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Like fellow gay icon Madonna, Kylie Minogue is a master of reinvention, borrowing heavily from the latest trends in an ongoing quest to stay musically relevant. If you’re expecting Body Language, Minogue’s ninth studio album, to be a sequel to her massive 2002 hit Fever, you’ll be sorely disappointed. In a stylistic departure, Minogue explores new (or shall we say old) territory, abandoning nouveau disco in a bold move toward electroclash, ’80s synth pop and contemporary R&B beats.
While Body Language may offer nothing entirely groundbreaking, there is plenty here to like. From the slinky seductiveness of “Slow, ” the opening track and first single, to the mid-tempo dance delight of “Sweet Music, ” on which Kylie dares us to “check out this groove ” as she heads “into a new dimension, ” the album pulses with early ’80s blips, beeps and driving bass lines that would make Gary Numan proud.
The problem, if you want to call it that, is that no obvious hit stands out from the pack. With its alluring minimalist rhythms and lyrical eroticism, the album works best when taken as a whole. It’s the closest thing to a make-out record Minogue has ever recorded, alternating bump-and-grind beats with more danceable fare. That said, Body Language finds Minogue trying to keep up with younger pop princesses on the scene in terms of sex appeal. Her breathy vocals and sex kitten purrs combined with the vampish Bridgette Bardot-meets-Britney Spears cover art signal Minogue’s willingness to please in a bid for acceptance in the U.S. market.
Managing to be simultaneously modern and retro, “Red Blooded Woman, ” the album’s second international single, is her most blatant ploy for a larger American audience. Featuring R&B rhythms reminiscent of Destiny’s Child, the song also pays homage to Dead or Alive as Minogue coos, “You got me spinning round, round, round, round (like a record). ”
Cathy Dennis, the early ’90s hit maker who penned and produced “Can’t Get You Out of My Head ” and two other standout tracks on Fever, is on board again, this time writing the infectious hook of “After Dark. ” While the result isn’t as thrilling as the Fever masterpiece, “After Dark ” is a well-constructed mid-tempo dance number that serves as a link between the two albums. It seems Dennis has been too busy writing and producing songs for American Idols Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken (not to mention “Toxic ” from Spears’ In The Zone) to repeat her previous triumph this time around.
On “Secret/Take You Home, ” a song that borrows the refrain from a 1985 Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam hit, Minogue even tackles rap with better results than Madonna achieved on “American Life. ” The only major misstep is “I Feel For You. ” No, it isn’t the Prince-penned Chaka Khan hit, but it certainly sounds like a knock-off of his mid-’80s funk inspired work. The opening thunder and rain sound effects and Kylie’s strained vocals are enough to make you wish the Purple One would step in and show her how it’s done.
Yes, Minogue’s Fever may have subsided, but she continues to smolder with the slowburn groove of Body Language. If throbbing dance music is what you want, wait for the remixes. But if you’re looking for aural seduction, Minogue’s Body Language speaks volumes.