No one could see it at first. Not the major-label executives who rejected the recording of I Should Be So Lucky, forcing Pete Waterman to form PWL to release it. Certainly not the critics, who dismissed her as little more than a novelty act. Not even perhaps the record-buying public, who, by the end of 1988, had crowned Kylie Minogue the top-selling artist in the UK. But Kylie silenced the doubters who dismissed her and slowly built a career that has seen her sell more than ten million singles in Great Britain alone and issue 15 studio albums. More than 30 years later she can still command a No.1 album (2020’s sublime Disco) and sell out arena tours. Part national treasure (adopted by the UK as warmly as her native Australia) and part steely strategist, the Princess Of Pop is a phenomenon who has mastered the art of reinvention and amassed a back-catalogue packed with pop treasure. But where to start? We count down the 20 best Kylie Minogue songs…
20: The One (2007)
Issued as a single just as the charts were transitioning from physical to digital sales, The One got lost in the maelstrom of the format wars and was largely overlooked by radio. Ignore, then, the modest chart peak and instead soak up a majestic synth-laden pop banger that has been performed at many of Kylie’s concert tours since its 2008 single release, cementing its status as one of Kylie Minogue’s best songs. Written principally with long-standing collaborator Richard Stannard and production dynamos Freemasons, it was taken from Kylie’s X – the album she issued after beating her cancer battle – and became its final single. Many fans thought it should have been the first.
19: Music’s Too Sad Without You (with Jack Savoretti) (2018)
Perhaps not as famous as that other hit duet – the ubiquitous Especially For You, with Jason Donovan – this track was the final single from the triumphant Golden (what is it with the final singles from Kylie’s albums?) The country-flavoured ballad from 2018 later turned up in a live format on Jack Savoretti’s Singing To Strangers, and the pair performed the song on a string of promotional appearances across Europe.
18: Some Kind Of Bliss (1997)
Everyone’s allowed a rebellious phase – even Kylie. The 90s had been a decade of experimentation, and years of carping from the critics had left her craving an escape from the gilded tower of pop… at least for a while. Teaming up with Sean Moore and James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers, Kylie produced this feisty indie belter obviously influenced by the Britpop phenomenon. Critics weren’t won over, and record buyers were confused by the turn towards a rockier sound. No matter. Kylie loved the project, and this song has matured nicely in the two decades since, earning its place among the best Kylie Minogue songs.
17: Magic (2020)
Channelling more than just a hint of the disco peak of Olivia Newton-John (and we’re not just talking about the song’s title…), Magic is an indisputable highlight of 2020’s Disco. The global pandemic forced much of the recording to be completed in lockdown by Kylie in her flat during the first wave of the virus, and she is justly proud of her newly discovered production prowess. Magic was a radio smash, made the singles chart and even featured on the 107th edition of the UK’s Now That’s What I Call Music – she first appeared on the groundbreaking collection’s 11th volume!
16: Shocked (1991)
Arguably the first Stock Aitken Waterman (SAW) production to seriously meddle with the hitmaking formula that had served the partnership so well since 1988, Shocked was mandated to shake things up and, in its remix for single release, even featured rapper Jazzi P. Just over two years on from her international breakthrough, everything had changed for Kylie: she was in a relationship with INXS frontman Michael Hutchence and keen to develop her sound and image. The tabloids were billing her as “Sex Kylie”, but this Hi-NRG romper did the tricky job of balancing the demands of her younger fanbase with a grittier club vibe.
15: In Your Eyes (2002)
In 2002, Kylie had the world at her feet. She’d just enjoyed the biggest hit of her career and the Fever album was flying off the shelves. Even America, which had largely remained unresponsive to her charms, was on-side. In Your Eyes was the second single from Fever and saw her reunite with the Biffco production team (aka Richard Stannard, Julian Gallagher and Ash Howes, fresh from their success with Spice Girls). This Europop epic couldn’t match the heights of its predecessor, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, but was a huge global hit and a club smash that remains one of the best Kylie Minogue songs of the era.
14: Dancing (2018)
As she neared her 50th birthday, Dancing seemed a heartfelt and entirely fitting statement of intent as the standout first single from the country-influenced Golden. Kylie is a survivor, battling challenging personal issues and proving time and time again that she has what it takes. Here, she captures the spiritual rebellion of the dancefloor and one’s right to be there arguably as well as Madonna had in the classic Into The Groove. Golden marked a sweet spot in Kylie’s long career, culminating in her triumphant 2019 Glastonbury show. As the festival’s most celebrated headliner in recent memory, she really had nothing left to prove.
13: Where The Wild Roses Grow (with Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds) (1995)
This song did much to reinvent Kylie in the 90s, when her teen-idol past was threatening to overwhelm her future choices. Nick Cave could see beyond the pop-starlet image, and the pairing on this macabre ballad was a revelation. Written for his band’s Murder Ballads album, the song’s theatrics were elevated by a striking promotional video and a well-considered set of surprise live appearances. Paving the way for the experimental Impossible Princess album (aka Kylie Minogue) a couple of years later, Where The Wild Roses Grow hinted at how much more Kylie would be capable of.
12: I Believe In You (2004)
Recorded for the Ultimate Kylie hits collection of 2004, Kylie turned to band-du-jour Scissor Sisters to create this Grammy-nominated cut that sits comfortably among the best Kylie Minogue songs. Jake Shears and Babydaddy are big Kylie fans and jumped at the chance to record with her, resulting in something of a return to form after the mixed Body Language album of 2003. They didn’t mess with her pop-dance formula too much, so you find a hypnotic melody dazzled by atmospheric synths. Check out the great remixes by Mylo, too.
11: Wow (2008)
After the experimental Two Hearts, the frenetic disco pace of Wow, and its nightclub-set video, made it a more obvious single for Kylie. Now burdened with myriad appearances as featured music in TV narratives (always a sign of a catchy riff), Wow has become a setlist regular since its 2008 release. Written with Pink hitmaker Greg Kurstin and Karen Poole of Alisha’s Attic fame (and a respected songwriter in her own right), Wow’s video allegedly ran into problems with broadcasting regulators down to its use of strobes, and a hasty re-edit was required before it could be shown.
10: Confide In Me (1994)
Liberated from the PWL contract she had begun to find restrictive, Kylie’s choice of dance label Deconstruction raised eyebrows, and her production pairing with Brothers In Rhythm sent interest into overdrive. When Confide In Me was finally released, in August 1994, its trippy indie-dance vibe was a sensation, returning Kylie to the top of the Australian charts for the first time since 1988’s Got To be Certain. The style magazines fell over themselves to secure her services, and hailed Kylie’s first major reinvention as a triumph. Her eclectic 90s may have baffled some, but Confide In Me is one of the best Kylie Minogue songs of the era, ensuring that her longevity was secured from here on.
9: On A Night Like This (2000)
After the phenomenal success of Cher’s Believe, Metrophonic’s production sound was everywhere. With On A Night Like This, Brian Rawling, Mark Taylor and Graham Stackhere created an epic club banger that was an obvious choice for the second single from Kylie’s triumphant comeback album, Light Years. The late Rutger Hauer makes a cameo in the memorable video, which sees Kylie playing a bored trophy wife, but the biggest claim to fame for the song is that she performed it alongside ABBA’s Dancing Queen during her two-song set at the Closing Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
8: Say Something (2020)
Another Biffco production, Say Something was trailed in the summer of 2020, ahead of the Disco album, and is classic synth-pop Kylie. It came in the strangest of times as the world was emerging from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its bittersweet euphoria captured the mood of the moment perfectly: resigned and triumphant; sad and optimistic. More than 30 years into her career, and widely hailed as an icon, it was perhaps to be expected that Kylie could somehow make even 2020 seem a little better…
7: Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi (1988)
Another bittersweet Stock Aitken Waterman electro-ballad, Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi was issued at the peak of Kylie’s commercial fortunes. Despite thousands of copies of her debut album selling every day, this still made it all the way to No.2 in the UK – her third consecutive single to do so. Still, in 1988, the canny pop powerhouse wasn’t taking any chances: the release was paired with a new song, Made In Heaven, and retitled to I Still Love You (Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi) for markets that couldn’t cope with a French-language title. Je Ne Sais Pas Pourqoui remains a highlight among the best Kylie Minogue songs to come from that glorious Kylie/SAW partnership.
6: Your Disco Needs You (2001)
This classic was criminally overlooked for single release in the UK because it would further stereotype Kylie’s appeal. Yes, you read that correctly: Kylie was apparently in danger of appearing too camp! Incredibly, no less than Robbie Williams and his songwriting svengali, Guy Chambers, had created it for her, so it’s a decision that beggars belief. The song did receive a limited release in some markets, but the (indisputably camp) hit-that-should-have-been has been restored to its rightful status as one of the best Kylie Minogue songs on Step Back In Time, the definitive 2019 hits collection that topped the charts in both her homeland and the UK.
5: I Should Be So Lucky (1987)
Though she’d had a hit with a locally produced version of The Loco-Motion in Australia the year before, 1988’s international chart-topper I Should Be So Lucky is where Kylie’s musical story arguably begins for most of us. Soap-opera success rarely translates into anything of much musical merit, and Mike Stock once recalled that her arrival at the SAW studios for a delayed session was so badly handled, it seemed unlikely she’d ever work with them again. Hastily composed and recorded (they’d forgotten she was coming), this bittersweet anthem rises beyond its basic composition with a strong vocal, a throbbing of-the-moment Hi-NRG production and a pathos somehow more poignant than anyone expected. Teen frustration never sounded so sweet.
4: Spinning Around (2000)
Comebacks don’t come much more successful than this: after the relative wilderness years of the late 90s, Kylie kicked off the new century with a spectacular return to her pop roots, and a fresh recording deal with a label confident they knew what to do with her. Spinning Around was dance, it was pop and it fused contemporary production sounds with classic disco to set the template for the best Kylie Minogue songs of the early 2000s. Originally created for Paula Abdul (who secured a writing credit), but never recorded by her, Spinning Around became almost as famous for the gold hotpants Kylie wore in the video as it did for its triumphant chart-topping credentials. Kylie’s long-time stylist William Baker explained the thinking behind their appearance: “sex sells and her best asset is her bum”.
3: All The Lovers (2010)
Stuart Price had masterminded the Madonna masterpiece that was 2005’s Confessions On A Dance Floor and was subsequently picked as Kylie’s executive producer for her 11th studio collection, Aphrodite. One of Kylie Minogue’s greatest hits of the 21st century, this euphoric track was recorded late in the sessions for the album and was written by electro-pop duo Kish Mauve. Its synth-disco trappings had a breezy summer vibe and, with a June single needed for the album’s release, it became the opening salvo of the Aphrodite campaign. An assured video, shot in Los Angeles by Joseph Kahn, cemented Kylie’s position as a champion of the LGBTQ community when she refused to re-edit the clip for some markets that wanted to censor a same-sex kiss.
2: Better The Devil You Know (1990)
Across her first two albums, Kylie had recorded solid pop-dance music that, while working well in the gay and suburban nightclubs, had resolutely played it safe. Better The Devil You Know was a huge leap forward, throwing caution to the wind: huge slabs of urgent synths pounding over a frenetic dance beat, and a video that was knowing and assured without really pushing things too far. At London’s famous G-A-Y nightclub, this 1990 cut is still played every Saturday night at 12.30am – a testament to her appeal among her most loyal and adoring fanbase. For a generation of gay men, this is the Kylie song to top all others.
1: Can’t Get You Of My Head (2001)
Few songs cross over to such a degree that an image from the video, or the first bars of the track, are immediately recognised by almost everyone. Can’t Get You Out Of My Head is one of those, heading our list of the best Kylie Minogue songs and topping five million sales to date. Composed by hitmakers Cathy Dennis (her early 90s successes were an influence on Kylie’s Better The Devil You Know) and Rob Davis, who had been in the 70s band Mud (who scored a Christmas No.1 in 1974 with Lonely This Christmas), Can’t Get You Out Of My Head was, incredibly, passed over by a couple of other acts before Kylie saw the track’s potential and recorded it for her Fever album. It topped the charts around the world and broke Kylie for a second time in America, where it peaked inside the Top 10. Routinely revered as one of the best songs of all time (it even attracted an unlikely cover by psychedelic cosmonauts The Flaming Lips), it’s the Kylie track that will most likely be remembered forever; and the video (directed by Dawn Shadforth and choreographed by Michael Rooney) is a masterclass of styling. Never has a song been so appropriately titled…
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