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Apr 20

KYLIE MINOGUE – “Slow”

Popular21 comments • 3,561 views

#963, 15th November 2003

I’m raising money for domestic violence charity Refuge by running a People’s Pop Poll on Twitter, which starts in May. If you can spare any money, please consider donating (and nominating a favourite pop track!)

The extraordinary success of “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” did more than revive Kylie – it confirmed her, all over again, as an adopted national treasure, a woman who’d be guaranteed at least a respectful hearing, whatever she did next. And it liberated her to let that “next” be whatever she liked, from electrotrash, to weird country-pop, to full-orchestration belters. She went from being an act who a site like Pitchfork would review for an April Fool’s Joke to someone they’d cover instinctively, a journey to respectability the rest of pop took alongside her. For good and ill.

“Slow” takes the electropop momentum of “Can’t…” and hushes it, inverting it into a slinky knot of twining, bubbling synths. The way the backing of “Slow” shimmers and twinkles over a gentle bassline nods to then-fashionable microhouse – it’s like a Madonna record if her magpie eye had landed on Kompact. Madonna is a touchpoint in other ways, too – Kylie’s breathy vocals take a cue from the early-90s “Justify My Love”/”Erotica” style (The “Read my…body language” break being the clearest swipe). It’s a good fit for her – a way to give some grain and contrast to a thin voice – though still feels a bit like being seduced by a chipmunk.  

Still, “Slow” marks a rare thing for Popular – a happy-ever-after. This low-key final number one is the start of a late career that’s been more varied (and better, truth be told) than most of her first decade. I’ve stumbled sometimes trying to enjoy her as a performer rather than an icon-next-door, and it’s fitting that “Slow” lands in the that familiar “good but not quite convincing” zone for me. But it’s as hard as ever to dislike Kylie, a star who survived with her integrity, and our affection, not just intact but increased.

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Comments

  1. 1
    ThePensmith on 28 Apr 2020 #

    Pleasantly surprised to see such a positive assessment of this from you, Tom. I say that largely because many Kylie fans (present commenter not included) seem to be a bit touchy about the ‘Body Language’ album as a whole, and where it stands in her second wind canon.

    The main criticism that gets driven towards the album, and ‘Slow’, is that it isn’t another ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ or ‘Spinning Around’. Likewise true of the unbunnied ‘Red Blooded Woman’ and ‘Chocolate’ that were also lifted as singles from this album. It was also the only second wind album of hers that wasn’t promoted with a tour – she instead did a ‘Money Can’t Buy’ concert for fans at Hammersmith Apollo that was screened on ITV the weekend before its release. And – I mean this in the nicest possible way – that’s the whole point.

    You only need go back to the S/A/W days of her career when she took control of her image on ‘Better The Devil You Know’ to know that she wasn’t going to be an artist staying in one place all the time. She’s a smarter cookie than people have only very recently given her credit for. If she’d stayed in the same place career wise, image wise and sound wise she would more than likely be filling up the bill on a ‘Here and Now Tour’ with Sonia and Limahl.

    I have always admired her bottle and sheer nerve holding for taking unexpected routes in her career, and for making diversions that on paper don’t work, but more often than not turn out to be winning, if not commercially then certainly musically and creatively.

    Her most recent studio album ‘Golden’ from 2018 is a great example of that, a song like ‘Dancing’ still sounds unmistakably like her, but the use of elements of country and folk music marry so well to the pop sensibility she has always carried with her.

    I loved the minimalism of ‘Slow’, and the way it gradually became an earworm the more you heard it. It suited the lusty, whispery vocal she did on it and the video was one of her best. I’ll go for an 8 on this I think.

  2. 2
    Coagulopath on 29 Apr 2020 #

    It’s a well-kept secret that many famous “Australian” things and people actually aren’t.

    The pavlova cake is from New Zealand. The dingo was probably descended from Indonesian wild dogs. Mel Gibson was born in New York to an Irish mother and an American father. The last lineup of AC/DC to tour was Angus & Stevie Young (Scotland), Chris Slade (Wales), Cliff Williams (England), and Axl Rose (United States of America.) Kylie Minogue is 50% Australian, which is probably the best we can ask for in a national icon. It’s either her or Rupert Murdoch.

    “Slow” is a catchy and well-constructed together song. It’s hard to say what’s missing. You know that feeling you get after listening to a beloved song 20 times in a short space of time? “I like this, but I’m also bored”? Most Minogue songs produce that feeling after my 2nd listen.

    You heard her everywhere when I was growing up, but a lot of it seemed like residual momentum from “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”. Her albums tended to produce one hit single each with the others stalling out (as if the public was saying “okay, we put you on the ARIA charts ONCE, don’t overstay your welcome.”) Even in Australia, she couldn’t replicate the broadside volley of hits from the average Madonna album.

    But I like the vocals, which are vaporous yet carry the track. Minogue was influenced by Adam Ant, who was similar to her in some ways (a limited vocalist who relied on enunciation and rhythmic/tonal tricks as much as actual singing, per se).

  3. 3
    Stephen Emmett on 30 Apr 2020 #

    Now track check. NOW 56, CD 1, Track 3 after the previously bunnied Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love” and the unbunnied Rachel Stevens track “Sweet Dreams My LA Ex”.

  4. 4
    Lee Saunders on 30 Apr 2020 #

    Speaking in Popular terms, if Loneliness marked one path out of Flat Beat (harsh electro house) then this marks another. The crisp roll of the Four Tet-ish beat, the clear glass synthline, how nimbly the song proceeds through its climax (if you can call it that, the whole song is an upwards slither) while clearly in no hurry (“Don’t wanna rush it, let the rhythm pull you in”), how undecorated the arrangement is (ultimately this probably isn’t much more minimal than CGYOOMH, but the gradual build-up of sounds spotlights how little there is in the mix). The Kompakt influence is very apparent but I’d describe it as highlighting common ground between Les Rhythm Digitales at his most melodic (cf. his starkly clean proto-80s revivalism on songs like Sometimes) and Loco Dice at his most sparse and rhythmic (the Minimal Explosion mix et al).

    I recall the caption during an old digital TV ‘Every No 1 of the 2000s’ thing doing the rare thing of offering an opinion by saying something along the lines of “of course, this wasn’t the comeback record any of us truly wanted,” but I’ve never sensed that as the consensus and indeed Kylie considers it her best song, which I guess is because it really does play to her strengths, the enjoyment in her voice as she explores the streamlined disco she herself is inspiring to butterfly in real time – the minimalism even spreads to the incomplete-seeming chorus (“yeah….slow”, not even ‘slowly’ but you’d never question why). 8

    The Body Language album I like a lot – it unites Mantronix and Green Gartside and regardless of her bijou voice she still finds a way to make something relatively hard-edged like Red Blooded Woman work.

    At #2 was Blazin’ Squad’s Flip Reverse, notable solely for being performed on the first edition of the final Top of the Pops revamp – with episodes broadcast live again, the show relished in its fatal “All New” banner by doing things they hadn’t done before, like get a horde of the Squad’s friends in matching hoodies (bearing both the Squad and TOTP logos) to dance around the Television Centre courtyard before being entering the studio onto some sort of elaborate B-stage; the once cheap and cheerful show was now happy to let a ten-piece act perform with a hundred dancers all in the name of desperate Spectacle.

    Not much else new in the Top 40, but Matt Goss’ second stalled attempt at a solo career began (and practically ended) with I’m Comin with Ya at #22.

  5. 5
    ThePensmith on 1 May 2020 #

    #4 – oh God. The Tim Kash years. They were grim! I am certainly not looking forward to when BBC Four starts rerunning those ones – if indeed they do. Mind you, Fearne Cotton – who was hosting Top of the Pops Saturday for CBBC – was the Beeb’s next logical choice after they axed Tim for his sheer incompetency and failure to click with the audience, and even she couldn’t save it. The actual song that was number one on the first ‘All New’ show is two Popular entries away (they had the acrobats off the then BBC One idents for some bizarre reason), although Kylie performed on that same ill-fated relaunch show singing ‘After Dark’ from the ‘Body Language’ album.

  6. 6
    Cumbrian on 1 May 2020 #

    2: Identity is a tricky thing – the idea that AC/DC are somehow not Australian, when the band was formed in Australia and came up through the Australian touring scene, simply because of where they were born, is somewhat reductive. It follows the same argument as people claiming that England cricketer Jofra Archer isn’t English because he was born and grew up in Barbados, even though his dad is English and he’s thus a British citizen. Better to say, they’re this and more. Inclusivity rather than exclusivity.

    Slow is fine – Kylie might think it’s her best song but, you know, death to the author and all that, so I reckon her best is probably something off Fever or maybe Confide In Me – fine is not a pejorative. This is certainly more to my taste than a number of other number 1s happening in this specific era.

  7. 7
    ThePensmith on 1 May 2020 #

    #6 – ‘Confide In Me’ is my all time favourite Kylie song, I love it’s energy and it’s slight hint at darkness. I’ve got a lot of love for the DeConstruction years of her career, purely because of the breadth of material and the kind of risks she took that I mentioned above. A record like ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’ with Nick Cave is just sumptuous. When they performed it at her slot at Glastonbury last year it reminded me what a lovely and overlooked song it was.

  8. 8
    Coagulopath on 1 May 2020 #

    @6 Absolutely! There’s more to nationality than where you drop out of a uterus. I only mention it because it amuses me.

  9. 9
    James BC on 1 May 2020 #

    If Kylie rates this as her best song it’s probably because of how it goes down live. After all, she only records a track once, but she’s performed each one live hundreds of times. Though I’ve never been to a Kylie concert myself, so I can’t comment – can anyone shed any light?

    Personally I rate the number 36 smash hit The One as her best song – it’s everything that’s good about her turned up as high as it will go.

  10. 10
    MBanyard on 3 May 2020 #

    #9 Agree 100%. The One is absolutely fantastic!

  11. 11
    Inkwisitive on 4 May 2020 #

    #9, #10 – I feel a similar way about Wow from 2008, very catchy Kylie song and live accompanied by some fun roller-disco action

  12. 12
    Kit on 4 May 2020 #

    (not sure I get the distinction of Minogue only being “50% Australian” — because her records have all been co-written or produced by people from other countries [bar Where The Wild Roses Grow]?)

  13. 13
    Ed on 4 May 2020 #

    Kylie’s conquest of Pitchfork world gives me an excuse to ask if anyone has seen Trolls World Tour, which apparently is a dramatisation of the debate between Rockism and Poptimism. Acted out by trolls representing different musical genres.

    I was listening to a discussion of it on the pretty good film podcast The Big Picture, when someone said: “The debate between Rockism and Poptimism really broke out with an article in the New York Times in 2006…” How soon they forget.

  14. 14
    Hectorthebat on 4 May 2020 #

    Sorry, but “everything about Kylie turned up to 11” is surely “Your Disco Needs You”

  15. 15
    Captain Z on 4 May 2020 #

    My favourite Kylie song from this era, possibly ever, is ‘Chocolate’ – the third single from this album. I had never even heard it until two or three years ago, whereas I remember all her other singles being all over the radio at the time. There is an unreleased version with a verse from Ludacris, and I have a feeling that would have been a much more popular hit if Kylie hadn’t disliked it enough to stop its release.

  16. 16
    PapaT on 6 May 2020 #

    15- My main memory of Chocolate is that the review on (I think) Teletext was incensed about it including a Spanish Guitar which (I guess?) they thought had no place in a pop song. Was such a baffling and specific complaint that it’s always stuck in my mind. I also remember the NME review where they implied they were bravely subverting an “Everybody Loves Kylie” hegemony by panning it. Slow did seem to start a bit of a backlash.

  17. 17
    AMZ1981 on 7 May 2020 #

    I remember being unconvinced by Slow at the time, and having revisited it just now I still dislike it. It sounds laboured and robotic with no emotional hook. As it turned out to be her last number one it should be said that in 1988 the idea that the breezy girl from Neighbours who sang I Should Be So Lucky would have a number one single in 2003 must have been improbable. And yet like a few artists before and after she defied the odds. And it may be because, no matter how much she experimented during the nineties and gained a second wind as a millennium gay icon, the Kylie of 1988 was still there. Slow seems to lack that, any generic female vocalist could have sung it.

    That said CGYOOMH was impossible to follow so Slow may have been a deliberate attempt to take a step back and it was unfortunate that her cancer diagnosis a year later would delay the follow up.

  18. 18
    Lee Saunders on 8 May 2020 #

    Word also on the Chemical Brothers remix, which sounds like one of their Electronic Battle Weapon 12″s with its brittle acid climax

  19. 19
    cis on 10 May 2020 #

    there is a Kompakt version of this btw – a cover by Matias Aguayo where he sings it over Michael Mayer’s Lovefood. it’s poised quite nicely on the border between cute and sinister.

    (Though my favourite kylie/kompakt crossover is probably Mayer’s “Falling Hands”, from 2002, which loops Kylie’s “Falling” into a dizzy swirl)

  20. 20
    Shiny Dave on 14 May 2020 #

    Back at CGYOOMH, I suggested that Kylie’s voice was as “small and cutely beguiling” as Kylie herself. “Slow” is arguably where the two are deliberately thrown together, Kylie’s performance putting the “kitten” in “sex kitten” while tiny digital boops stay out of her way.

    It might just exist even more firmly in the shadows of CGYOOMH than “Spinning Around” did (which, considering Tom’s intro to the latter woke the bunny for the former, is saying something), but all three of the Kylie C21 chart-toppers act as a sort of Digital Disco Trilogy, each part more minimalist than the last. This is too far down that road to be the highlight of that trilogy – it’s comfortably the least hooky, for a start – but its super-concentrated robo-snug has its own appeal. Not sure if 6 or 7, but am sure it’s going into some of my softer playlists.

  21. 21
    dollymix on 27 May 2020 #

    I don’t know if I love this as a single, but it’s an excellent opener to what I think is Minogue’s best album.

    9- There’s a great live version of this from the Aphrodite: Les Folies album that takes it more into lizard lounge jazz territory. I think it’s also one of the better tracks on the Kylie-with-strings album The Abbey Road Sessions (which mostly isn’t good). The minimalism of the original gives a lot of room for experimentation.

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