The pop landscape is as mutable as quicksand—an endless and ever-shifting terrain whose listener’s tastes are so fast-changing that it has become impossible to determine what new music will hold that secret grain of genius sufficient to propel its creator to the highest echelons of stardom. The longevity of a career like Kylie Minogue’s is all the more impressive—her achievements as the Princess of Pop are doubly significant, a testament to her strength of character and musical prodigiousness.
When Kylie returned to the radio and zeitgeist this past summer with ‘Padam Padam,’ the lead single off her long-awaited sixteenth studio album Tension, it was yet another reminder from the Australian singer that she, as usual, had her finger perfectly placed on the pulse of pop music. ‘Padam Padam’s performance across international markets marked a new era for the singer, whose last few albums have struggled to produce singles capable of reckoning with the voracious appetite of TikTok and streaming-era listeners. The single found particular success within the queer community, boosting streams through the summer Pride season.
With last week’s release of Tension, Kylie met the enthusiasm of her lead single in proper form with a classic, quintessentially pop record that stands out proudly within her varied and excellent discography. Produced with long-time collaborators Biff Stannard, Duck Blackwell, and Jon Green, Tension is a departure from Kylie’s previous two albums, Golden (2018) and Disco (2020), both of which favored concept over musical execution.
The strength of Tension is its lack of a unifying ideology; effortlessly leaping from the 80s-inspired “Things We Do For Love” to the 90s-groove of “Hands” to the club euphoria of “Hold On To Now,” Tension’s throughline is the relatively simple (but always elusive) objective of making good pop music. For Kylie—a musician who has not only lived but artistically thrived through most of the eras she references musically—Tension acts as somewhat of a compendium of her pop-making abilities and a testament to her excellence as a pop songstress.
The record doesn’t take itself too seriously, and a few tracks fall slightly flat because of its unseriousness. Still, Kylie’s music rarely attempts to wrestle with overly heady themes, which has always worked in her favor, inspiring a general listenability in her sound and a broad appeal within her lyrics. Tension is unafraid to explore this familiar terrain, with Kylie conjuring classic sensual and romantic images through her lyricism.
Ultimately, Tension does what every good dance record will do, which is to inspire its listeners to get up and dance. Its moments of brilliance underscore this purpose, and the album personally left me itching to hear its stronger tracks like ‘Tension,’ ‘Padam Padam,’ ‘Hold On To Now,’ ‘What We Do For Love’ and ‘Story’, on the dancefloor where they, and more importantly Kylie, belong.
To keep up to date with all things electronic music, including exclusive coverage of some of the genre’s biggest festivals and events, latest releases, and editions of our unique series like SIDE BY SIDE and Fresh Finds, check back here at Nexus Radio. And lastly, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @nexusradiodance.