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Tension (Liberator)

THERE’S AN INTERESTING POSITION to find yourself where you can look at something and say yes, everything I might want or expect in a Kylie Minogue album is here, and be disappointed.

Tension hits every mark, covers every style, reaches every market. There’s the pillow fight party song, the gym-to-dance floor-in two-moves song, the midtempo verse leaping into Footloose-mimicking chorus song, the smooth soul/disco song, the fast disco song, the shorts-and-singlet leaning into techno song, the House piano-leading song, the let’s have sex song, the we’ve just had sex song, and, yes, there’s the song that says Ms Minogue is not unaware of some cultural trends of recent times and can mix just enough of it in to feel on-trend – to wit the West Asian influence in the hit Padam Padam joining her already established ease with East Asia’s hyperreal K/J pop.

You can float on the ‘70s flute and ‘80s brass meeting ‘90s pop in One More Time, point your fingers to the sky and sing into your friends’ smiling faces with Vegas High, turn out for women-with-some-attitude R&B and a Barbie reference in Hands, put on the legwarmers and throw off the welders gloves in Things We Do For Love, bust some roboto moves like you’ve come from the House Of Holbein in 10 Out Of 10, and finish it all with a hectic jog of electro-pop in Story.

Tick. Tick. Tickety tick tick. Barman, ship me another platinum streamer.

Really, what’s my problem?

Well, my main problem is that while almost none of it is bad in any sense, little of it is particularly notable and none of it is great. Every song plays its part for its tightly controlled time (the shortest song is 2 minutes 45 seconds, the longest is 3 minutes 57 seconds, and you would be hard pressed to identify a difference), offers a little sugar rush, and then is washed away in your memory.

After two of her best albums in 2018’s end-to-end great Gold and 2020’s pretty damn excellent Disco, we deserve better than what sounds like the product of an algorithmic production meeting whose only human was a data input clerk tabulating her back catalogue.

It would be great to have a genuinely euphoric moment, for example, rather than one that's dialled in. It would be fun to have a shameless bit of high trash nonsense that the trying to be cool part of you would mock in front of others, but the part that knows the truth would dance to when you think no one is watching. It would be a fine thing indeed to feel like someone had been getting excited making this and wanted us excited.

But hey, I’m also someone who thinks Padam Padam is one of the worst singles she has ever released – mechanical and tedious and leached of all good Kylie things – while 75 million plays on Spotify suggest I’m an idiot.


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