During her career, she has established herself as one of the world's most prolific and successful recording artists. She has remained a major celebrity even during the periods that her career was in decline, and through her ever changing public persona, has become and remained one of the most recognisable sex symbols of her era.
Early lifeBorn in Melbourne, Australia, Kylie Minogue is the eldest of three children (sister Dannii and brother Brendan). Influenced by her mother's career, she decided to go into show business, and made her TV debut at the age of 11. She appeared in several Australian television series as a child and teenager, including Young Talent Time, The Sullivans and The Henderson Kids, before rising to prominence in 1986 with her role in the Australian soap opera Neighbours.
As an adult, Kylie would recall these formative years and stated that she received her greatest inspiration from the movie Grease (1978). She described herself and her siblings singing and dancing to the movie soundtrack, and her ambition at the age of ten, to be Olivia Newton-John.
NeighboursOn Neighbours, Kylie played the character of Charlene Mitchell, a tomboy who rebelled at every opportunity. Charlene soon fell in love with boy next door Scott Robinson, played by Jason Donovan. The storylines between the young lovers proved popular with viewers and they soon became famous. A record audience watched the episode featuring Scott and Charlene's wedding in 1987.
Kylie's personal popularity in Australia eclipsed that of other cast members, and to a degree that of the program itself. She was the recipient of a Gold Logie Award, as the nation's most popular television performer, the result determined by public vote. During this time Neighbours began screening in the United Kingdom. It achieved such unprecedented popularity, that when school children began staying at home to watch it, the problem of truancy was discussed in the British Parliament, and "Neighbours" was blamed as a major contributing factor. The television network compromised by screening each episode twice during the same day to reduce the negative impact the show's popularity was having. As in Australia, Kylie was singled out as the most popular and charismatic of the cast members.
Early Recording CareerAs part of an Australian Rules Football charity event in 1987, Kylie sang a boppy cover of Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion". The song was so successful that the Australian record company Mushroom Records released it as a single. It shot to number one in the Australian charts for 7 weeks and also topped the New Zealand charts. It became the best selling Australian single of the 1980s.
Her success caught the attention of British production team Stock Aitken Waterman (or "SAW", a team with their own record label, PWL, and responsible for many late-'80s bubblegum pop hits), and she soon left Australia for London, signing a 5 year record contract. Her first album Kylie was the best selling album of 1988 in Europe and Australia, and spawned several international number one singles including the classic "I Should Be So Lucky", "The Loco-Motion", and "Got To Be Certain". "The Loco-Motion" reached #3 on the American Billboard Hot 100 chart and she also had minor American hits with "I Should Be So Lucky" and "It's No Secret", though she failed to make a firm impression on the American record-buying public.
After the singles from Kylie, Kylie released a duet with her Neighbours cast-mate Jason Donovan, who by this time was also a SAW star. "Especially For You" went to number one and narrowly missed out on becoming the UK's 1988 Christmas Number One.
Her next album Enjoy Yourself (1989), reached number one in the United Kingdom, and gave her another number one single with "Hand On Your Heart'" as well as a group of top 10 hits. The style of this album was similar to her first, with frothy dance tunes, lyrics concerning young love, and videos in which a bubbly Kylie danced and clowned in front of the camera. The media began to discuss Kylie's limitations as an artist, and a critic coined the nickname "The Singing Budgie" - a name which would stick, and which she would have to rise above. In the midst of increasingly hostile media coverage, which suggested she'd suffered a nervous breakdown, Kylie began to struggle against Stock Aitken Waterman, and set into motion her first career reinvention.
ReinventionAs early as 1990, Kylie had attempted to adopt a more mature persona and around this time her videos became racier and more adult-themed. She progressed to a more mature dance/club sound with her next two albums, Rhythm of Love (1990) and Let's Get To It (1991). The two albums contained several hits including "Better The Devil You Know", whose video marked Kylie's departure from the "girl-next-door" image that Stock Aitken Waterman had created for her.
In the early '90s, Minogue was allowed the freedom to create her own music video for the first time; and the new-looking Kylie was confident, stylish and sexy. She danced choreographed rather than "ad-libbed" steps and she was surrounded by muscular male dancers. Her new persona was welcomed by her fans and she released more hits including "Step Back In Time", "What Do I Have To Do" (with a video depicting Kylie in a suggestive lesbian pose), and "Shocked". Minogue has said that of all the elements of her career, the one that brings her the greatest personal pleasure is her visual representation. She has also stated that she is simply a showgirl at heart. In 1994, Minogue began to fully emerge as a sexual entity. In the Barbarella-inspired video for "Put Yourself In My Place", she performed a slow burlesque strip tease in zero gravity, which ended with a naked Kylie disappearing behind a screen. In "Confide In Me" she played with her glamour, and taking the theme of television phone sex lines, struck a variety of scantily clad poses. The press dubbed her "Sex Kylie". In 2002, the video for "Spinning Around" placed much of its focus on her bottom, and her gold hot pants became a temporary trademark. One British newspaper declared that it was the first time a bottom had reached number one on the British charts. The videos for "Kids" and "On A Night Like This" each concluded with a sultry Kylie disrobing and sliding naked into a swimming pool. In Please Stay she was on a bed wearing lingerie, while she sang. The 2002 video for "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" showed Kylie with a plunging neckline, and for a second or two one of her breasts appeared to be exposed.
During the beginning of Kylie's "sex" phase in the early '90s, her singles continued to sell well, but her albums did not achieve the high sales figures of their predecessors. Disagreements soon followed with producer, Pete Waterman, over her level of artistic freedom. A concurrent romance with Michael Hutchence of INXS affirmed her less innocent, more vampish image, with Hutchence stating in an interview that his favourite hobby was "corrupting Kylie". Although the relationship did not last, her image became more self-assuredly sexual and her association with Hutchence gave her a higher level of credibility. She utilised this credibility to launch the next phase of her career, and signed a recording deal that would give her more creative freedom than ever before. In a bold move, Kylie left the proven success of PWL to join indie/dance label Deconstruction.
Her first album on that label, the self-titled Kylie Minogue, was a much more industrial, noisier affair than the lightweight pop which had been her staple up to that point. It spawned only one important hit, "Confide In Me", and the album sold disappointingly, having alienated her pop fans and having never managed to connect with a more critical audience. Minogue seemed likely to vanish into the post-PWL void which had swallowed up Mel and Kim, Sinitta, and indeed Jason Donovan himself. Certainly, the pattern of pop hits, exploitation, dissatisfaction, maturity, and obscurity, was well-established by that time. Very few acts of the time had managed to buck the trend.
However, Kylie's career was revived, particularly in Australia, with a dark, surreal single, a duet with Nick Cave called "Where The Wild Roses Grow", in 1995. The lyrics depicted a conversation between a murderer, Cave, and his victim, Minogue. Cave also persuaded Minogue to recite the lyrics to "I Should Be So Lucky" as poetry in a 1996 poetry jam held at the Royal Albert Hall.
Her second (and final) Deconstruction album Impossible Princess (renamed Kylie Minogue in the UK in light of the contemporary death of Diana, Princess of Wales) contained collaborations with artists such as the Manic Street Preachers. The album received some favourable reviews - many of the critics who had hitherto dismissed Minogue began to appreciate her pluck and her sense of humour. The video for the single "Did It Again" showed four Kylie's fighting each other for supremacy. Each of her notable incarnations was represented, and "Cute Kylie", "Dance Kylie", "Sexy Kylie" and "Indie Kylie", pulled each other's hair, and pushed and shoved each other as they strutted and pouted. While she was applauded for her creativity and her willingness to satirise herself, it did not regenerate her career. The album achieved the lowest sales of her career and she parted ways with Deconstruction. For a brief while she took to modelling lingerie for H&M, a move which was seen at the time as an inglorious failure.
RebirthIn 1999 she signed to Parlophone to work on a new album, released in 2000 as Light Years. This time it was an out-and-out disco affair, slightly kitsch, but knowingly so. It sold strongly, particularly after the success of the first single, "Spinning Around".
Flushed with renewed success, Kylie played to the biggest audience of her career at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she performed a cover version of the ABBA hit "Dancing Queen" and her then-current single, "On A Night Like This".
On the back of Light Years's success, she went on to release another album, Fever, which surprisingly debuted on the American Billboard Charts at number 3, thanks to its lead single, "Can't Get You Out Of My Head", which had become an instant American hit, Kylie's first in thirteen years. Ever since The Beatles' success it had been a goal of British producers to 'crack America', something they appeared to have finally done with Kylie. The album was heavily influenced by '80s electropop, such as the Human League and early Depeche Mode. The single "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" topped the charts in many countries including the UK and Australia, and for the first time penetrated the US charts, where it peaked at #7 on the Hot 100 pop singles chart and #1 on the club charts. In the UK, in particular, it was an enormous success, remaining on radio playlists for most of 2001. The song was catchy, sophisticated, and blessed with a striking video. An unauthorised remix which combined Kylie's vocals with the tune of New Order's classic "Blue Monday" became an underground hit, and Kylie boosted the burgeoning Bastard Pop scene by performing this version at the 2002 Brit Awards, a masterstroke which brought her to the attention of a trendy late-twentysomething demographic which had bopped 'til dawn to the original.
Kylie's credibility as a recording artist in the USA was enhanced by winning a Best Dance Recording Grammy in 2004 for "Come Into My World", Fever's third American single, which, oddly enough, had not been a major hit there, against fellow nominees Madonna, Cher, Groove Armada and TÚlÚpopmusik. She had previously been nominated in the same category in 2003 for "Love At First Sight", which had itself been a sizeable American hit over the summer of 2002.
In 2002, Madame Tussaud's revealed a new-look Kylie Minogue waxwork. Posed in the manner of a leopard about to leap, the waxwork was both criticised and praised for the visible extent of Minogue's bottom, clad only in Agent Provocateur underwear.
In 2003, Minogue released Body Language. The first single from it, the slinky and understated "Slow", topped the charts in the UK and Australia and was a major hit throughout Europe and much of the world. In America, the single did not achieve the level of pop success that "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" and "Love At First Sight" had managed a year earlier, but "Slow" hit hard on dance radio and the club scene. Simultaneously, Kylie launched a range of lingerie, 'LoveKylie', which sold strongly. Indeed, her lingerie calendar was the UK's best-selling calendar in 2003, the second-best-selling being Kylie's non-lingerie calendar.
While Minogue still retains a place in the iconography of 1980s kitsch, her constant musical and image reinventions have allowed her career to progress beyond it. Kylie is the only female singer other than Madonna to reach number one on the UK pop charts in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. By 2004 Kylie had placed 41 singles in the UK charts with the majority of them reaching the Top 10. Madonna, whom Kylie has publicly acknowledged as an idol and role model, is the only female singer who has achieved more hit singles. Madonna has repaid the compliment by performed at the 2000 MTV Europe Music Awards wearing a 'Kylie Minogue' top, and has revealed with good humour in interviews that her daughter Lourdes is one of Kylie's admirers.
In 2004, Kylie's publicists stated that this would be the year she would "conquer America". "Slow", the first single from the Body Language album, had failed to chart strongly on the American singles chart despite reaching number one on the Billboard Club Chart last fall, but Kylie's publicists have remained optimistic. In February, she visited the USA to promote the upcoming release of Body Language and performed her second single, "Red Blooded Woman", on The Late Show With David Letterman. She also filmed a guest segment for the TV series Queer Eye For The Straight Guy and promoted the show's CD soundtrack - a Chemical Brothers remix of her song "Slow" being one of its tracks.
It is notable that Paul Morley's scholarly yet idiosyncratic study of the evolution of pop music, Words And Music: A History Of Pop In The Shape Of A City, employs Minogue as the vehicle by which pop is explored.
"Sex Kylie"Kylie's sultry image and sexy videos have led to her emerging as one of the premiere sex symbols of her day, with magazine polls frequently naming her as "Sexiest Female", "Most Fanciable Female", and other distinctions along the same lines. Her calendars became top sellers. During Easter 2000, Easter Eggs packaged with lingerie clad Kylie images were widely sold in Britain. It seemed a semi-naked Kylie could be used to sell virtually any kind of product.
Her own range of LoveKylie lingerie was well received, but in 2003 she began to rethink her image. A performance at the Brit Awards with Justin Timberlake had ended with Timberlake crudely grabbing Kylie's bottom. She later said that she had been embarrassed by this unplanned incident, and vowed to present a less flagrant image in future. Consequently, her "Slow" video presented her far more demurely attired, although she was characteristically surrounded by scores of near naked men and women. In subsequent appearances she has adopted a more elegant French style of fashion sophistication.
Film CareerThroughout her music career, Kylie has taken breaks to return to acting. The relationship between her music and acting has not followed the common pattern of a successful music artist attempting to expand her or his career by turning to acting. Kylie first achieved fame as an actress, and it was only her high profile as an actress that afforded her entry into the world of music. As her music career flourished, her acting career languished and became secondary, and ironically her subsequent acting assignments have resulted only from her outstanding success as a singer and the level of fame it has brought her.
In 1989, she starred in The Delinquents, a tale of Australian teenage life in the late 1950s. The film was critically panned and was not a commercial success, although the soundtrack single Tears On My Pillow went to number one.
In 1994 she played Cammy in the action film Street Fighter, based on the computer game of the same name. The film received monumentally poor reviews, although Kylie emerged unscathed.
Her greatest film success was in her smallest role. In Moulin Rouge! (2001) she played the part of Absinthe, the Green Fairy, singing a line from The Sound of Music.
In 2004 she will provide the voice of Florence in a new film based on The Magic Roundabout.