Disco: a review and in-depth analysis of the fifteenth Kylie Minogue studio album
Disco is Kylie Minogue’s fifteenth studio album and sees Kylie Minogue returning to her longtime disco roots after flirtations with country on Dancing and modern dance-pop on Kiss Me Once. Though both of those albums were received well, both albums were seen as somewhat of a decline in quality for her after her triumphant return on 2010’s Aphrodite. Even then, to anyone familiar with her career, Disco sounds like a no brainer of an album. Minogue has traditionally always kept a toe in the worlds of dance-pop and disco, and 2020 has proven to be a big year for the revival of disco — from younger stars like Dua Lipa and Doja Cat garnering massive hits with songs in the genre to more established acts such as Jessie Ware finding a second wind, and then to longtime genre heavyweights such as Róisín Murphy coming back with the same aplomb as ever. Minogue signaled that she felt inspired by the Studio 54 era of disco on her Golden tour back in 2019, but timing-wise Minogue could not be more on-trend and primed to return to the world of disco than in 2020, despite having had to work through and roll out during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Magic” sets the tone of the album with Minogue celebrating the attraction between herself and her love interest, unable to explain the connection between them as anything else but magic. The energetic horn section and the thumping bassline interspersed with handclaps fleshes out the jovial and upbeat disco production and Minogue’s falsetto adds a giddiness to the track’s optimistic and infectious happiness. “Miss a Thing” straps in listeners for Minogue’s shift on the dance floor, as she cajoles her love interest to enjoy the pleasures of life with her, and urging them to confess their feelings for her. This is a more intimate banger that still sounds hot, heavy, and poised for the dance-floor, with lush string arrangements that give the song an expensive-sounding feel and sounds reminiscent of Minogue’s work on Fever. On “Real Groove”, she voices regrets about a relationship she left behind and remarking on seeing her ex with someone who looks like her, however, she assures herself and her ex that they don’t compare to her. It’s a modern take on disco rather than a traditional interpretation, utilizing vocodered vocals to play up the funkier elements of the track, and the lyrics work well here as Minogue contrasts the “real groove” she and her ex share to his current partner’s inability to match up to her dance moves. She finds herself caught up in her feelings for a paramour on “Monday Blues”, where she confesses how looking forward to seeing them again is what gets her through the mundanity of the week. The production is bouncy and features the trademark funky guitar licks one expects from disco, and though Minogue doesn’t wholly overcome the cheesiness of reciting the weekdays for the post-chorus, she is still charming. “Supernova” thematically follows the longtime tradition of referencing space in disco (see Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” for a recent example). Minogue utilizes vocoder again to give her the robotic effect during the pre-chorus that adds to the song’s interstellar chorus, as she uses the metaphors to tell her partner they are “out of this world” and the positivity they have brought to her life. The result is an energetic floor-filler that Minogue’s vocals give the song an anthemic feel. “Say Something” served as the album’s lead single and sounds most attuned to the ongoing worldwide struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. The lyrics focus on the universal quest for love that we all search for, but feature references to the current feelings of isolation and loneliness most of us feel during this period, and she sings of the longing we feel to travel the world again and wanting to come together. This is one of the album’s mellower moments and though one might not expect this to be the lead, it’s immediately clear why it was chosen; beyond its timely sentiments, Minogue’s vocals stun in that timeless clear-as-a-bell way many classic songs from decades gone have.
She commands her love interest to seize the moment as the club announces its last call of the night on “Last Chance”, warning them that they won’t have another time to partner up, whether it’s just for the night or something with more permanence. There’s an impossible to ignore similarity with ABBA’s “Voulez-Vous” which should rightfully prove difficult to escape, however, Minogue — a veteran of the genre — manages to pull it off just enough that it still retains some of her flavors as well. Perhaps it’s best then that on “I Love It”, it’s unmistakably a Kylie Minogue song from the dreamy background vocals to her girlish upper register. She revels in the mutual feelings she and her lover have for each other, assuring them that all they need is each other’s love and excitedly hammering in how much she loves the feeling of being in love. This is also one of the more traditionally disco tracks on the album, and though it doesn’t add anything too crazy to the formula, Minogue excels enough at nailing the genre that it’s never an issue. “Where Does the DJ Go?” instantly takes reference from Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” from the slowed-down intro into the bombastic groove that plays out throughout the track and its accompanying frantic strings, so it works when Minogue throws in a literal nod to the song during the song’s pre-chorus. She questions where the DJ goes when the party’s over, unable to get enough of her fix for the dance floor. Minogue sagely plays into the campy melodrama of the track, making for one of the album’s clear highlights. “Dance Floor Darling” is another mellower — but still nowhere close to slow — outing on the album, where her continued metaphors between the dance floor and romance fully come together as she asks her love interest to be her dance floor darling. Minogue craftily sneaks in a reference to Studio 54 but sounds lovey-dovey and sincere as she sings over production that has a synth riff similar to that of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere”, but even here she doesn’t let things fully slow down as the beat speeds up for the outro with heavily processed vocals that erupt in a cavalcade of joyous cacophony. “Unstoppable” is a glittery ode to love and the power of coming together that revisits the themes of the earlier track “Say Something”, and manages to be affecting as Minogue urges listeners to shine in the dark and reminding them of what it feels like when we all get together, although it tackles the topic with less thoughtfulness. The glitchy bridge and her determination in giving listeners hope make the song an endearing and memorable listen. “Celebrate You” allows Minogue to end the standard version on an uplifting note, as Minogue sings to someone called Mary about wanting to support her and wanting to celebrate them for being there for her, hoping to ease them through their sorrow. It’s understood however that Minogue isn’t singing just specifically to Mary but anyone listening who feels down and needs a pick-me-up.
Disco is a lovely return to form for Minogue, and it is commendable that this is Minogue’s first album engineering her vocals, since they sound perfectly produced here. It’s no surprise that Minogue delivers a fantastic project since disco and pop have always been her bread-and-butter, but she completely hits it out of the park by choosing to go for a wall-to-wall album full of bangers. She manages to strike a balance where her optimism is attuned to a troubled year, acknowledging the struggles going on yet spreading cheer and hope to listeners that sounds earnest. Minogue has recently taken a more involved role with songwriting on recent records and though nothing here is overly sentimental, there is a sense that she has a personal stake in the record. The album itself isn’t necessarily seeking to redefine or set new trends in the world of disco, and honestly, it doesn’t need to. Minogue has crafted an album that fortifies her place in the upper echelons of pop music with no real dud, presenting her as a mainstay of the dance floor who never really falls out of step and still has a keen awareness of just what the world needs after all this time.