Born on May 28, 1968, in Melbourne, Australia. Addresses: Record company--EMI/Parlophone, 43 Brook Green, 5th Floor, W6 7EF London, U.K.
Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue enjoyed a streak of top ten hits in Britain in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but the attractive performer's musical career is somewhat secondary to her career as both an actor and fashionable celebrity. In Britain, Minogue enjoys a dedicated cult following, and appears regularly in newspapers and magazines throughout Europe. In North America, she is perhaps best remembered for a 1987 cover of Little Eva's "Locomotion."
Born on May 28, 1968, in Melbourne, Australia, Minogue was one of three children of a Welsh mother and a father who was an accountant by profession. From an early age, she was transfixed by images of Olivia Newton-John, Australia's most famous pop export of the 1970s. Her younger sister Dannii actually began a show business career before Minogue, in 1977, and the sisters were soon competing for the same roles. Minogue bested her sister--by then the host of a popular weekly television talent show--in the audition for a role in a soap opera called The Sullivans, and again in 1985 when she won the part of Charlene, a tomboy mechanic in another drama, Neighbours. The show became a tremendous hit, and viewers tuned in daily to follow the travails of three families in a cul-de-sac. Ratings soared when Minogue and a neighbor, played by Jason Donovan, became romantically linked in both real life and on the show. There were "Charlene and Scott" magazines, T-shirts, and posters everywhere in Australia, and the show even became popular with members of the British royal family. Minogue and Donovan were mobbed everywhere they went. "It was total madness," Minogue said in an interview with Telegraph journalist David Thomas some years later. "We'd go places and there'd be such enormous crowds we couldn't get in. Then we couldn't get out."
Minogue had never planned on a career in music. "I basically wanted a job," she said in a 1994 talk with Jonathan Bernstein for Interview magazine. "I didn't have that hunger for success then. But I must admit, after the cast of Neighbours did this little musical performance thing, and someone said, 'Oh, that was great. You should make a record,' I did have stars in my eyes." Minogue's first song was a cover of a catchy vintage tune from the early 1960s, "Locomotion." The song, first released in Australia, sold well, and with her growing celebrity in Britain, Minogue was offered a deal with a production team that had recently crafted radio-friendly hits for Bananarama and Rick Astley. Moving to England in 1987, Minogue signed with Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Peter Waterman and their PWL International label. "I was scared to death" about this first meeting with the starmakers, Minogue recalled in the interview with Thomas for the Telegraph. "They were like, 'Oh God, there's wotsername, that girl from Australia. Quick! Write a song!' It took 10 minutes."
The result was "I Should Be So Lucky," and it was a massive hit in both her native Australia and across Europe. Buoyed by a video that depicted the telegenic Minogue in a series of flattering scenarios, it reached No. 1 in Britain. Foreshadowing the Britney Spears childlike-vixen look by a decade, Minogue danced about in the video dressed as a cheerleader in kneesocks. The song was included on her first LP, Kylie, released in 1988. A string of successors to "I Should Be So Lucky" followed, including "Got to Be Certain," "Je Ne Sais Pas Pour Qui," and "Never Too Late." In all, Minogue enjoyed 19 straight Top Twenty singles under the PWL aegis. "I would turn up and they would play the backing track, print up the lyrics and Mike Stock would go through it with me, 'You come in here. You do this, you do that,'" Minogue recalled in the Telegraph interview. "I had a good short-term memory from learning all those scripts, and was conditioned from doing TV."
Criticized for Pop Fluff
But Minogue was often faulted for presenting an image that was all fluff and no substance. The Economist profiled her in 1988 with two fellow pop stars of the day, Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, and called Minogue a "New Wave Madonna." The article described such teen singing sensations as bimbettes. "Normality, of the packaged sort, is the key to their success.... Their songs defy memory," its writer declared. More mainstream critics were also wary of Minogue's records. "On this album Minogue is overdubbed, backed up and orchestrated so heavily that it's never really clear how good a singer she might be," opined People's Ralph Novak in a review of her debut. Another Stock Aitken Waterman production, 1989's Enjoy Yourself, was released in the United States on the Geffen label the following year. It included a cover of another vintage pop song, "Tears on My Pillow," and a duet with fellow soap star Jason Donovan, "Especially for You." Novak again critiqued the record for People, praising the Little Anthony and the Imperials cover, but again heaped the blame for the record's shortcomings on Minogue's producers. Novak noted that Minogue's vocal talents were not to be faulted, "but she seems like such a cog in a gray-noise machine that she projects practically zero personality."
In 1991, Minogue reappeared with a new image and a new album for PWL, Let's Get to It. She radiated a far more adult allure, and even toured wearing minimal stage outfits and fishnet stockings. The move only bolstered her popularity in Europe. "Watching Minogue grow up in public--one moment a ratchet-wielding scamp, the next a scantily clad, full-lipped siren--became Britain's national pastime," remarked Interview's Bernstein. She caused a further stir when she began dating fellow Australian Michael Hutchence, the charismatic lead singer of rock band INXS. But Let's Get to It failed to perform as well as her previous records, and the problems with her label and producers were becoming more acute. "I don't think it was until my third album that I started to want to have more involvement with the making of my music, which, of course, didn't happen," Minogue said in the interview with Bernstein. She claimed her transition to a more sultry persona was just a natural maturation. "The experience I had early on was great," she told Bernstein. "It was good that I was held back, that I wasn't able to take control and do my own music, because I wouldn't have known what I was doing anyway."
A New, Hipper Persona
Minogue began appearing in more avant-garde British monthlies like I-Dand The Face, rather than the teen pop magazines that had boosted her career in its initial years. In 1993, she surprised many by signing with a respected dance label, DeConstruction, owned by media giant BMG. The first record she made for the new home, Kylie Minogue, was released in 1994. Billboard writer Larry Flick described it as an "odd, yet mildly appealing, blend of ballads and sugar-disco." In 1995, the singer appeared opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme in the film Street Fighter, but it was her friendships with other musical personalities that broadened her horizons. She befriended fellow Australian Nick Cave--an unlikely match, for the longtime alternative rocker was famous for his somber, darkly lyrical songs. When they met, Cave confessed he had been a fan of Minogue's for years, and had even written several songs for her. She joined him in a duet for his Murder Ballads LP, and he encouraged her to dig deeper into herself during songwriting bouts.
At one point in the mid-1990s, Minogue and her boyfriend, photographer Stephane Sednaoui, drove across the United States, and she took a notebook with her to write down song inspirations. Testifying to the unusual cult following that the singer enjoyed, a number of well-known figures from British music stepped in to help produce her next record, including members of the Manic Street Preachers and Brothers In Rhythm. The result was a series of songs for a 1997 DeConstruction release initially titled Impossible Princess. But, following the fatal Paris car crash that killed the Princess of Wales, the album's title was changed at the last minute to simply Kylie Minogue. Two singles were released in the United Kingdom before the album was sent to stores, and "Some Kind of Bliss" and "Did It Again" did well on the British charts. Writing in Billboard, Flick called the record "stunning," and singled out "Limbo" and "Say Hey" as "intense groove poems ... which sew intelligent, often self-examining words into timely music that darts back and forth between moody electro-funk and richly layered modern pop." One track, "Breathe," hit No. 14 in the United Kingdom, but some of the British music press mocked Minogue's alternative-music pretensions.
A Thoroughly Mediagenic Celebrity
Minogue credited Cave with helping her become more honest in her music. "He taught me to never veer too far from who I am, but to go further, try different things, and never lose sight of myself at the core," she told Flick. Still, the second Kylie Minogue failed to meet label expectations, and DeConstruction dropped her; for a brief time Minogue was without a recording contract for the first time in her life since her pre-Neighbours days. But in 2000, Minogue signed with Parlophone, home of a diverse range of acts, from the Pet Shop Boys to Joe Cocker. Her next album was hailed as Minogue's return to her roots in pleasant, lighthearted pop fare. "When I sat down with the people from the label to discuss what this album should be, we all agreed that I should do what I do best--a pop record," she told Flick in Billboard. An array of hitmakers were involved in the creation of Light Years. Paula Abdul was one of the co-writers for the first single, "Spinning Around," and Minogue co-wrote other tracks with British pop star Robbie Williams; songsmiths who crafted hits for George Michael, Ricky Martin, and the Spice Girls were also involved.
Minogue continues to appear in film and television. She was cast in a 2000 Australian film, Sample People, as the dangerous girlfriend of a Sydney gangster. She also makes almost-weekly appearances in the British press, and sells out newsstand issues when she appears on the covers of men's magazines like GQ there. In an interview with Kate Thornton of the London Times, Minogue noted that the making of Light Years, and with it the return to the pop music she had once shed, gave her a new perspective on her career. It was a journey that began in 1997 when Cave cajoled her into reading the lyrics from her first hit single, "I Should Be So Lucky" at the Poetry Olympics in London's Royal Albert Hall. "The crowd response was amazing," Minogue told Thornton. "They laughed with me, not at me, and that night I met myself face to face and learnt to accept who I am. It was a real relief. I came to embrace and be proud of the past and the history that I'd been trying so hard to run away from, and stopped trying to be something I'm not. I realised that I do what I do, and that's when I succeed."
by Carol Brennan
Kylie Minogue's Career
Began television career as Charlene in Neighbours, a popular Australian soap opera, 1985; recorded "Locomotion" for Australian release on the Mushroom label; signed with PWL International label, c. 1987; released "I Should Be So Lucky," 1988; signed with DeConstruction label and released Kylie Minogue, 1994; signed with EMI/Parlophone, 1999; released Light Years, 2000.
- Selected discography
- Kylie , Geffen, 1988.
- Enjoy Yourself , Geffen, 1989.
- Rhythm of Love , PWL, 1990.
- Let's Get to It , PWL, 1991.
- Kylie Minogue , DeConstruction, 1994.
- Kylie Minogue , DeConstruction, 1997.
- Light Years , EMI/Parlophone, 2000.
February 8, 2004: Minogue won the Grammy Award for best dance recording, for "Come into My World." Source: 46th Grammy Awards, grammys.com/awards/grammy/46winners.aspx, February 8, 2004.
- Billboard, May 9, 1992, p. A21; February 13, 1993, p. 86; April 4, 1998, p. 18; June 17, 2000, p. 17.
- Economist, April 30, 1988, p. 92.
- Interview, December 1994, p. 116.
- People, October 10, 1988, p. 40; March 12, 1990, p. 27; June 24, 1991, p. 13; January 30, 1995, p. 88.
- Telegraph (U.K.), August 30, 1997.
- Times (London), October 10, 1999.
- Variety, May 15, 2000, p. 33.