Kylie Minogue – Tension: Review

When speaking about popstar giants, Kylie Minogue is in the upper pantheon alongside greats like Madonna, Britney Spears, Dolly Parton, etc., for her consistency and influence. The former rings true with her 16th album, Tension, which continues to show she can still command the spotlight in her songs as she maneuvers through these different sounds and retains aesthetic motifs to keep the motions steady. Tension is a more modernized take on what Minogue’s early 00s direction was about – as in, no centralized sonic themes like the latter, Disco, and the country-influenced Golden. It’s colorful and radiant, navigating dance-pop, EDM, house, and synthpop with flavor, elevating what could have been standard compared to Impossible Princess and Fever. Granted, I had some hesitations going into this – it had merit as “Padam Padam,” her lead single, felt too gimmicky and overt with its construction from the chorus to the melodies that my expectations waned – I came out a fan of Tension; many tracks feel pure and natural, giving us that Kylie Minogue we love without being too bloated, even if some songs don’t hit.

To begin the album, Kylie Minogue, fortunately, gets the enchanting, gimmicky, and baity “Padam Padam” out of the way, and the gears start churning instantaneously with “Hold On To Now.” It’s a space-pop-like atmosphere breathing through the layers of moody percussion and synths, which Kylie turns into this lovely love song about desire in the moment; then she flips the tone while keeping the content similar on “Things We Do For Love.” The song is this incredible dance-pop club song with vibrant instrumentations – from the electric guitar to the energetic percussion reels you in, then Kylie’s melodies and adventurous approach to the writing oozes through beautifully; it’s near impossible not to get hypnotized by it. That adventurous nature subtly drives the album as she feels free to be herself under these pretenses. A lot of that comes from Kylie returning to working around all her strengths to feel free instead of trying to replicate a thematic-driven approach; as such, we hear her continuing to try different things like the proto-pop-rap flow of “Hands” to the house cadences of “Vegas Nights,” containing some underlying disco grooves.

Love isn’t a theme many of us are strangers to, especially anything attached to its roots, but ultimately, it’s about delivery and how they approach it. As tiring as it can be, Kylie Minogue does some fascinating things with it and some feeble, like “Green Light,” a harmless and fun disco romp that doesn’t take chances like the twinkly and expansive “One More Time.” “10 Out Of 10” is similar; she collabs with Oliver Heldens, delivering a direct and forgetful EDM track you could skip over. It loses traction in the production, but the chorus holding it together brings something to it, like a little 80s nostalgia. Take away “Green Light,” “10 Out Of 10,” and “Padam Padam,” and Minogue has another instant hitter, one with no skips. And that’s because the others make a name for themselves, predominantly from the connected talent between her and her producers. Though this is a foolhardy say as I have no say in the construction, it’s about what works and what doesn’t, and in this case, some of these songs aren’t so captivating.

Relating back to that centralized theme of love and its roots, Kylie Minogue’s delivery on these hits that are unique and dance-floor hypnotic, like the previously mentioned “Vegas Nights,” which sees Kylie recanting her love of Vegas and the feeling of being, gained from her residency. She’s descriptive with the hold it has on her emotionally while getting enveloped by a classic electro-pop beat nostalgic for early 00s class. “You Still Get Me High” is a beautiful contemporary synth/dance-pop ballad, where its new wave-like chorus sections bring new dimensions to the song that urges for physicality. At first, you might think: did Carly Rae Jepsen co-write this? But she didn’t, and it wouldn’t surprise me as Minogue’s influence has shown its hand throughout the years with artists who’ve emerged from the influence her style has had. In some subtle ways, “You Still Get Me High” reminds me of “Your Love” from Fever, except the former is more bedazzled. However, that doesn’t mean one is better than the other; it’s that Kylie Minogue is taking everything she’s done till now and morphing it in new and intangible ways that you just want to keep grooving like it’s a night a Disco, and “Tension” is fits the essence of it beautifully.

“Tension,” the title track, brings an essence of house music blended with some Eurodance, and how it gets delivered from the writing, performance, and mixing comes as one of the definitive highlights. It’s smooth and buoys its influences gracefully, allowing songs to hit all cylinders. As Kylie Minogue would tell Apple Music, “The lyrics were pretty edgy, the robo-voice was much more exaggerated—it just sounded very deep club,” – this hits effervescently, especially in how the robo-voice connects with the heightened moments of the song. It gets enveloped by its synergy that imbues a trance for physicality with the writing and singing. It’s like she delved into details of what happened when you brought her home during the song “Padam Padam.” “Tension” is the nail on the coffin that defines what Tensions is, how it proceeds, and delivers most of its eloquent hits. You get left with something grand, yet for me, still itching for some of the luscious grooves and vibes from her last album, Disco.

I liked Tension quite a bit; and I haven’t stopped looping some of these tracks I loved. I implore you to listen, even if it’s a first time, as Kylie Minogue still slays; hell, you might get enticed to go back and listen to earlier albums like Fever, but there is no denying Tension is outstanding. It’s Minogue continuing to grace us with her peak talent and keep us dancing till eternity. Give it a spin, and let me know what you think in the comments below. 

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.