Discover more from Andrew’s Substack
Single Review: Kylie Minogue "Tension"
The title track from her upcoming 16th LP packs a punch.
Earlier this summer, Kylie Minogue marked the 35th anniversary of her debut album, Kylie. Then, the 20 year-old Australian soap-opera star was optimistically delving into music after a 1987 cover of “The Locomotion” took Australia, and then the world, by storm.
It’s been something of a whirlwind since then, with 15 albums and countless hits under her belt (outside of the United States), and a mononym that rings bells around the world. A bout of breast cancer in the mid-2000’s couldn’t even slow her down for long. Kylie isn’t just resilient, she’s damn near impenetrable. Go look for a major Kylie scandal from any point in her career. Just one. File not found. She’s managed to soar without letting the dark side of fame even momentarily chip away at the pop perfection she’s forged since the 80’s.
Andrew’s Substack is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Now, she’s experiencing something of a renaissance. After back-to-back concept albums (2018’s country-flecked Golden and 2020’s glittering Disco) she’s back to business as usual on her 16th LP Tension. The lead single, “Padam Padam,” arguably became the song of the summer. It was not only her first top 10 UK single in 13 years, but also her first top 10 on the US Hot Dance/Electronic Songs Chart. The song transcended its 2:46 time-stamp and ascended to viral TikTok levels. It assumed life as a greeting, a punctuation, and a calling card for those hip enough to be in the know (read: gay and at least 30).
The second single from the album is the title track, “Tension.” From the moment the snippets of the albums leaked in mid-May (which surprisingly never yielded to a full-blown album leak), “Tension” was a standout. When the song leaked in full in July, any doubt of its potential was dispelled.
“Tension” is a push and pull of anticipation that builds into euphoric satisfaction. She drops her flexes “call me Ky-lie-lie-lie, don’t imi-tate-tate-tate” (which aptly fits as she gears up for another legal battle over her trademarked first name with an entitled lesser who shares the same first name, but lacks the talent, poise, grace, and aptitude to simply be referred to as “Kylie”) as she entices and envelops her suitor.
“Touch me right there” she insists over and over until she seemingly ascends to another plane and the commands suddenly come from a robotic Kylie. The robotic effect has a retro, late aughts sound, but it feels deliciously fresh up against the abrupt beat switch, pairing it just with the song’s synthy bassline and driving beat. Unlike the vocal effect on “Padam,” which was haunting and hypnotizing, this vocal effect feels like the realization of a high, the ascent to that level of entranced orgasm.
Clearly, that’s the right spot.
In the video, which premiered the following day, four distinct Kylies all work to address the tension: A frenetic, Hunger Games-esque system operator, a vintage Hollywood glam traveler, a digital apparition, and, in a nod to her upcoming Las Vegas residency, a showgirl. The video seems to interpret the song less as a dialogue between two people and more as an inner dialogue about finding the right spot within oneself. It’s equal parts camp and clever, as is the case with so many of the things Kylie does.
Pre-order Kylie’s new album Tension.