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A Bit Of A Failed Experiment From The Pop Princess
Body Language - Kylie Minogue
Member Name: missrarr
Body Language - Kylie Minogue
Advantages: Three stand-out tracks include a truly good Number One single in 'Slow'
Disadvantages: Too much filler material and no diversity amongst those tracks
I may be a rock chick by preference but I am, at the end of the day, female, and sometimes us girls just need to listen to some pop. If I'm going to do that I am not going to turn to the latest offering of the X Factor and I'm not going to worship at the altar of Beyonce. I'm going to turn to something truly, provenly, poptastically fabulous and once upon a time I did so and chose a Kylie album.
Body Language was the follow-up to Kylie's astonishingly good pop album Fever. It was headed by it's first release, Slow, and the cover features Kylie looking decidedly Parisien and 70s-model-esque, all smokey eyes and fringe-tastic hair, with a crop-stripe top and bare midriff and tight black leggings whilst sitting on a bar, with the text of the cover art stretching behind her. Think Brigitte Bardot for the 21st Century and you're about there!
The title of the album is seemingly in reference to the first track and indeed first single release, Slow, which features the truncated line "read my....body language".
***THE INFO BIT***
New on Amazon: £4.20 (also available second hand and MP3)
Release: Nov 2003
The first release from this album and it took Kylie back to number one. It's a seductive, sensuous track and as the name suggests, it's not in a hurry to go anywhere.
Upon its release, this track was gifted a video shot from above of Kylie in a stunning dark blue swimsuit-style outfit, contorting and writhing on a towel surrounded by various other dancers doing precisely the same thing. Photographically and coneptually, it was pretty brilliant, and it totally backed up the mood created by the track.
As Body Language was released in 2003, nearly a whole decade ago, how does it hold up? Well the intro to Slow is not slow as such but sensuous, with a clear smooth baseline but swirling disco / electro toplines. Kylie's lyrics are whispered and husky, breathy and it's fairly obvious what the theme here is; seduction and nothing less. This is backed up by the lyrics "hear what I'm saying, and I haven't said a thing....come on and dance with me, yeah, slow...". Nothing is rushed here, it's an indulgent retro tease of a track and very effective for what it does, reflecting a more sophisticated take on the brazen sex goddess tag attached to the artist after the previous album's Can't Get You Out Of My Head and the infamous outfits that went with it.
Synthy intros lead us to sugary-sweet breathy high-notes from Kylie. I don't believe this was released as a single. I'm sure that this was intended as a continuation of the more teasing, sensuous lead single but I personally find this track disjointed, with the vocals overly affected by production and far too removed from the backing track, with no real hook that you can get into. If this were my usual type of music I wouldn't have an urge to dance to it and if I did I wouldn't know how to go about it. There are too many unexpected vocals, synth tweaks or occasional expressive "ohh!"s from the artist, as if someone has just administered a swift slap to the behind, for this to have any coherence - and that's before the electronically-tweaked voices of backing singers get thrown into the mix. A miss and a sore disappointment after the sensuous genius of Slow.
***SECRET (TAKE YOU HOME)***
A brief heartbeat-like intro leads to more electro sounds as this kicks in, Kylie follows soon after - thankfully singing again but here still she's against a stripped-down electro track and it makes her lack of range either hugely evident or her producers told her to rein it in. This is a pop vocal track over an electronic noise that has no depth, no bass and sounds both underproduced and overproduced at the same time. I suspect the artist would struggle to perform this live - it's more R'n'B than her usual style - so whilst her shortcomings in this musical genre are made up for by her voice being made to sound flawless, this is made laughable by Beyonce et al - and I don't even like them.
Vocally, you have what you expect; fliration, and nothing less. There only thing new here is Kylie's formula being applied to a new backing track, and frankly it doesn't work.
Another basic intro leads to a slightly more built-up bar or two before the breathy lyrics kick in. Again, this is massively produced. There's a little more disco-esque sound to this, but when it follows the dire track before, there's not much about it that stands out. At this stage, I'm starting to think that all this album is about is Kylie breathily singing her usual lyrics and then just letting her trendy producer of the time take over when she's gone home and turn it into whatever they want. Again, there's no depth here, no style. Okay, nobody else was putting out this sound at the time and I think the artist and production team were looking to really follow up that Bardot album cover with a new sound but it never washed with the buying public and there's one reason - it's boring, it's shallow and it's useful only if you were opening a cocktail bar in the early 'noughties'. It's now obsolete and when compared with later efforts such as "Two Hearts", this is insipid.
More disco-y, dancy fun here. Boring vocals kick in soon after the music does, in precisely the same tone as before, but there is some hope as a more bass-y electro sound builds and the lyrics start to show some rhythm and life. This is more energetic than the last few offerings whilst also having the same breathy vocals, much more envisagable as something one might dance to, more of a classy nightclub track with hints of eighties influence and synth edges, still nothing amazing but far superior than some on this album. It proves one thing; as with Madonna's dance album of the same time, this genre switch for female artists was viable if supported by a strong backing track - something Kylie herself went on to prove with the aid of the Scissor Sisters and something Rhianna has since been all over. The vocals here are snappier, sharper and more fun - one of the better tracks.
***RED BLOODED WOMAN***
The resurgence of the album continues here in a big leap - this was another single and the dark, sexy video including Kylie in skin-tight clothing fitted with the tone very well. Red Blooded Woman is a full-bodied track that comes out of nowhere when played after the tracks the precede it on the album. Kylie is no longer just a breathy accessory to a dance track that never started, but the driving vocal force behind a subtle yet perfectly-produced seductive pop track that no doubt is still played in night clubs and I am sure was remixed to devilry in its day. "This girl wants to rock with you" sings the tiny Australian and I'm sure that it made a lot of people want to dance with it.
At the end of the day, Kylie is now and was at this stage a stadium entertainer, and the crucial point is that I could see her charming the crowd with this one. To me, this, in it's brazen pop style laced with R'n'B tendencies, and Slow outshine the rest of the tracks here and belong on a far stronger album cut in the same style.
Synths are back, as are the breathy lyrics...or just breathy sounds over the intro. But this time I'm not complaining. For all I was apprehensive, the intro continues into lyrics in the same truly delightfully light and sensuous style, and the R'n'B influences are toned down just enough here for the chorus, which is utterly delightful, to take over. Okay, so we're lacking lyrical and vocal depth here but this song is a treat, an illicit indulgence just like the title suggests, and for all the continually samey tone of Minogue's breathy lyrics can grate between the chorus, when you reach that recurring section of the song it is truly well-written, well-executed and as the song builds to the climax, the production overlays the lyrics of it so effectively as to make it almost impossibly to get out of your head.
Failings would be the mid-track change of tone, although the one that follows is actually an example of how the R'n'B influence on this album does work - in the late 90's style, think En Vogue for the lighter audience, it does add texture and depth and layers to this track.
And that gorgeous, soothing seduction from Chocolate gets wrecked by a disjointed synth intro to Obsession. The vocals try to match this mess and early signs are not good. It doesn't get any better. This is a filler and doesn't deserve to follow something like Chocolate. It's like a bad Spice Girls album filler and Kylie should have known better. Skip it...
***I FEEL FOR YOU***
Wow, a truly 80s intro. Thunder, and rain, then birdsong and drums. Then in comes a fun, poppy backdrop of sound to Kylie singing, with some crazy over-produced "backing" singing that overpowers the whole sound. What is this mess?
I keep waiting for this to gain some coherence and momentum, and convince me that this isn't just a complete waste of time. Fever was such a strong pop album - unashamed to be what it was and consequently packed full of pop gems - and yet this follow up gives us this nonsense? Skip again...
The intro to this sounds like a direct rip off of 'Underwater Love'. It's nothing like as good. It truly does continue to sound like a slightly less aquatic version of that iconic track and I can't honestly pick out a single point of merit for this younger version. Again it's clearly devised as a means of seduction and meant to embody glamorous subtlety; it achieves none of those aspirations.
A darker, slower intro; briefly makes you think of Madonna's Frozen. This is short-lived; Kylie soon kicks in and at least she's singing this time, although still in the same massively limited range as the rest of the songs on offer here. At this point, be it by general disappointment at the new style or the album as a whole, I can't work up any enthusiasm for this song. It's nothing new. It's hyper-produced, there's no real emotion in the vocals, and for all the lyrics profess a desire to be with the object of affections, I'd no sooner deploy this as a means of romance than I would a cheese grater to my own leg. It's another filler and not very well done; there's no emotion to grip on to, just background noise that is impossible to connect with.
Please let it end on a good note. Oh, no. More half-arsed synthy pop. Almost reflective of the worst 90s disjointed pop that you could get, which is ironic because the failings of most of those acts was poor production, whereas this had all the production you could want. Oh well. A thoroughly disappointing end to what is a thoroughly disappointing album...
Slow, Chocolate and Red Blooded Woman were released as singles from this album and it's obvious why; they're good, full-bodied pop, albeit in various ways. They deserved to be singles but they never reached the heights of Can't Get You Out Of My Head. But they wouldn't - that was one of the most iconic pop tracks of all time, and they had the sorry task of trying to match it. They never would, so their lack of chart-topping glory was understandable (although Slow did manage it, I believe). But they are the only gems amongst an album which is largely a massive disappointment, something that tries to take the best of earlier 90s pop and make that what it aimed to be but produced instead something even worse.
I suppose that the stand out tracks make this seem even worse when taken as a whole album but the fact that Fever was so comprehensively enjoyable shows this up to be truly poor, and that the artist's intended reinvention was a seriously bad shout. Somehow she survived it to remain popular when many lesser artists would have faded after such a bad offering, so fair play to Kylie, but this is by far and away that worst I've heard from her.
Kylie can still turn out a truly good track and her record as a live entertainer is unquestionable; she may not be everyone's ideal artist but you can't deny the facts. But it's albums like this that, for me, reduce the reputation of female pop artists. A few stand outs and a load of fillers, and at worst I could suggest that the three stand-out tracks aren't even truly in the same style as the dross that fills the rest of the album, which suggests severe laziness on the parts of both artist and producer.
A miss. Sorry Kylie.
Summary: An experiment that went wrong?