With the release of her 11th studio album Kylie finds herself in the unchartered territory of having fewer column inches than sister Dannii, thanks to a combination of the X Factor, Marks and Spencer and pregnancy! Then there’s the issue of Lady Gaga and a certain other X Factor judge who have threatened Kylie‘s reign as the princess of pop.
The disappointment of the first post-cancer album, X, was apparent for all to see; an average set of singles, no number one and most surprisingly no insight into the dark days of cancer treatment and subsequent survival. X suffered from too much collaboration and as a result a lack of cohesion. Whilst Aphrodite also includes a lengthy roster of songwriters and producers for hire, Stuart Price was drafted in to oversee the whole thing, retwiddling anything he didn’t originally have a hand in (described as “additional production”) – just as he did with Madonna‘s Confessions on a Dancefloor.
The album starts positively with 3 straight up club bangers, commencing with All the Lovers – Kylie’s best single since Love at First Sight. Get Outta My Way and Put Your Hands Up follow suit and would sit well on either Robyn or Kelis‘ recent superior dancefloor long players. Like the aforementioned Confessions there are no ballads here and Aphrodite is very much a dance record. The pace only modifies slightly midway on Closer and Everything is Beautiful with less success.
All the Lovers aside, there is a lack of truly great pop songs here and certainly very little to approximate Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, Spinning Around or Better The Devil You Know. Most interesting are the two tracks written and produced (again with added fiddling from Stuart Price) by Nerina Pallot and husband Andy Chatterley. Following her contribution to Diana Vickers’ debut album, Pallot continues her quest to become the next Cathy Dennis and she succeeds with the title track here which is the album’s highlight – coming on like Laura Branigan‘s 80s power rock take on Gwen Stefani‘s Hollaback Girl, complete with marching band drums. Better Than Today is undeniably Pallot and would have sat nicely alongside I Don’t Want To Go Out on her wonderful The Graduate album.
Elsewhere, famous collaborations fair less well. Too Much, co-penned by Jake Shears and Calvin Harris is about as generic as dance music gets. Cupid Boy, however, is a darker, harder kind of dance and works all the better for it. Kylie herself contributes only 3 co-writes here and like X, very little is revealed about her personal battles and journey to date.
Overall this is an improvement on X and certainly a decent soundtrack to the summer. Ultimately Aphrodite leaves Kylie with the accolade of being the ultimate singles artist but still without a truly great album in her back catalogue.
Words: Lee Bennett
Listen: KYLIE – Aphrodite