Kylie Minogue On 'Disco' And The Need For Dance Music, Even In Lockdown "Disco lights shine out of the darkness," says the pop veteran, who channels lockdown despair into glittery escapism on her 15th album, simply titled Disco.
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Kylie Minogue On Making Dance Music In A Year Without Discos

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Kylie Minogue On Making Dance Music In A Year Without Discos

Kylie Minogue On Making Dance Music In A Year Without Discos

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When the pop star Kylie Minogue was a kid growing up in Australia, her parents had a record player where they put on LPs of Donna Summer, ABBA and the Bee Gees. As the disco music played, little Kylie would dance around with her siblings.

KYLIE MINOGUE: It's like, we're all on top of the car - the extended arm, finger point which goes around.

SHAPIRO: Spinning around to the music, she would imagine herself a disco queen.

MINOGUE: I definitely wanted to be Olivia Newton-John or Agnetha from ABBA or Donna Summer.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MISS A THING")

MINOGUE: (Singing) Run away, run away, run away with me tonight.

SHAPIRO: Kylie's newest album taps into those childhood dance parties. It's called "Disco."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MISS A THING")

MINOGUE: (Singing) 'Cause I don’t want to fight what feels right. Baby, I, baby, I just don’t want to miss a thing, don’t want to miss a thing.

SHAPIRO: To make this record, Kylie Minogue built a home studio at her place in London and recorded everything in lockdown, with producers and collaborators listening in remotely.

MINOGUE: I think if there was a kind of, you know, a fly-on-the-wall camera, it would've been a comedy - I mean, me trying to wrangle the sound absorber and which bit goes where, lots of Googling, YouTube tutorials and calling a friend.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

MINOGUE: Just, like, I was screwing a lot of things to other things and tightening - yeah, a lot of tightening.

SHAPIRO: At some point after all of that, when this record was nearly done, Kylie Minogue picked up her head, looked around and wondered if she'd made a big mistake.

MINOGUE: And I did question whether this was - what does this mean? What's the point? You know, there's just so much happening in the world, and there's no discos open.

SHAPIRO: Right.

MINOGUE: But the main question that kind of reassured me to keep going was, what will I achieve if I don't release it? And the answer - that's really easy - absolutely nothing. So we stuck with "Disco."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REAL GROOVE")

MINOGUE: (Singing) I saw you dancing with somebody looking like me and you. She know how to party but nothing like me and you.

SHAPIRO: You know, disco music is made to be listened to in a dark, crowded, sweaty room surrounded by...

MINOGUE: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: ...Friends and strangers.

MINOGUE: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: And that's not happening now, so...

MINOGUE: It isn't happening, but there's - there really is some correlation that I'm just discovering or being forced to look at between where disco began, you know, its origins and people needing to find a place of expression and belonging. And disco lights shine out of the darkness, and that's kind of what we're going through at the minute. So I'm finding, you know, some kind of bridge.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. The first single, "Say Something," has been on repeat in my house for the last couple months. And the opening lyric is, we're a million miles apart in a thousand ways, which feels especially true right now in maybe a more literal way than when you wrote it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAY SOMETHING")

MINOGUE: (Singing) We’re a million miles apart in a thousand ways. Baby, you can light up the dark like a solar scape.

SHAPIRO: What do you hear when you listen to this track now, given our current reality?

MINOGUE: I have so many feelings. I think about when we wrote it, and I have a really strong memory of hearing a mix of it through lockdown. And it was a really, really quiet day - well, one of the many quiet days - no planes, no cars...

SHAPIRO: Right.

MINOGUE: ...Just that eerie silence. And I played the working demo of it. It was like I was hearing this song for the first time. I couldn't - like, I really, really listened to the lyrics. And then I had a very teary moment with one of my co-writers and a producer. It just took on a new dimension.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAY SOMETHING")

MINOGUE: (Singing) Oh, we all got wanderlust in the darkest place. So we’re going with our heart. Yeah, it’s all the rage.

Now I listen to it, and I love the glittery, galactic world we created as a visual for it. And I love the fact that it has reached so many people. Part of the theme of the song is reaching someone or having that connection, and the fact that it has is just mind-blowing to me. There's definitely melancholy and a sadness in there, but ultimately, I think it's a hopeful song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAY SOMETHING")

MINOGUE: (Singing) Whoa, whoa, whoa, say something. Say something. Tell me how you’re feeling 'cause love is love. It never ends. Can we all be as one again? - 'cause love is love. It never ends. Can we all be as one again?

SHAPIRO: Are you imagining what the stadium tour of this album will look like, or are you not letting yourself get into that headspace just yet?

MINOGUE: I definitely have imagined it. I have never performed in the round, so that's how I would love to see this album pan out as a tour - to have the biggest disco ball we can manifest and almost have a feeling like you are at a disco, to be more immersive and just kind of be like we're one, you know?

SHAPIRO: I'm totally imagining that enormous disco ball, you in the center of the arena, and the opening bars of "Magic" start.

MINOGUE: (Laughter) Wouldn't that be great?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAGIC")

MINOGUE: (Singing) I feel like anything could happen. The stars look different tonight. They're glowing all around me. It’s flowing through my body. I can feel it. I can feel it.

SHAPIRO: Something that I think all great pop stars, including you, have in common is the ability to return to the same themes album after album, year after year in different ways. How do you keep finding new ways to write a song about first love or about the joy of being on a dance floor, about these themes that you've been recording for decades?

MINOGUE: Yeah, I ask myself the same question. Like, how - I was thinking about all of the mentions of stars and star fields, and, like, I keep going back to that.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUPERNOVA")

MINOGUE: (Singing) Baby, all I need is just a little bit of your starlight, bit of your starlight shining on me. I never knew an aura was so bright, so bright. Oh.

I think, you know, the attraction there is, like, it's infinitesimal. It's endless. These stars can seemingly burn forever. And, of course, none of them do, but, you know, it's all a bit existential. And I think that's why I try to latch onto it, to tap into those thoughts. But really, there's the same amount of notes for every musician, every songwriter. And new songs are being written all day, every day. So somehow, there's always a new way to say the same thing.

SHAPIRO: Kylie Minogue, it's been such a pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much.

MINOGUE: Wow. That went by so quickly.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

MINOGUE: And to you and your listeners, stay safe and lots of love.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUPERNOVA")

MINOGUE: (Singing) Baby, all I need is just a little bit of your starlight, bit of your starlight shining on me.

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