Kylie Minogue started her long career as actress on an Australian soap, but her charisma and chameleon-like talents as a pop singer soon landed her on top of the music world. The ride was bumpy, with high highs (chart-topping singles and albums, a brilliant collaboration with Nick Cave) and low lows (cancer, being dropped by record labels), but through it all, Minogue's cheerful relatability never flagged. Through her early days in the '80s with Stock, Aitken & Waterman to her giant electro pop hit in 2001 ("Can't Get You Out of My Head") to her triumphant worldwide tours in the 2010s, Minogue carved out space in the upper echelon of pop all her own.
Born in Melbourne, Australia on May 28, 1968, she began acting in television dramas at the age of 12. Although the small roles brought her a fair bit of exposure, it was her 1986 debut on the insanely popular soap Neighbours that catapulted her to stardom. In Australia, Minogue's role as the tomboy Charlene won her a number of awards, but in Britain, the exploits of that character and her love interest — played by the actor Jason Donovan — attracted record numbers of television viewers, and made the Aussie drama one of the most watched shows in the U.K. Understanding Minogue's megastar potential, as well as her ability to vamp and sing, Mushroom Records signed her to a contract in 1987. Her success was immediate, as her debut single, "The Loco-Motion" (a cover of the 1962 Little Eva hit) rocketed to number one and eventually took the globe by storm, hitting the upper reaches of the charts in many countries.
Kylie then headed to England and partnered with the production team of Stock, Aitken & Waterman. The first track that the group released with Minogue, "I Should Be So Lucky," dominated the Australian and U.K. charts, did well on a number of charts in Europe, and hit the Top 40 in the U.S. Her pop status was further consolidated with her debut album, 1988's Kylie, which topped the charts in the U.K. and did very well in many other places, including Australia. As the '80s drew to a close, Minogue's stature worldwide only grew. Her duet with Jason Donovan, "Especially for You," sold over a million copies in 1989, even while being critically panned. A second full-length, Enjoy Yourself, was also released that year, along with a handful of singles that managed to further dominate charts in both hemispheres. In the midst of this pop success, Minogue also appeared in her first feature film, The Delinquents.
Many things would change for her in the frenetic decade of the '90s. She began to trade in her cutesy, bubblegum pop image for a more mature one, and in turn, a more sexual one. Her relationship with the late frontman of INXS, Michael Hutchence, and her shedding of the near-virginal façade that dominated her first two albums, began to have an effect, not only on how the press and her fans treated her, but in the evolution of her music. Released in 1990, Rhythm of Love, its worldwide hit single, "Better the Devil You Know," and its follow-up, "Shocked," took her out of the stifling world of teen pop and brought her into the more adult world of dance music and nightclubs. Her career was not without its ebbs, however. As she began to flex a bit more creative muscle, her relationship with Stock, Aitken & Waterman felt restrictive. Their sound had dominated music for a number of years on both sides of the Atlantic, but the scene was beginning to move on, and Kylie's fourth and final album with Mushroom and the production team, Let's Get to It, would sell disappointingly. Freed from the yoke of both a production team and a mainstream pop label, Minogue began a long trend of collaborating with up-and-coming and hot producers and songwriters, which not only allowed her to roll with cultural trends and stay current in an extremely fussy and fickle genre, but allowed her to branch out into new areas of performance unheard of by most pop singers of her style.
Now signed to the dance label Deconstruction, Minogue released a much more mature and stylish dance-pop record in 1994's Kylie Minogue. The singles "Confide in Me" and "Put Yourself in My Place" were slicker and more stylish than anything she had previously recorded. While the record sold well and Kylie made more movie appearances (1994's Street Fighter and 1996's Bio-Dome), the next couple of years were fairly quiet except for the hit single (and unlikely collaboration) with Nick Cave entitled "Where the Wild Roses Grow." A dark ballad (with a video based on the Millais painting Ophelia) about a murder — the duet featured Cave as the murderer singing his point of view, and Minogue as the victim singing hers — the single was widely successful in Australia and the U.K, earning Kylie a new set of fans and a new sense of respect.
Her eagerness to expand on this collaboration led to the work that would make up her 1997 album, Impossible Princess. While the lead single, the more rock-tinged "Some Kind of Bliss," was the result of working with James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore of Manic Street Preachers, the rest of the album (for the most part) consisted of further collaborations (with Brothers in Rhythm co-founder David Seaman, for instance) and efforts to expand on the dance-pop that was her bread and butter. The album, soon retitled Kylie Minogue in England due to the death of Princess Diana, was successful, but her attempt at developing her sound met firm resistance critically, with many radio stations and journalists writing her off, figuring her career had run its course. Obviously, this was not to be, as Minogue toured the world for the album, selling out stadiums (as usual) and appearing in a number of specialty concerts over the next two years.
In 1999, having been dropped from Deconstruction but signing to Parlophone, Minogue shed the indie influences that guided Impossible Princess and set about creating dance-pop that was more disco than anything in her catalog. The resulting album, Light Years, and its lead single, "Spinning Around," were huge successes, bringing her critical acclaim and winning a new generation of fans.
Her place in pop music history would be consolidated in 2001, and she would be reintroduced to America after more than a decade. That year's album, Fever, and its massively successful (and aptly titled) single, "Can't Get You Out of My Head," were the first to be released in the U.S. since Enjoy Yourself, and the single managed to chart stateside at number three. Even the Grammys began to recognize Minogue, as the first of many nominations (eventually she would win for "Come Into My World" in 2002) finally happened that year. While her next album, 2003's Body Language, was not as big a seller as Fever, it was another successful attempt at broadening her sound, this time with electro and hip-hop influences. A greatest-hits package (her second), 2004's Ultimate Kylie, acted as a catalyst for her worldwide Showgirl tour, but that was to be set aside after her diagnosis with breast cancer.
In 2005, she underwent successful surgery and follow-up chemotherapy, and eventually made a full recovery. She started out slowly, but would eventually finish her Showgirl tour, and in 2007 she released her tenth album, X. It was well-received and sold enough to convince Minogue that 2009 was the time to undertake her first tour of the United States. Although limited to a few dates and select cities, the North American jaunt was a rousing success, and an Internet-exclusive album of the New York show was made available at the end of that year. As X was making waves in 2008, Minogue was also honored by Queen Elizabeth with an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for her services to music. She released her 11th full-length, Aphrodite (a set executive produced by Stuart Price), in 2010. That same year she guested on songs by Hurts ("Devotion") and Taio Cruz ("Higher"), and released a holiday EP titled A Kylie Christmas.
In 2012, she celebrated her 25th year in the music biz with a greatest-hits collection (The Best of Kylie Minogue), a new single ("Timebomb"), an exhaustive singles collection (K25), and an album of her hits reimagined for a small band and orchestra (The Abbey Road Sessions). She also found time to restart her acting career, with an appearance in Jack & Diane and a leading role in the acclaimed Holy Motors. Not one to take a rest, Minogue spent a busy 2013 appearing on Laura Pausini's single "Limpido," signing with Jay-Z's Roc Nation management firm, and recording a new album. In early 2014, she began appearing as a coach on the U.K. version of The Voice. Her 12th album, Kiss Me Once, which featured songwriting and production from the likes of Pharrell, Sia, and MNDR, was released in early spring of 2014. Soon after, she hit the road on an ambitious concert tour that took her from Istanbul to Madrid to Perth, with many stops along the way. The tour was documented on the 2015 CD/DVD Kiss Me Once Live at the SSE Hydro.
She kept up her breakneck pace the rest of the year, appearing on Giorgio Moroder's single "Right Here, Right Now" and hitting the top of the dance charts with a spot on Nervo's "The Other Boys." She had roles in the ABC Family show Young & Hungry and the film San Andreas, released an EP with producer Fernando Garibay titled Kylie + Garibay, and finally, in November, ended the year with her first full holiday album, Kylie Christmas. In the summer of 2016, Minogue returned with a contribution to the Absolutely Fabulous movie, the theme song "This Wheel's on Fire." She signed to BMG in 2017 and began working on a new album, her 14th. Recovering from heartbreak, Minogue took the suggestion from one of her team to try writing and recording in Nashville. For the first time in her career, she co-wrote all the songs and teamed with writers and musicians there (and a team of producers in London including Biffco and Sky Adams) to craft a sound that was a hybrid of modern country and her more traditional dance pop. The resulting record, Golden, was released in April of 2018. ~ Chris True