"Dance/ It's all I wanna do." These are the first words declared in "All The Lovers," the opening track to Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite. And that's the thesis in a nutshell of her 11th album, which is being touted as a celebration of the pop singer's "dance-floor roots." The theme holds true in that the 12 tracks are pulse-heavy and anthemic, but not in the literal sense of being retrospective of the many dance styles she has covered in her 23-year music career. However, Aphrodite's most memorable quality is its affirmation of Minogue's reputation as a star for the masses.
Aphrodite is everything you expect it to be: inspiring, motivating and celebratory. No surprise, given the all-star talent backing the Minogue machine. Her production team reads like a who's-who of contemporary European dance (Starsmith, Calvin Harris) and pop (Keane's Tim Rice-Oxley, Nerina Pallot) talent. And all of their efforts were overseen by Stuart Price, the producer behind Madonna's most recent dance success, Confessions On A Dance Floor. Top all of this off with Minogue's eternally twee voice (has anyone else noticed that the older she gets, the younger her voice sounds?), and their collective efforts result in the collective "Yippeee!" that characterizes Aphrodite.
The album opens promisingly with a pulsating jab-cross-cross combo. Kicking off the proceedings is the aforementioned dance-floor shout-out "All The Lovers" which reunites Minogue with Kish Mauve, the British duo that gave her her slick 2007 hit "2 Hearts." More aerobicise-worthy are the following cuts "Get Outta My Way" and "Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)." Both tracks are all synths and thumps, or readymade pogo machines designed to incite a perma-state (physical or mental) of arms-up feet-jumping. Crafted songs are passed on in favor of the structure du jour: chorus, chorus, chorus. Half of the album follows this pattern, as Calvin Harris' swirling "Too Much" and Nerina Pallot and Andy Chatterley's marching "Aphrodite" cram numerous catchy hooks to make you reach for your hairbrush karaoke mic or the ceiling bubble-machine.
To be fair Aphrodite has its share of subtle moments mostly under the patient direction of Price. He layers Kylie's a cappella voice gradually on intro to "Illusion" while he pairs her lightly skipping vocals with a brisk string arrangement on "Looking For An Angel." "Closer" bangs the hardest of Price's productions, but not before building a tense path of baroque arpeggios before hitting the chorus. Price also teams with Pascal Gabriel, whose resume runs the gamut from '70s punk band the Razors to New Order to contemporary pop artists like Dido, to vaguely Daft Punk-ish album closer "Can't Beat The Feeling." However even these relatively thoughtful moments are filled with exuberant sunshine and cheer.
Considering that Kylie Minogue's base reads like a rainbow coalition of possible music listeners, Aphrodite's tendency to instantly gratify makes sense. On one end, she has sold nearly 70 million records worldwide, is both a soap star and a gay icon and most recently appeared at Glastonbury. On another end, she has sung with Nick Cave, been covered by the Flaming Lips and mashed up with Kyuss. A bright melody and a brighter smile is her way to split the difference. The trade-off is that the music is not always the most resonant. If she were in politics, she would likely crush the election with her popularity, but have difficulty executing policy because of her lack of substantial ideas. Aphrodite makes offerings to all camps--some sonic noise here, some choice arrangements there, but don't forget the big ending! It aspires to be more than dance-floor music. This is music for Frank's daily commute to/from the job he hates. This is music for Stella's weekly aerobic kickboxing class at Crunch. This is music for Tyler's guilty pleasures. This is music for Ashley's drill team routine. And this is music for Josh's most fantastic Saturday night evar--until next Saturday, of course. Aphrodite accomplishes all this, but won't there be another Aphrodite tomorrow?