Mar 15

KYLIE MINOGUE – “Spinning Around”

Popular101 comments • 6,885 views

#863, 1st July 2000

kyliespin Most comebacks risk being overshadowed by the past. To find its distinct identity, “Spinning Around” has to battle the future. The second phase of Kylie’s career pivots on one single, and we’re a year out from it, but the gravity of “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” makes this nimble disco-pop track sound more a cautious herald than a triumphant return.

But in its moment, people looked very kindly on “Spinning Around”. The idea of a sophisticated, mildly indie-fied Kylie had proved more enticing than the commercial reality. For all the intrigue, risk and personal involvement of the singer as presented on Impossible Princess, the Kylie held in public affection was a cheerful pop performer, not an act prone to experiment. So Kylie presented “Spinning Around” as a rediscovery of core principles – an up-to-date execution of what Kylie fans had gone for in the first place. If a twelve year old had liked “I Should Be So Lucky”, then here was a song her twenty-four year old self could dance to on a Friday night with no irony or hesitation.

That’s a conservative impulse, but not a retro one – sounding like SAW was never on the cards. It’s also a more businesslike approach than the indie-Kylie years, a conscious affirmation of the brand values of Kylie, Inc. “Spinning Around” is smoothly on-trend, a confident glide around the disco revival’s boutique of sounds. For me, it comes to life when the Zapp-style vocoders arrive, with their ability to turn any rote lyric (”Baby baby baby… you know you like it like this”) into a burble of robot delight.

But this was always my problem with Kylie – her thin, pinched voice, present and unchanged on most of “Spinning Around”. I don’t find this a heinous single by any means, more a dreary, cautious one, whose success feels like a vote of confidence in Kylie Minogue in general, an affirmation that people still wanted a pop world with Kylie in it. That’s an achievement in itself, given that the music she arrived with – SAW’s aggressively brash pop – had taken such a mauling from fashion. But Kylie’s gift as a pop star – the point of her, even – was always how unusually likeable and straightforward she was. That had its downsides, as the cool and rather sniffy reception for Impossible Princess showed. But it also made her easy to forgive. “Spinning Around” was an ordinary single, but it did that job at least.



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  1. 61
    chelovek na lune on 29 Mar 2015 #

    Put me in the pro-“Try Again” camp. Then it struck, and today it still strikes me as being really rather good. (inferior to “Jumpin’ Jumpin'”? possibly, but that is no condemnation) Of its time, sure. Beat, production, voice, song+rap combo all work – and the mixture of melancholy and optimism is appealing too. Works to dance to, or to listen to. It was certainly the single that made me aware that Aaliyah was almost certainly a major talent on the way up (such a voice -though in retrospect the evidence for this had been there fo the hearing already six years earlier, at least) , and one can only wonder what she might have come up with had her life not ended at such a young age . But, at least we will have a chance to consider her at length later…

  2. 62
    Mark M on 29 Mar 2015 #

    Re61: Blimey, I hadn’t been aware that the Bunny looms… (not for Try Again, obv). (I also didn’t realise how many UK hits she actually had, going back to ’94).

  3. 63
    mapman132 on 30 Mar 2015 #

    Chart geek trivia: “Try Again” was the first song to top the Billboard Hot 100 without a single release, i.e. entirely on airplay. Of course it wouldn’t have been allowed on the chart at all before a 1998 rules change. It’s a decent enough song, but I’m with Swanstep, i.e. a bit surprised at the love it’s getting here.

  4. 64
    Ed on 30 Mar 2015 #

    @59, etc: “Not as good as Jumpin’ Jumpin'” is setting the bar very high indeed. That run of four singles from The Writing’s On The Wall: Bills Bills Bills, Bug-a-Boo, Say My Name and JJ, is the equal of any four-song stretch from the Beatles, Stones, Pistols, Smiths, Supremes or Girls Aloud, as far as I’m concerned.

    In spite of what the YouTube comments would suggest, though, it’s not a competition. And Try Again is both dazzlingly futuristic – that bassline! – and heart-achingly lovely, in its melody and Aaliyah’s delivery.

    But I can hear bunnies jumping (jumping) all over the place, so perhaps I should save the rest of my feelings for another time.

  5. 65
    lockedintheattic on 30 Mar 2015 #

    I’d add Get on the Bus to that four-track sequence – it kind of slipped through the radar coming between the first and second albums, but was added to the UK release of The Writing’s On The Wall as a bonus track and it made a great intro to that album’s new sound, as I think it’s some of Timbaland’s best production work and easily the equal of the first 4 proper singles from the album

  6. 66
    punctum on 30 Mar 2015 #

    “Threw away my old clothes/Got myself a better wardrobe.”

    The song stutters into being, coming out of the end of a long, dark tunnel of remembrance – that brief candle of 1988 Emulator string swoop being quickly snuffed out – with distant echoes of “I’m not the same” flickering into ever closer view. Do we like her like this?

    “Spinning Around” was an explicit attempt at the most major of comebacks; Kylie had not had a number one in Britain for over a decade, and throughout most of the nineties she wandered as though lost, and progressively less amiably. One of her last SAW hits had been the extremely self-aware “What In The World (Heard It All Before)” in which the team finally waved their white flag and admitted that there was only so much they could do with/for/to her, and the TOTP performance was suitably parodic. While she was extremely unlucky to miss out on a number one with “Confide In Me” it did mark the beginning of a period where we didn’t quite know what Kylie was for – let alone Kylie herself. Were the boy fantasies of Nick Cave or James Dean Bradfield necessarily any more valid than those of the grown men constructs of Stock, Aitken and Waterman? 1997’s Impossible Princess album was supposed to be her big post-New Pop/post-Spice return, and then the most impossible of all princesses died, and she had no answer to that. Thus she receded, or reduced, into becoming a Towa Tie typeface font. Would there be any of her left for the next century? This question was thrown into more problematic focus by Steps, for whom Waterman gleefully reworked “Better The Devil You Know” as though Kylie had never existed; it was a number four hit over Christmas 1999 – only half as successful as the original, but the original may as well have been invisible.

    Somewhere along the nineties by-roads she worked with the Pet Shop Boys, and Neil Tennant recommended her to Parlophone; at the time she seemed but one ministep away from a Saturday variety C list reliable, two pay cheques separating her from squatting on the bench in Channel Five’s karaoke gameshow Night Fever, one breath and a half away from becoming an involuntary guilty pleasure, or camp laughing stock. She was never going to settle for that.

    The gambit worked, and “Spinning Around” bestowed upon her all the saved-up goodwill which had been withheld from her by a confused or forgetful public for the best part of the nineties. In truth the record stands up more securely as a gesture, a marker of deceptively unflappable faith in those who don’t consider giving up an option, than as a particularly good pop single in itself; the old bounce is reinforced, while throughout Kylie is at pains to sextuple underline that this is now and this is her future (“And did I forget to mention that I found a new direction/And it leads back to me – yeah!” Talking about dreaming a highway…) and that the past, though eyed with no little hindsight-fuelled contempt (“Clearing this house out of joy that I borrowed from back in the day”). The music sounds like a modified, Waterman-less SAW – her cries of “I’m not the same” riding the Fairlight waves towards fadeout – but also like the initial building bricks of the world which she now intends to build for herself.

    That having been said, the song itself is slightly lacking in punctum punch; it dances around in a perfectly merry post-House way but can best be viewed as a launch pad for where she went next. Nevertheless her renewed triumph – and a one-off nostalgia comeback was ruled out by further major hits, a big-selling album and sold-out tour – was genuinely heartwarming, particularly taking into account the gold hot pants she wore in the video, which marked perhaps her greatest gesture of defiance; look, I’m 32 and I’m still sexy as hell, but on my own terms. Thus, after Madonna, she became the second female artist to score number one hits in three consecutive decades; in the video for “Spinning Around” she appears set to soar into space…and with her next number one, she nearly succeeded in exceeding the universe itself.

  7. 67
    swanstep on 30 Mar 2015 #

    @ed, 59, et al.. Fair enough on the push back to my ‘Jumpin Jumpin’ comparison. I was only meaning to resist the suggestion that ‘Try Again’ was way out ahead of the top-of-the-US-charts/mainstream at the time. No, D’s Child and Missy E esp. were killing it/thrilling it in this period (I think we’re all agreed). Saying that TA was way ahead of and apart from *all that* made no sense to me…. but you weren’t really saying that it turns out, so we’re good.

  8. 68
    Tom on 30 Mar 2015 #

    “Try Again” was particularly hotly anticipated because of “Are You That Somebody?”, which predates (I think) those DC singles and still sounds really weird, and the idea that Timbaland was saving his most far-out productions for Aaliyah. The other factor, I think, was that a lot of the appreciation for futurist R&B was coming from people who’d spent the 90s massively invested in dance music, and the acid house squelches on “Try Again” were an enormous button press for them!

  9. 69
    Tom on 30 Mar 2015 #

    (The flipside of Timba apparently caring more about his Aaliyah productions is that he kept rapping on them, of course.)

  10. 70
    mrdiscopop on 30 Mar 2015 #

    Bono once said pop stars are forever frozen at the age they become famous. He meant it as a comment on the childish behaviour of his contemporaries – but I think it applies to public perceptions, too.

    Kylie has never been allowed to grow up – her persona is still a childish fantasy of princesses and glitter. And when she tried to escape and act her age, she lost everyone but her core audience. The Nick Cave years were good for media narrative, but she soon retreated to safe ground with material like this, playing to the gallery for all she was worth (those hot pants are the most cynically calculated career move we’ve seen for a long while on these pages).

    Spinning Around is efficient and durable, with all the tedious mediocrity that implies. Her quality threshold gets higher once she’s got some wind in her sales – but from this point on, she plays it safe.

    It reached its nadir last year when her creatively-moribund Kiss Me Once album was almost immediately followed by an experimental, exciting EP with Fernando Garibay. You could tell which project she was more engaged with – and it wasn’t the one that had a major media spend for the marketing campaign.

    No wonder she dropped her label last week.

  11. 71
    Phil on 30 Mar 2015 #

    How is everyone defining ‘hot pants’, btw? They certainly aren’t the thing we called ‘hot pants’ when hot pants were in vogue in the early 70s, which were basically cut-off dungarees (tailored like that, though, not DIY in a Daisy Duke style). They certainly qualify as pants which are hot, so I suppose I can see the logic.

  12. 72
    Ed on 31 Mar 2015 #

    Those amazing Aaliyah singles are all the more remarkable for being attached to a couple of entirely forgettable movies.

    Are You That Somebody is from the Doctor Dolittle reboot, which is unseen by me and likely to stay that way. Try Again is from Romeo Must Die, which looks slightly more promising but sticks in my mind mostly because of Kanye West name-checking it in Never Let Me Down.

  13. 73
    Mark M on 31 Mar 2015 #

    Re72: I’ve seen Romeo Must Die, but… well, indeed don’t remember much about it. The hip-hop/martial arts crossover movie remains a bit of a Holy Grail (here’s me on Rza’s Man With The Iron Fists). I have a feeling that Jet Fi looked uncomfortable in RMD. DMX has a good screen presence – which reminds me that Hype Williams’ Belly remains (wrongfully) massively unloved (5.8 on IMDB, 13% on Rotten Tomatoes) and little seen.

  14. 74
    anto on 1 Apr 2015 #

    Actually, I kind of prefer it to ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ which is one of those tracks that feels almost hampered by it’s own perfectionism. ‘Spininng Around’ is a likeable champagne cocktail of a single which came as a pleasant surprise. There is a touch of the best of ’78 about it.

  15. 75
    Tommy Mack on 1 Apr 2015 #

    My memory (in concordance with many above) is that it was seen as a respectable comeback and everyone (except Kelly Jones) was glad to have her back. Retrospectively it is rather eclipsed by The Bunny which was ubiquitous. An aside: a guy at university was bragging about his mate being in the video for this and having got ‘this close to Kylie’s arse’ to which a mate told him he sounded like Gareth from The Office. Which indeed he did.

  16. 76
    Andrew on 1 Apr 2015 #

    oh god, what was Kelly Jones’ problem?

    A more pedestrian post-Britpop success you’ll not meet, but Stereophonics were *everywhere* at this point. Perhaps Kelly was getting a bit big for his boots? (“LEAVE KYLIE ALONE”, etc.) I can remember smirking when the NME knocked a few spots off him after that dire press-baiting ‘Mr Writer’.

    We’ll have a chance to chat more about them in a few Popular years, of course.

  17. 77
    DanusJonus on 2 Apr 2015 #

    Slightly shocked at having being persuaded to join this site in order to respond to a comment about Kelly Jones. Nevertheless, to add to the ‘What was his problem’ train of thought, I had exactly the same issue when at college, though on a wider level about the band in general. I could never understand why him or his band were so popular among people I knew. At the time my late teenage arrogance encouraged me to refer to them as ‘Top Man music’. They were the late 90’s accessible guitar band for so many people of my age, but personally I never saw it. I remember one girl thinking that ‘Same Sized Feet’ was a masterpiece.

    I distinctly remember the same night I went to see the Blur ‘Singles’ tour in Birmingham than many friends were off to Manchester to see the Stereophonics, firmly believing that this was the more exciting prospect. I did wonder whether in 15 years they’d still hold the Stereophonics in such high regard.

    Anyway, just wanted to say the site is rather fantastic but it may take me six months to catch up with all the comments.

  18. 78
    Tommy Mack on 3 Apr 2015 #

    The best bit of Kelly Jones-baiting in the NME was a Thrills spoof piece headlined UN salutes Kelly Jones’ bravery in criticising Hear*Say. More on them to come too of course.

  19. 79
    23 Daves on 3 Apr 2015 #

    A friend of mine edited the entertainment section of a regional magazine who had supported The Stereophonics in their earliest days, and had generally been treated favourably by both the band and V2 as a result. At the height of their success, on the other hand, Jones arsily cancelled an interview with him on multiple occasions, until he was left right up against a deadline with no copy to file. So he wrote a long article about his recent negative experiences, calling out the band and Jones on their lofty behaviour, inevitably finishing with the line “Sorry, I’m just telling it to you like it really is”.

    Interestingly, someone called him from the record company the day the article went to press and asked him “Who put you up to this?” which indicates that the band were becoming somewhat difficult and obviously making enemies at this point.

  20. 80
    Tommy Mack on 6 Apr 2015 #

    Just caught Stereophonics covering Rod on TOTP2. I’d forgotten what an arrogant knob Kelly was…It’s like Robbie Williams without the dash of vulnerability.

  21. 81
    DanusJonus on 9 Apr 2015 #

    I think Kelly Jones had a classic case of small man’s syndrome. He was only 3 foot 7 inches tall (or small?) you know. He used to carry two copies of the yellow pages around with him to stand on when the situation called for it.

  22. 82
    Phil on 9 Apr 2015 #

    Apparently he was Kylie Minogue’s toyboy for a while. Not her boyfriend – literally a toy boy, she used to carry him round in a bag and get him out when she was bored.

  23. 83
    Tommy Mack on 10 Apr 2015 #

    There’s something of Jeremy Clarkson about the neo Dad Rock set (Jones, OCS’ Steve Craddock, Nole etc) isn’t there? They long to be like the swaggering, entitled, care-free heroes of their record collection (and fair enough, who hasn’t fantasised about being a rock god) but instead they’re a neurotic, defensive bunch, jealously guarding their ever shrinking fiefdom of ‘proper music’. It all seems very insecure: if you genuinely felt superior to pop then you could afford to be generous to pop in a ‘well, it’s alright for enentertainment’ sort of way but a lot of them seem to genuinely resent the existence of music which isn’t their own.

  24. 84
    DanusJonus on 10 Apr 2015 #

    Re 83: Very very true. I think we could also easily add Embrace into that category as well. God the McNamara brothers used to get on my wick, I’ll never forget their first big NME interview when they talked about how only Brian Wilson and The Beatles were ahead of them. I also think the ‘neo Dad Rock’ crew became more neurotic and defensive when they realised that the era of having top 5 singles was only a passing phase. I’d wager that there was a correlation with the quality of their output as well (Marchin’ Already anyone?). Then again, somehow, Dakota went to number one about 5 years later; I should perhaps save some invective for when we get to that point.

  25. 85
    Mark M on 10 Apr 2015 #

    Re84: My recollections of doing a very similar early interview with Embrace are on the Drugs Don’t Work comment thread.

  26. 86
    Phil on 10 Apr 2015 #

    Oi, leave Embrace out of it! I thought TGWO was quite genuinely wonderful (apart from McNamara Mi’s dreary thrashers) – I remember telling someone they were as much better than the Verve as the Verve were better than Oasis.

    One-album wonder, though – very little idea what they did next.

  27. 87
    DanusJonus on 11 Apr 2015 #

    OK, Embrace confession. I did actually buy ‘Come Back to What you know’, so I must have liked it, it was more their comments and his voice that made me want to sit in a darkened room with a bucket on my head. Some of the songs were OK, but everything seemed to be the same tempo and rhythm. Then again, that was true for a lot of guitar music at the time. I remember getting the piano sheet music for What’s the Story or Be Here Now and realising how almost everything was 4/4 and the bass never varied from four crochets in a bar. In Oasis’ case that may have been due to Guigsy’s limitations, there just seemed to be a template that many bands at the time were following.

    I think Embrace did about 5 or 6 albums. I may have made this up but I’m sure Coldplay ended up writing a single for them a few years later which did reasonably well?

    Mark M, I’d love to read that interview, though I presume it won’t be easy to locate? I have a bucket and dark room on standby.

  28. 88
    Phil on 11 Apr 2015 #

    They did carry on, but my interest in them fell off a cliff with “Hooligan” and never returned – which makes me wonder if they were just the band for that moment in time, and/or in my life.

  29. 89
    Mark M on 11 Apr 2015 #

    Re87: The actual published piece is only 250 words of ‘hey! exciting new band!’ stuff – I might be able to dig it up if you’re still interested.

  30. 90
    Tommy Mack on 11 Apr 2015 #

    #87: yeah, in retrospect, it seems laughable that the NDRC (Neo Dad Rock crew) marched under the banner ‘proper music by proper musicians’ when so many of them couldn’t play or arrange for toffee. To consider yourself the peer of Brian Wilson just because your record label can afford to slather strings over your four chord dirge is the height of deluded arrogance.

    Not that chops are a particularly important criterion for me. Give me The Ramones over any of the above-mentioned jokers any day (or to return to topic, Kylie over Mariah). But it was weird that all these bands sold themselves as ‘classic songwriting by proper musicians’ when for the most part, they were nothing of the sort.

    I quite liked Embrace for a few singles, the contrast between feeble vocals and overwrought arrangements brought out a certain vulnerability in their songs but I soon got sick of the ‘orchestras on everything’ fad they ushered in.

    Disclosure: I am going zero tolerance on the NDRC because I am so ashamed of how much I loved Moseley Shoals when I was 15…

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