The Music Week Interview: Kylie Minogue

The Music Week Interview: Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue is back! Hot on the heels of viral single Padam Padam – her biggest song in a decade – the pop legend is about to release her brilliant new album Tension. With her music making a big splash on TikTok, radio and in the charts, and a Vegas residency in the offing, the star – joined by A&P Artist Management, BMG and CAA – tells Music Week how, 35 years after releasing her debut album, she’s still finding new ways to become even bigger than ever… 



For the longest time, there was always a running gag among Kylie Minogue’s inner circle. She was destined for the Las Vegas Strip, they said. It was the safest bet in town, they said. The only question was when.

“We would joke that I was definitely going to end up in Vegas,” laughs Kylie, cheerily greeting Music Week from Down Under. “Many years ago – on the Showgirl tour in 2005 – we were saying, ‘This should be in Vegas.’ And then Aphrodite in 2011 should absolutely have been in Vegas. It would’ve made way more sense to be there as opposed to packing up precision water fountains in a truck and schlepping them to the next location.”

The inevitable will finally become a reality in November when the Australian’s debut Las Vegas stint, More Than Just A Residency, premieres at The Venetian Resort’s new 1,000-seat Voltaire venue. Kylie’s famously fervent fanbase snapped up tickets for the original 10 dates in four-and-a-half hours in August, with an additional 10 then selling out in just 30 minutes. She describes the response as “overwhelming”.

“It’s such an intimate venue and I’m hoping people can get their tickets. But overall, it’s super-exciting,” Kylie confides (in me). “It feels like the right time. It’s something a bit different for me and it’s something different for Vegas, so I’ve got quite a bit of work in the next couple of months to get ready for that.”

Once the preserve of ageing legends, a Sin City residency is a much more palatable proposition for today’s superstars, post Britney Spears’ transformative Piece Of Me run. Indeed, Kylie needed no persuasion to try her luck in the gambling capital of the world while still at the top of her game. 

“Vegas seemed to be more for the twilight of one’s career, but in the interim it has had this rejuvenation,” she observes. “That is not taking away from what that was, because it has worked so well for people historically. But it’s true that it’s pretty happening right now, so I thought it was a good time.”

Which brings us neatly to why things are “pretty happening” right now: Kylie’s sublime electropop-infused new album Tension, which is out on BMG UK on September 22. It marks a new chapter of a career that has continued to grow and grow over the course of decades. Today in conversation, Kylie tips her hat in reverence to Australia’s women’s football team, the Matildas (“It is amazing to see the positive effect they are having on young girls, in fact, all women,” she hails. “They are inspiring!”). In truth, she could just as easily be describing her own influence since she rose to fame on Neighbours in the 1980s (she reprised her role as Charlene Robinson for the Aussie soap’s finale last year).

“That is very kind of you to say,” she says of the assertion. “I would like to think that from the early days of mechanic Charlene that I helped girls and women to feel empowered in themselves and their chosen field.” 

Kylie has made only sporadic acting appearances since crossing over to music and signing to Mushroom Records in 1987. Indeed, the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) recognises Kylie as the highest-selling domestic recording artist of all time, with career sales surpassing 80 million.

“I had to learn everything on the job and learn it fast,” reflects the singer on her journey through the music industry. “There are definitely times when I didn’t get it right but I have felt supported through that and was given the space to discover myself as a person and as an artist. I have bent to others’ wills at times and I have second guessed myself or been persuaded or dissuaded in a manner that wasn’t ideal, but I stayed the course and have always fought, mostly with a quiet determination, for my place.”

“I think it is simply a fact that this industry is harder for women,” she argues. “It seems that the industry as a whole has had to take a good look at itself and change any of the antiquated views which should no longer be tolerated.”

A quick recap: The Grammy and BRIT-winning Kylie Minogue has, to date, amassed seven No.1 and 35 Top 10 singles, alongside eight No.1 albums in the UK alone, netting a chart-topper in each of the last five decades. Such accomplishments do not simply come by chance.

“At the core she is an incredible artist with an incredible drive to create,” offers Polly Bhowmik of A&P Artist Management. “It’s in her being, so whilst she has incredible teams around her, she is the centre of everything she does and drives and inspires us all.”

And where she is driving next is going to have the whole world paying close attention…

Billed as “a record of pleasure-seeking, empowered dancefloor bangers and sultry pop cuts,” Tension reunites Kylie with long-time collaborators Biff Stannard (Spice Girls, Little Mix) and Duck Blackwell (Louis Tomlinson, Wiz Khalifa) on seven of its 11 songs. Superstar DJ Oliver Heldens guests on penultimate song 10 Out Of 10, while track nine Vegas High was a late inclusion (“I can’t say I started Tension knowing Vegas would definitely happen,” Kylie says). 

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Unlike her last couple of albums, there is no definitive theme running through Kylie’s latest body of work, and she lets out a chuckle when asked to place it within the “Kylie canon”.

“It marks where I am at this point in time,” she contends. “I enjoyed not having a theme, which we started with but it wasn’t really working, so it felt quite liberating. So much of the previous album Disco was done in lockdown. I didn’t get to tour it. And so with this album, I was just so eager to get out of the gates.”

Though Kylie prefers to keep her private life just that, she has disclosed that making Tension helped her “navigate challenging times and celebrate the now”. “Personal matters – some people know of, some they don’t,” is how she puts it to Music Week.

“I was happy to get some of these emotions out of myself,” she elaborates. “The studio can be like therapy. So yes, some challenging moments, which almost everyone has. But to be able to express some of those things – particularly with a song like Story or Hold On To Now where, in some parts, I’m not even exactly sure what I’m saying – that’s why we write songs. It’s hard to express this stuff in normal dialogue. So, anyway, some challenging stuff and other moments where we were out of Covid times, which is where I lived my last album, and just going, ‘Yeah, I’ll give it a try.’ I’ll try everything actually. That’s what’s good with trusted people in the studio – you can just try it and see if it works.”

Tension sees the continuation of Kylie’s impressive stint as an independent artist via her partnership with BMG, which has so far produced a hat-trick of No.1 records in the form of 2018’s country pop-powered Golden (167,484 sales, OCC) and 2020’s Disco (178,987 sales), as well as 2019 compilation Step Back In Time – The Definitive Collection (224,627 sales). BMG’s SVP, UK recordings Jamie Nelson is eager to maintain the partnership’s 100% hit rate.

“Going into this record, Kylie was keen to take the shackles off and try to head into some spots that we’d not explored for a while, and I think that has really paid off,” says Nelson. “It’s been an ongoing process of development. The last two albums have seen incredible progression from her – not just from a sales perspective, but creatively – and she’s managed to redefine her career yet again.”

“As ever with her, she’s only focused on quality music,” he adds. “She’ll cut more songs than anybody else. She’ll reimagine songs five, six, seven times before she’s got them exactly aligned to her vision. She worked tremendously hard to deliver amazing and exceptional music.”

The relationship between Nelson and Kylie dates back to their days together at Parlophone on 2000’s Light Years.

“I first met Jamie in 1999, the same year that I met Biff, one of my producers,” reminisces Kylie. “I respect him so much and I know he genuinely cares for me and my musical output. If I was ever in a band, it would be with him because he is good at challenging me.”

Having worked with Kylie on and off for 20-plus years, Nelson has developed a sixth sense for what makes her tick.

“She’s always been keen to reset and deliver creative that is constantly moving the narrative forward,” he says. “There are artists that do that to a certain extent, but I haven’t worked with any that have had the ability to switch that up so many times. I think it’s partly because she has a sense of trusting people that she works with – be it producers, choreographers, directors, designers – to bring in the most incredible ideas.She will support and back people that she trusts, and she does all of that in the context of understanding who her audience is and the importance of being progressive. Those things combined offer her an edge on other artists and to be doing that into this point of her career is quite extraordinary.”

That edge, Nelson argues, is paying dividends.

“We’re seeing constant progression now in North America, for example, which is continuously growing for us,” he says. “She’s in new markets with new opportunities to find new fans all the time.”

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Tension has, of course, already yielded Kylie’s biggest hit in nearly a decade in the enchanting Padam Padam (250,485 sales), which received its live debut on American Idol in May. The Lostboy/Ina Wroldsen co-write peaked at No.8 on the UK chart and went Top 40 in the US – unheard of for an artist in their 50s on their 16th LP. A canny sales campaign by BMG included cassette and CD editions, alongside the release of an extended version – sealing Kylie’s first Top 10 solo entry since 2010’s All The Lovers.

“We always want to have hits or moments that feel very significant and we certainly have that this time with Padam Padam, but that wasn’t necessarily the main focus,” insists Nelson. “We managed to have phenomenal success on the last album, for example, just through continuously dropping great music, as opposed to it being defined by one particular moment. And we’ve been lucky enough – and it’s been great enough – to benefit from something that’s really captured people’s imagination on this record. From my perspective, we need to constantly continue to broaden her reach. She’s an iconic, generational pop artist who’s best in class when it comes to the way she delivers her art. We want to back that and make sure she’s reaching the largest possible audience. I’m absolutely confident that we’re continuing that journey at the moment.”

As BMG’s senior marketing manager Anna Derbyshire sees it, it strikes just the right tone at the right time, smack bang in the middle of the post-pandemic dance boom (or Padam-ic, if you read The Guardian).

“After lockdown there is a desire to let go a little bit and I think what you saw across the board with Padam Padam represented freedom, euphoria and joy,” she suggests. “It was a real release.”

It has also been adopted as a Pride anthem, reinforcing Kylie’s longstanding bond with the LGBTQ+ community – a connection she holds dear.

“I just continue to do what I’ve always done, which is be supportive and open – be open-minded, open-hearted – and that’s the way I intend to stay,” she says. “It’s always been very simple for me. It’s highly complex for a lot of members of the community of course, but I try to just be available and in return the community has done so much for me. It’s a very organic and wonderful relationship.”

For Kylie, whose Zoom name shows up as “Padam”, the brilliant, sub three-minute banger offered a crash course in 2023 hitmaking.

“When Padam came in as a demo, I assumed the rest of the song was going to be built out,” she reflects. “But Jamie said, ‘No, it doesn’t need to go to a middle eight and come back for another chorus.’ That was an adjustment for me to go, ‘Okay, that works.’ So I’m not afraid of the most noticeable change, which is the duration of the song. I can understand it now I’ve seen the amazing impact it’s had with Padam.”

The ubiquitous dancefloor-filler has even earned the evergreen star her first viral smash, inspiring countless TikTok creations, memes and videos. After more than 35 years in the game, Kylie is still finding ways to break new territory.

“It’s wild that I can say that this is a first for me to have a viral moment,” enthuses Kylie. “The song’s catchy, hypnotic, modern, a bit kooky and a really good fit for me. Then the video managed to amplify all of that with its otherworldliness and overload of Padam red. I had hoped at some point to connect more on TikTok but I didn’t know now would be the time! I’ve been so touched and amazed at people’s ingenuity, passion and humour. We all had high hopes for the song, but I don’t think any of us expected it to take off the way it did as a viral hit. So I’m going along with the ride and we’ve had to pivot as well – because it was unexpected.”

Derbyshire points to the American Idol performance of Padam Padam for positioning the track as an international concern.

“What was heartening was the speed at which Capital and Kiss came on board in the UK,” she says. “And then obviously the virality of the track – the video, the visuals and UGC stuff – started to snowball. Kylie saw it, enjoyed it and leaned into it in a very warm, fun way.”

Another defining moment was Kylie’s surprise appearance at the Capital Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium in June. 

“What was so great about that was to see not just the mums and dads in the crowd, but the kids going wild for her as well,” continues Derbyshire. “That exemplified what we saw on TikTok where you’ve got under 25s who couldn’t care less how old she is. They thought, ‘She looked great, she’s cool, it’s a banger and I’m going to enjoy creating my own content on the back of it.’”

Kylie, who had built up almost 350,000 followers and 3.1m likes on TikTok at the last count, agrees that the broad-mindedness of Generation Z has been key to the tune’s virality.

“It feels like we’re in a more accepting time where it’s not cool to be ageist,” she says. “And ironically, it’s the younger people who are not tied down with this oppressive and limited notion of what you can and can’t do. So that’s good timing on my part, but I’ve never stopped. I’ve been the youngest kid in the room and now I’m one of the older generation in the room. And every part of the way – and every age that I’ve been in my career – presents a different challenge.”

The issue came to the fore when BBC Radio 1 initially declined to playlist Padam Padam in a move the station denied was motivated by ageism (“Each track is considered for the playlist based on its musical merit and whether it is right for our target audience, with decisions made on a case-by-case basis,” a spokesperson said). The track was eventually C-listed following a fan backlash.

“There was obviously a lot of chatter about Padam and female artists of a certain age, but I think she transcended it,” reckons Derbyshire. “It’s a matter of quality and what she’s saying and presenting being good enough – and it’s been surely proven that it is. The fact that she ended up with the UK No.1 airplay record is great.”

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Derbyshire has similarly high aspirations for the next single, Tension’s title track. 

“We’re very confident that it’s an incredible song,” she says. “It’s brilliant, and I think people are going to really love it for the same reasons as Padam, but it’s not a carbon copy.”

Padam Padam has been streamed more than 63m times on Spotify, with Kylie’s current monthly listenership on the platform standing at nearly 15m. That her numbers are on the rise is not happenstance, but the result of a sustained push behind the scenes.

“Our relationship with Kylie started out with Golden and by the time we got to Disco, the streaming area was a real focus,” notes Derbyshire. “Disco was a two-year campaign: there was the main album release, then the Guest List Edition a year later, and that was two years of build. By the time we got to Padam, we’d seen massive growth in North America and other parts of the world and that was able to be built on, because the foundations had already been laid. There’s real understanding from everybody on the team and a great relationship with management as well. It all works as a great ecosystem.”

A BBC Radio 2 poll conducted in the run-up to Kylie’s headline set at Radio 2 In The Park in Leicester this month revealed 2001 classic Can’t Get You Out Of My Head to be the nation’s favourite Kylie song, followed by Spinning Around (2000) and Better The Devil You Know (1990). But what’s Kylie’s favourite?

“Favourite Kylie song? Are you kidding me?!” she laughs. “With the addition of the Tension tracks, I don’t think this helps me at all to choose my favourite. Of the Tension songs it would be Padam and Hold On To Now vying for contention!”

A consistent tool in Kylie’s music-making armoury is to ask herself, “What is the song I haven’t done yet?”

“It always motivates me,” she explains. “I’m still thinking that and the album is not even out. I just love music. I love working with producers and musicians – it’s literally such a happy place for me. It rings true when you hear people saying [the studio] is a safe space where there’s an unwritten rule that you may reveal parts of yourself that you might not elsewhere. There is the endless lure of creativity that is just wondrous, frustrating and compelling. I probably go in closer to who I am the majority of the time, as opposed to who I am publicly as a pop star, so it really can be an amazing place – if you’re with the right people. Otherwise, you can’t wait to get out of the door!”

Even that danger has been largely eradicated since Kylie began recording remotely during Covid-19, showing herself to be a natural at Logic Pro (“I can’t tell you what a game-changer it is,” she observes). 

“One thing that’s incredible about Kylie is that she defines her own career,” states Nelson. “When we went through the whole lockdown thing, there were artists across the board that took some time out. The first thing Kylie did was build her own studio.”

“There have been certain things we’ve worked on where Jamie’s said, ‘We can book you a studio,’ and I’ve just said, ‘No thanks, I’m really happy to do it myself,’” says Kylie. “There were times in my past where there was so much pressure with the studio. ‘You’ve got to get the vocals today, you’ve got to get this, you’ve got to get that.’ And as a somewhat insecure person at times, some of that was not fun. But now there is another way and it’s opened up so much more potential for me to have access anytime I want, and I can lose myself in that world.”

And that’s just one world Kylie can lose herself in...

Until Elton John came along this year with his farewell set, Kylie’s Glastonbury legends slot in 2019 attracted the biggest audience in the festival’s history. The performance was all the more poignant given she was forced to pull out of her scheduled headline set 14 years earlier after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

“After the cancellation of Kylie’s Pyramid Stage headline performance in 2005 due to health issues, it had been on the agenda for some time for Kylie to finally make it to Glastonbury,” says her agent, 2023’s Music Week Awards Strat winner Emma Banks of CAA. “It took a while for the timing to be right but the stars aligned in 2019 for Kylie to perform – Golden was a No.1 album in the UK and Kylie was clearly perfect to grace the fields of Worthy Farm. Kylie just blew everyone away that day – I think everyone on site wanted to watch, the crowd had the best time and the security did a choreography routine to one of the songs which was fabulous. It felt like everyone watched that performance – if not on site then on television – and everyone was talking about Kylie!”

Sadly, the Covid touring shutdown meant Kylie was unable to fully capitalise on the momentum from her memorable turn in Somerset. But Banks confirms further live dates could be in the pipeline.

“Obviously the Vegas residency is on sale and going incredibly well, which is such good news,” she says. “We have lots of plans for more shows around the world which will be announced soon. Everyone has a good time at a Kylie show and I think the evolution of the show and how Kylie presents her music is a fascinating thing to watch.”

“She is and will most likely remain an enigma, shapeshifting through the years,” remarks Polly Bhowmik. “Some say she is timeless – this could be attributed to her more or less consistent presence in so many people’s lives, no matter what age. I think everyone takes their own lessons or advice from Kylie and her career. I know I’ve learnt that there is no shortcut to success, pick your battles and follow your gut.”

Bhowmik goes on to reflect on how their working partnership has evolved over the years.

“As with any relationship, you get to know someone better over time and understand how they work, what matters to them, their nuances,” she explains. “I think the sense of responsibility has always been there. Kylie is Kylie, her career and everything to do with it speaks for itself. At the start, the responsibility was to not let her down, not to let her fans down, as you’re working with someone with an extraordinary legacy. Over time that sense of responsibility has only grown as you understand from an artist perspective what Kylie is looking to achieve in the future, and you want to help her achieve those goals in what is an illustrious career, and to ensure everything is of a standard befitting of her.”

Here Bhowmik lands on an important point. 

“The key thing is recognising that Kylie is one human being at the epicentre of everything,” she says. “And the main thing for us is to always be aware of this and protect that in everything we do. The biggest challenge is managing the incoming and prioritisation. It is a close-knit team – myself, Alli Main and Gemma Reilly-Hammond work with specialists in the different facets of Kylie’s career and businesses. Top of our list is to make sure all those areas feel part of the overall team, have the information they need to best carry out their respective roles and to empower people to do their best.”

And as for what they are looking to achieve going forward?

“The future?” ponders Bhowmik. “Well, in some ways we say a few days ahead is a lifetime in Kylie world, in other ways, we are planning well into 2025. All I know is that there is likely to be a 17th album, probably an 18th and so on. The music is in her!”

So long as it is, the world – and the UK especially, given Bhowmik hails the honorary Brit as “part of the cultural fabric” – will be listening. Kylie moved to London in 1990 and received an OBE in 2008 for services to music. As she attempts to contextualise her relationship with her adopted home before we part ways, the memory of her near disastrous teenage visit to London to work with British songwriting factory Stock Aitken Waterman comes back to her.

“I just had a flash of going to the UK when I was 19,” she smiles. “The story that we all know: Stock Aitken Waterman. I Should Be So Lucky happens more or less before I got on a plane back to Australia… I can’t quite believe that I spent all that time, and continue to spend time, in the UK and I’m part of British music. It’s just unreal to me, but my entire education in music has been in the UK.”

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