult. A romance with INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence furthered her attempts to gain acceptance as a mature performer, with Hutchence saying his favourite hobby was 'corrupting Kylie', and writing the INXS hit song 'Suicide Blonde' in reference to her. 5 (http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=1079&id=86972003)
The singles from Rhythm of Love sold well in Europe and Australia and were popular in British nightclubs, where they were accepted by the older audience Minogue had targeted. When 'Shocked', reached the British Top 10 in 1991, Minogue became the first recording artist to place their first 13 single releases in the Top 10. MCA Records released 'Better The Devil You Know' in the United States, but when it failed to chart, the company ended its brief association with her.
Her next album Let's Get To It (1991), was designed to broaden Minogue's appeal by presenting a diverse range of ballads and slower dance songs, but it did not receive strong reviews. William Baker explains in the book La La La that while Rhythm of Love was seen as a progression from her earlier music and was welcomed, Let's Get To It was criticised for 'showing no signs of musical development or direction', although Minogue was allowed to contribute to the songwriting process for the first time. 'Word is Out', became her first single to peak outside of the British Top 10, and the album did not sell well, although a British concert tour in late 1991 sold out. In Australia, her popularity of the previous years was followed by a backlash, and when the Australian public appeared to have grown indifferent to her, her supporters described her as a victim of tall poppy syndrome.
The release of her Greatest Hits album in 1992 coincided with her departure from Stock, Aitken and Waterman. Containing all of her singles and three newly recorded tracks, the album reached number one in Britain, although the new singles, 'What Kind of Fool (Heard All That Before)' and her cover version of Kool and the Gang's 'Celebration', were only minor hits.
Deconstruction—1994 to 1998
Minogue's subsequent signing with Deconstruction Records was highly touted in the music media as the beginning of a new phase in her career, but the self titled Kylie Minogue (1994), received mixed reviews. Collaborations with artists such as Pet Shop Boys and M People disappointed both critics and record buyers. With worldwide sales over one million copies, the album was a moderate success, while the single, 'Confide In Me', sold 2 million copies worldwide and stayed at number 1 on the Australian charts for 5 weeks. The other two singles, 'Put Yourself In My Place' and 'Where is the Feeling', failed to make the top ten in Britain or Australia, and commentators began to predict the end of her career. Minogue herself was unhappy with the finished product describing it later as 'a musical bridge over troubled waters – but one that I had to endure (to be able to make Impossible Princess)'. 6 (http://www.kylie.co.uk/pressroom/00000016.html) 'Confide In Me' was released in America by Imago Records, but it failed to chart, and when the company filed for bankruptcy, Minogue was once again without a recording contract in America.
Nick Cave said he became a fan of Minogue when he heard 'Better the Devil You Know', saying it contained 'one of pop music's most violent and distressing lyrics' and 'when Kylie Minogue sings these words, there is an innocence to her that makes the horror of this chilling lyric all the more compelling'. He had expressed an interest in working with her but waited until 1995, when he believed he had the right song for a collaboration. 'Where The Wild Roses Grow', was a brooding ballad whose lyrics narrated a murder from the points of view of both the murderer (Cave), and his victim (Minogue), and its success demonstrated that Minogue could be accepted outside of her established genre as a dance artist. It received widespread attention in Europe, where it reached the top 10 in several countries, and acclaim in Australia where it reached number two, and won ARIA Awards for 'Song of the Year' and 'Best Pop Release'. She performed it with Cave at the Australian summer rock festival, 'The Big Day Out' before a crowd of alternative music fans, and was well received. She also appeared with Cave during several of his concerts in small venues in England, Ireland and throughout Europe, which gave her more experience performing outside of the dance/pop genre and before audiences that were not necessarily her fans. She recited the lyrics to 'I Should Be So Lucky' as poetry in London's Royal Albert Hall 'Poetry Jam', at the suggestion of Cave, and later credited him with giving her the confidence to express herself artistically, saying: 'He taught me to never veer too far from who I am, but to go further, try different things, and never lose sight of myself at the core. For me, the hard part was unleashing the core of myself and being totally truthful in my music'. 7 (http://www.kylie.co.uk/pressroom/00000016.html)
Impossible Princess (1997) featured collaborations with such highly regarded musicians as Manic Street Preachers, and saw Minogue participating more in the songwriting process. It attracted more critical discussion than any of her previous albums with many critics noting that Minogue was somewhat hindered by her credentials as a pop singer. The Australian wrote: 'When you have to lug around an image the size of Kylie's, it's difficult for any music you produce to match the hype—especially in a country that gives scant credibility to pop', and said the album 'sounds right and constitutes another step in the right direction'. 8 (http://www.kylie.co.uk/pressroom/00000019.html) Headcleaner echoed the sentiment with the comment: 'it is a million miles from Kylie's beginnings—beginnings that even she has forgotten, but which sadly some still cannot forgive'. 9 (http://web.ukonline.co.uk/keith.dumble/hopper/kylie.html) Australian music writer Tim Good described it as 'a watershed album... an expression just as much as it's a progression', 10 (http://www.kylie.co.uk/pressroom/00000023.html) Among the most positive reviews was one from Billboard Magazine which described the album as 'stunning' and said 'she's found her voice, both literally and spiritually' and she 'gets down to serious business', and concluded that 'It's a golden commercial opportunity for a major (record company) with vision and energy. A sharp ear will detect a kinship between 'Impossible Princess' and Madonna's hugely successful new album, Ray of Light. 11 (http://www.kylie.co.uk/pressroom/00000016.html) In Britain, Music Week gave a negative assessment, 'Kylie's vocals take on a stroppy edge ... but not strong enough to do much' and dismissed the album overall as 'modest'. 12 (http://www.kylie.co.uk/pressroom/00000020.html)
It became the lowest selling album of her career in the United Kingdom, but was her most popular in Australia since her debut album, with sales boosted by a highly successful live tour. In reviewing her live show The Times wrote of her ability to 'mask her thin, often nondescript voice with musical diversity and brittle charisma and genuinely great pop songs by any standard', and a live album recorded during her tour, titled Intimate and Live, was successful in Australia. She remained in the limelight in Australia with high profile live performances, including the 1998 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, the opening of Fox Studios in Sydney in 1999, where she performed Marilyn Monroe's 'Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend', and a Christmas concert in Dili, East Timor in association with the United Nations Peace-Keeping Forces.
Parlophone—1998 to the present
Minogue and Deconstruction Records parted company and she signed with Parlophone in November 1998. Her album Light Years (2000) was strongly influenced by 1970s disco, and was knowingly kitsch. New Musical Express wrote: 'Kylie's capacity for reinvention is staggering' and summarised the album as 'sheer joy' and 'what she does best'. 13 (http://www.nme.com/reviews/5502.htm) It received the strongest reviews of her career and quickly became a success throughout Europe, Asia and Australia, selling over 2 million copies worldwide. The single 'Spinning Around' became her first British number one in 10 years, and its accompanying video, featuring Minogue in revealing gold hot pants, received widespread television airplay. The subsequent single releases, including the duet 'Kids' with Robbie Williams, also sold strongly. She joined Madonna as the second female performer to achieve British number one singles in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
She played at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she performed a cover version of the ABBA hit 'Dancing Queen' and her then-current single, 'On A Night Like This'. She then embarked upon her biggest tour to date in the United Kingdom, and played to sell-out crowds in Australia, where she earned the distinction of having the most successful tour ever by a female artist. Her 6 planned Melbourne shows were increased to 22, due to public demand, and in the United States, Billboard Magazine wrote of her return to prominence. She won a 'Mo Award' for live entertainment in Australia, as 'Performer of the Year'.
In 2001 she released the album, Fever, which retained some disco elements and combined them with 1980s electropop. The first single, 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head', reached number one in most European countries, and topped the chart in both Britain and Australia for four weeks. The biggest success of her career, it reached number one in over 40 countries, and sold more than 4 million copies worldwide. The album's success was equally widespread, and after extensive airplay by American radio, Capitol Records released it in the US on February 26, 2002. It attracted favourable comment, with Rolling Stone calling it 'campy as a tent full of Boy Scouts and yet easy on the cheese', while Popmatters described it as 'a perfect album of gorgeous dance music'. 14 (http://www.metacritic.com/music/artists/minoguekylie/fever) She also attracted some scathing commentary, such as from Launch's Bob Gulla who wrote: 'she'll do virtually anything to get our attention. Not since Pia Zadora have we seen a more vacant talent grab... an astoundingly bland helping of hollow dance pop grooves and nauseating pleas for sex ... it's so desperately lightweight it's in imminent danger of disintegrating altogether'. 15 (http://launch.yahoo.com/read/story/12042063) The album debuted on the American Billboard chart at number 3, and the single reached number 7. Further singles were substantial hits throughout the world, and Minogue established a presence in the mainstream American market, achieving particular success in the club scene. The album sold over 7 million copies worldwide, and its other singles, 'In Your Eyes', 'Love At First Sight' and 'Come Into My World' were major hits throughout the world.
Her live tour promoting Fever was inspired by Broadway musicals and Las Vegas shows, and were notable for the elaborate sets, and the diversity of costumes and musical styles. Minogue said in an interview that she was finally in the position to express herself the way she wanted, saying she had always been 'a showgirl at heart'.
She won a 'Best Dance Recording' Grammy in 2004 for the single 'Come Into My World', against fellow nominees Madonna, Cher, Groove Armada and TÚlÚpopmusik. She had been nominated in the same category in 2003 for 'Love At First Sight'.
Her next album, Body Language (2003), was released following an invitation only concert at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. Titled Money Can't Buy, it presented Minogue in a more subdued manner but attracted mixed reviews. The British press were divided, with the main criticism being that nothing substantially new was presented, and that the new songs did not match the appeal of her previous hits. Despite this, the concert was made into a successful television special that drew high ratings, and in Switzerland it received an award for quality television. The album, released in November, downplayed the disco style and included elements of hip hop. New Musical Express wrote that the result was uneven, saying it was an 'extremely tastefully done, soulful modern r’n’b record....'Red Blooded Woman' is excellent cutting edge pop', but that the album as a whole 'sounds like someone trying to stay ahead of the game. In short, it sounds like a Madonna album'. 16 (http://www.nme.com/reviews/11485.htm) Minogue's official website quotes Entertainment Weekly as also comparing her to Madonna with the assessment 'dance floor minimalism that's everything Britney and Madonna wanted their cold, mechanical singles to be this year but weren't—slinky, seductive and striking'. Rolling Stone wrote that the album was 'fantastic... she turns up the heat, working her seductive voice in Prince-style electro-glitz disco gems such as 'Slow' and 'Secret (Take You Home)'. At thirty-five, she's ten times hotter than she was ten years ago ... definitely sounds like she has a few more tricks stored on her hard drive than Britney or Christina'. 17 (http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/album/_/id/4938310/kylieminogue?pageid=rs.Artistcage&pageregion=triple1) Sales in the United Kingdom and Australia were relatively low, despite the success of its first single, 'Slow', which reached number one in each territory. It became her ninth number one single in Australia, making her the first artist to achieve nine number one singles on the Australian charts. In the United States the album made little impression, although the singles became major club hits. In November 2004, 'Slow' was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of 'Best Dance Recording'.
As of 2005, Minogue has sold more than 40 million singles and 25 million albums worldwide, and has had at least one number one hit in over 45 countries. She released her second official greatest hits album on November 22, 2004, entitled Ultimate Kylie, along with her music videos on a DVD compilation of the same title. The album introduced her single 'I Believe in You', co-written with Jake Shears and Babydaddy from the Scissor Sisters. It became her 28th British top 10 single, making her the second most successful female performer on the British charts, behind Madonna. A tour named Showgirl, The Greatest Hits, reported to be the most extensive of Minogue's career, was announced in early 2005.
In 1989, Minogue starred in The Delinquents, which told the story of a young girl growing up in Australia during the late 1950s. Its release coincided with her popularity in Neighbours, and while both the film and Minogue's performance were the subject of derisive comments by critics, it was a commercial success. She appeared as 'Cammy' in the action film Street Fighter (1994), based on the video game series of the same name. The film was dismissed by fans of the game, received poor reviews by critics and did nothing to further her acting career, with The Washington Post calling her 'the worst actress in the English-speaking world'. 18 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/streetfighterpg13harrington_a0ad15.htm) Subsequent films such as Bio-Dome (1994), Sample People and Cut (both 2000) failed to attract an audience.
Australian film director Baz Luhrmann, who had taken an interest in Minogue in the early 1990s, cast her in Moulin Rouge! (2001) where she played the part of Absinthe, the Green Fairy, singing a line from The Sound of Music. Minogue's name was accidentally omitted from the ending credits of the film; however, it was later added in the booklet accompanying the Special Edition DVD. She also recorded a cover version of her childhood idol Olivia Newton-John's song 'Physical' for the soundtrack but it was not included. This cameo remains her most widely seen film performance. In 2004 she provided the voice of 'Florence' in a film based on The Magic Roundabout.
Image and celebrity status
Minogue has utilised the medium of the music video as the most effective way of promoting her image, and has consistently worked at creating and evolving her visual representation. Her earliest videos portrayed her as a 'girl-next-door' who was innocent and slightly gauche. When she took control of her portrayal in 1990, she quickly developed a more adult, slightly raunchier image, which caused her to be compared unfavourably to Madonna. Minogue admitted that she was an influence, but as her confidence grew she established a persona that differed considerably from that of Madonna. Unlike Madonna, Minogue has rarely portrayed herself as a sexual aggressor. Instead she presents herself as a more passive object of desire, and frequently imbues her performances with camp elements and humour. Madonna was seen to 'return the compliment' by wearing a 'Kylie Minogue' shirt for a performance at the Brit Awards.
During her career she has chosen photographers who attempt to create a new 'look' for her, and the resulting photographs have appeared in magazines from the cutting edge The Face, to the more traditionally sophisticated Vogue and Vanity Fair, in the process reaching a very broad demographic of consumers who may never buy a Minogue record, but who, as readers of the magazines, will know the Minogue face and name. Her stylist, William Baker has suggested that this is part of the reason she has entered in the mainstream pop culture of Europe more successfully than many other pop singers who concentrate simply on selling records. In 1993, Baz Luhrmann introduced her to the photographer Bert Stern, notable for his work with Marilyn Monroe. Stern photographed Minogue in Los Angeles and, comparing her to Monroe, commented that she had a 'similar vulnerability and awareness of the camera'. She has gained credibility by her association with people such as photographer Stephane Sednaoui and designer Jean Paul Gaultier.
Her music videos have touched on adult themes—an interracial relationship in 'Better The Devil You Know', lesbian posturing and drag queens in 'What Do I Have To Do', and telephone sex in 'Confide In Me'. She performed a slow strip tease in the Barbarella inspired 'Put Yourself In My Place', and wore revealing costumes in many of her videos, most notably those for 'Spinning Around' and 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head'. She has satirised herself, most notably in the video for 'Did It Again', in which the four major incarnations of her career, 'Cute Kylie', 'Dance Kylie', 'Sex Kylie' and 'Indie Kylie' battled for supremacy. Her Madame Tussaud's waxwork has been regularly updated to represent her changing image. In 2002, a figure of her wearing lingerie and in a provocative pose, attracted both praise and condemnation.
Her raunchy image, particularly since her 2000 return to prominence has caused elements of the British press to label her 'Sex Kylie'. She has created her own LoveKylie range of lingerie, and her saucy calendars have been consistently high sellers throughout much of her career. Despite the success of this marketing strategy, and her acceptance by a large audience as a contemporary sex symbol, her critics describe her willingness to display her body as an attempt to disguise her lack of talent.
Her detractors such as those discussed in the book La La La, have described her as a 'one dimensional performer' and 'dismiss her as pretty, but mindless and talentless'. Miki Berenyi of the group Lush said 'I have a massive problem with her because she epitomises the acceptable role ... it's a shame she gets so much credibility when there are so many women worth a hundred times that. It's war—you shouldn't stick up for Kylie, she should be fought at every turn'. She continues to attract discussion, both positive and negative. Paul Morley's study of the evolution of pop music, Words And Music: A History Of Pop In The Shape Of A City, employs Minogue as the vehicle by which pop is explored.
Throughout her career, Minogue has been the subject of intense media interest in both the United Kingdom and Australia, which has remained constant even while her success as a recording artist has fluctuated. Her relationships, including her current relationship with French actor, Olivier Martinez, have been extensively reported. 19 (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/allnews/tm_objectid=14506107&method=full&siteid=50143&headline=kylie-at-the-crossroads-name_page.html)
Early in her career, Minogue came to be regarded as a gay icon. While part of her appeal lies in her flamboyant costumes, her humour and sense of fun, and her confident sexual posturing, she has also consistently acknowledged the gay community throughout the world, not only by her willingness to perform at gay venues and at gay events, but also by her outspoken commitment to raising social awareness and acceptance towards people living with AIDS.
As she has matured, she has been accepted by a wider audience than simply that of her record buying fans, particularly in Australia, where her profile has been used to promote issues such as recycling projects through Planet Ark, as well as a campaign to raise public awareness about domestic violence and a kids' helpline. Her portrait hangs in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, and she has been featured on an Australian postage stamp.
Main article: Kylie Minogue discography
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