Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hear the New Kylie Minogue Track "Sparks"

Kylie Minogue is surely one of the most durable pop stars of our time. It's hard to think of many other artists who began their careers in the 1980s ("The Loco-Motion" debuted in 1987) still releasing relevant pop music (as her upcoming album Kiss Me Once seems likely to be) in 2014.

Kylie Minogue Sparks

The album's lead single, "Into The Blue," is at least as solid as your average Kylie single. It has its official sale release today in the UK, whose weird music release practices often involve radio release long before anyone is allowed to purchase a single (also released today: Katy Perry's "Dark Horse"), which just seems baffling in the digital age (although the UK music charts are purely sales- and not radio-based, which I definitely like).

Kylie is an old pro from the era when singles had physical releases, first as 7" vinyl records and later as CDs, and in those days it made sense to include an additional track, or B-side, that wouldn't appear on the main album but would still fit the album's vibe. The B-side was the ancestor of the bonus track. And in today's digital, track-based sales environment, there's no need for, nor much sense in, B-sides with a single release. But Kylie's still in the habit - internet be damned! - and today's UK single release of "Into the Blue" includes the B-side "Sparks," produced by Matt Schwartz and written by Karen Poole, the team behind Minogue's 2012 one-off single "Timebomb" (Poole also wrote past singles "Red Blooded Woman," "Chocolate," and "Wow").

B-sides (and Kylie's have always been good) can be a lot of fun, a chance to put something out that's a bit outside the box or just charmingly inconsequential without much risk or consequence. "Sparks" is more of the latter type, but it's not a complaint. There are some tribal-esque drums that hint at the exoticism of "Come and Get It" without going overboard with appropriation, and the chorus sends Minogue's breathy, light voice higher into the ethereal stratosphere than usual (much as I love a hefty alto pop voice, I do like the recent trend of dance pop descants). It's not quite as interesting as the brilliant Aphrodite-era B-side "Silence," but it is a good example of the consistency in style and quality that has allowed Kylie to stick around for nearly two decades (and into her fifties).

There's also the encouraging sense that if a track like "Sparks" is what's being considered merely a B-side, this bodes well for the (presumably better) songs that make the actual album. Of course it's not always how it works - "Silence" was light years above at least 3/4 of Aphrodite - but the mere fact that Kylie is operating at this capacity on just a B-side gives plenty reason to look forward to when Kiss Me Once arrives next week.

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