Tuesday, June 14, 2011

First Listen: Kylie Minogue - "Silence"

Kylie Minogue showed that dance music needn't necessarily race by at 130 beats per minute when she combined the sensual lusciousness of the pop ballad with the seductive, minor-key sensuality of dance on her steamy 2003 single "Slow," surely a predecessor to the trance-dance pop style currently enjoying a revival in the wake of Britney Spears' "Till the World Ends." The vibe has clearly registered with audiences as pop music tiptoes away from hip-hop influences and into the realm of dance, and it does make some technical sense. The seemingly sluggish final cut of Ke$ha's "Blow" I railed against prior to Cannibal's release turned out to be far more effective than I'd initially understood, perhaps because it was a shorter leap in tempo from many of the 2010 hits that preceded it (and matched that of her previous, chart-topping single "We R Who We R"). Other artists like Katy Perry ("E.T.") and Dev ("In the Dark") have followed suit in releasing arguably their best singles.

This chill pill seems to be bringing out the best in everyone, really. Maybe that's why several of the higher-profile bonus tracks, B-sides and "leaked" unreleased tracks to surface in recent weeks have the same feel. Ke$ha's "31 Seconds Alone" and new Minogue B-side "Silence" didn't make the final cut on Cannibal or Aphrodite, both generally uptempo dance albums, but then who could have predicted then that it would be "Till the World Ends," not "Hold It Against Me," that would prove the trendsetter of 2011?

"Silence" is a neat B-side off the remix EP for Kylie's latest single "Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love Tonight)." It's instantly alluring, and while it really doesn't sound quite finished, damned if I can't stop going back to it over and over. The verses careen along a melodic line like cars on a twisting roller coaster and never land on a note or beat that seems inevitable - certainly not the standard fare for a mid-2010 pop release and out of the comfortable bounds of the typical single. That's a treat for music lovers like me though, and likely for anyone interested enough to actually read about music, and it's always fun to hear something melodically unpredictable in a genre that typically utilizes basic songwriting templates and innovates on presentation rather than construction.

It's not entirely unlike the aggressively experimental constructions on Beyoncé's "Run The World (Girls)" and Nicola Roberts' "Beat of My Drum," the two Diplo productions currently shaking up the status quo on either side of the Atlantic. US audiences, unsurprisingly, have been less than appreciative though, and Beyoncé's subsequent singles in advance of her July album 4 play it safe (read: boring) to compensate. Guilty of the same disappointing deflation after reaction to early experiments was less than madly ecstatic is Lady Gaga, of all people, who totally wussed out by rushing out the pandering "The Edge of Glory" and "Hair" to sell short an album teeming with superior tracks. The groundwork for the glorious experimental dance revolution in pop music had been laid so expertly by Ke$ha, Robyn and Britney Spears (with some help from Rihanna and Selena Gomez) for Gaga and Beyoncé to carry it on home, but our fearless leaders seem to have unexpectedly gotten cold feet.

But this dance flirtation is just starting out. I wouldn't be surprised if two years from now a lot more sounds like "Silence" or "Run The World (Girls)," or even some of the experiments on Christina Aguilera's poorly executed but very possibly prescient Bionic. If the revolution isn't going to be led by Lady Gaga or Beyoncé after all, it may have to subsist on guerilla warfare for the time being, waged with bonus tracks and B-sides and leaks until Ke$ha, or some as yet unheralded dance pop Messiah, is ready to lead the full charge. Meanwhile, we in the know can revel in the scraps we get tossed like "Silence" and "31 Seconds Alone," and just hope they eventually lead to the gingerbread house.

Kylie Minogue
Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love) -The Remixes EP
EMI, 2011

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