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Tension is Kylie Minogue’s joyous return to the dancefloor


Release date: 22 September 2023
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22 September 2023, 00:00 Written by Sam Franzini

There’s enough evidence to declare: Kylie Minogue is the most consistent pop star of our generation.

Through each of her 15 (!) album cycles, the Australian Princess of Pop has reinvented herself time and time again to fit a different mold, persona, or narrative – there’s the 1994 self-titled coming-of-age sophisti-pop record, her foray into country trends with 2018's Golden, 1997’s artsy misunderstood masterpiece Impossible Princess, 2003’s sensual and laid-back electro-R&B Body Language, a triad of disco records (the campy Light Years, chic magnum opus Fever, and 2020’s revisitation DISCO), and hell, even her first four albums, when she was still a soap opera star venturing into teen pop, has some certified classics.

It’s no surprise, then, that this year’s Tension is a similarly distinguishable and advanced album from Kylie – at turns, like on the commanding instant hit “Hands,” her voice is unrecognizable as she raps with newfound coolness; “Big drop on the bassline / Tick tock on the waistline.” Tension is her most clear-cut dance album possibly since Fever, and its electro-pop, EDM, and house grooves are intensely gratifying to the hardcore Kylie fan: she’s at home on these tracks. She urges a lover to give her the go-ahead on disco tune “Green Light,” embraces pure ecstasy on “Vegas High,” and repurposes 80’s synthy motifs on “You Still Get Me High,” a reminiscence on stability.

Though her sound has changed, her main writing target of love has not – though it’s much more freeing here than on any past efforts. On DISCO, her efforts of romance were cloaked in calls to the dancefloor, and even on Body Language, her then-most outrageously horny album yet, there was still a layer that shrouded her desire: “If love were liquid, it would drown me” goes the velvety “Chocolate.”

Tension blows both out of the water. There’s absolutely no disguising what she wants on these tracks, and sex, or the idea of it, is infused in each one. “Oh my God, touch me right there,” she croons on the electro-house title track, and on lead single “Padam Padam” she declares “I know you wanna take me home, and take off all my clothes.” In a portrait of domestic bliss on “One More Time,” she recounts a lover’s star sign, their bedside table’s contents, and elsewhere, her airy vocals make you blush at her earnestness (“Make my eyes roll back when I feel that Vegas High”; “Boy, I might get wet, bring a towel.”) She even marvels at how far she and a partner would go for each other on a cheeky lyric on “Things We Do For Love” – “Tell me, how far would you go when you hear my song come on the radio?” In other words, she’s the shit, and she knows it.

There’s too many joyous moments on Tension to even recount. Jaw-dropping rapstress Kylie returning on “Hands,” a summer-like ode to the art of touch, “Things We Do For Love”’s lyric “Call me a dreamer, I’m a believer,” exploding to a blissful galactic post-chorus (similarly to past single “Put Your Hands Up”), a cocky swagger on “10 Out of 10” and, moving beyond the album, the recognition and virality she’s been getting as “Padam Padam” has been meme-ified, but never so as Kylie is the butt of the joke. Instead, by democratically promoting it to ‘song of the summer’ status, the public and many of her queer fans are doing what they should have been, all this time, celebrating Kylie’s continued excellence in her pursuit to deliver perfect pop songs we don’t deserve, but need.

At 55, it would be more than easy for Kylie Minogue to take the winnings and reputation from her empire of crystalline, feel-good pop smashes and retire somewhere comfortably, but her continued dedication to the music industry and her fans is what makes her one of the most satisfying stars to follow along the years. It’s beyond the realm of questioning that Kylie is the best pop star right now – instead of hindering her body of work, each new release of hers only strengthens her collection. Tension, too, is full of Kylie-isms, little phrases that remind you that it is a slightly older person writing these (“Call me Kylie-ie-ie / Hot like Chile-e-e / Cool like sorbet-et-et” one line goes) but it only adds to her charm.

Tension’s a knockout, and Kylie is this world’s gem. “You know I’m gonna give you ten out of ten,” she states on a funky, runway-stomping collaboration with Oliver Heldens, which is primarily about the love she gives to a partner, but can also be read as her unwavering dedication to her fans and the heart she puts in her music. On “Hands,” her vocals are confident, fun and playful as she raps, “Right? Yeah. Everything I do is so right? Yeah!” — a lyric substantial in its ability to get stuck in your head and also to accurately sum up everything she’s done in her career so far. “I’m that cherry on top of the cake,” she continues. And there’s just no denying it.

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