Kylie Minogue, “Tension”

The electropop trailblazer’s 16th LP reignites her commitment to small reinventions in order to suit the modern pop landscape.

Kylie Minogue, Tension

The electropop trailblazer’s 16th LP reignites her commitment to small reinventions in order to suit the modern pop landscape.

Words: Matthew Pywell

September 21, 2023

Kylie Minogue

The enduring legacy of Kylie Minogue persists on her new album Tension, a record that exemplifies everything that’s made her career so memorable to date and reignites her commitment to small reinventions in order to suit the modern pop landscape. Just look at the success of the album’s first single, “Padam Padam.” Of course no one knows what the phrase “padam padam” actually means, but its anonymity matters little—Gen Z took straight to it on TikTok, which introduced a younger audience to Minogue’s wider catalog. The hits of bass in the chorus shift the song into an instant floor-filler; once you’ve heard “Padam Padam” it becomes a fixture in your daily life. Going to the shops? Padam. Joining a video call? Padam. Trying to sleep? Padam. 

The single radiates the sense of positivity that’s been a mainstay in Minogue’s songwriting—it’s unashamedly lustful, with liberation through mutual desire being its crux. Minogue has been open when discussing the ageism that she’s faced in her later career, which matches the misogynist scrutiny she’s received over the years (being an artist who’s channeled sex-positive imagery and lyrics, she’s naturally found the ire of conservative listeners). Yet Minogue has carried on doing things on her own terms, and that’s a huge part of what draws people to her music. 

Not only do you feel this exhilarating rush on songs from the new album, but you get the sense that Minogue’s throwing large parts of her personality into the music, too, which gives the listener so much more to connect with. It wouldn’t be farfetched to say that she’s mastered the art of making listeners fall in love with her, which has resulted in a massive, die-hard fanbase. For all the emphasis on intimacy and connection, excitement is channeled throughout Tension in a sound that closely aligns itself to club music, which Minogue has utilized to great effect earlier in her career on hits such as 2000’s “Spinning Around.” Here, Minogue embraces EDM and Eurobeat, as well as echoes of 2020’s Disco on “Green Light.”

Which results in an intriguing blend of new and old. Where some contemporary albums such as Ava Max’s Diamonds & Dancefloors can be overproduced to the point of lifelessness, Tension feels liberating, danceable, and seductively steamy. There are some points in the album where the forwardness of the songs may seem over-the-top, but ultimately a lot of the best pop music thrives off of desire and connection and leaning into those themes to their most hyperbolic extremes—as if fantasy is just within your reach. One of the most transportive efforts on Tension is the title track, wherein by what feels like a flick of a switch the listener is suddenly dropped into darkness, swallowed by shadows and lingering humidity. It’s reminiscent of the steaminess found on the recent Jessie Ware album, which is heavily inspired by Minogue’s previous work. 

There’s no doubt that Tension, like That! Feels Good!, will also resonate heavily with the large LGBTQ+ backing that she’s amassed, having publically been a strong advocate and ally for gay rights. These songs are entirely inclusive, where pleasure is seen as a right for all. Still providing us with hits this long into her career, Kylie has shown that her music has no expiration date. It’s difficult to think of many other artists who’ve helped to shape modern pop music into what it is today.