How Kylie Minogue Became Part of Pop’s Pantheon With Aphrodite

“Dance, it’s all I wanna do, so won’t you dance?” Kylie Minogue asks at the start of “All the Lovers,” opening her 11th studio album, Aphrodite. Taking her cue from the goddess of love, the Australian pop star began this decade with a 12-track celebration of dance and romance that became one of the finest moments of her career. Aphrodite was a commercial hit, debuting at the top spot on the British charts and becoming her second highest charting album in the U.S, and spawned the successful Aphrodite: Les Folies/Aphrodite Live tour.

In 2001, Minogue kickstarted the sound of the ’00s with “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” A rousing piece of synthpop that hints at an ’80s influence, it reflected what was going on in indie electronic music at the turn of the century (Ladytron and Miss Kittin and the Hacker come to mind), but became a global phenomenon. At the Brit Awards the following year, she performed “Can’t Get Blue Monday Out of My Head,” bringing together her hit with the New Order classic and putting mashups, still an underground trend at the time, on a much more visible stage. With “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” the accompanying video and the “Blue Monday” mashup, Minogue created a mood board for the first decade of the new century that both established and rising pop artists (Gwen Stefani, Madonna, Rihanna, Lady Gaga) would follow.

Minogue is well-known as a pop artist who is unafraid to experiment (as on the 1997 album Impossible Princess), but her skill as a tastemaker is woefully understated. With the release of Aphrodite in 2010, she played up on what was influential about her work in the ’00s while subtly foreshadowing what would become the next-big-thing in first half of this decade.

Aphrodite was a creatively successful album, its impact more apparent now at the end of the decade. It’s a stylistically eclectic collection of songs. Tunes like “Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)” and “Closer” pump the disco vibes with which Minogue has long excelled. “Cupid Boy,” a standout on the album, plays up the New Order-influenced indie dance groove that she helped bring to mainstream popularity nearly a decade earlier. “Better Than Today” gives a little taste of the country-dance style she would delve into on her 2018 album, Golden. Aphrodite pits Minogue as more than a pop goddess capable of inspiring love on the dance floor. Here, we see the full extent of her power, from the influence she had on pop music in the first decade of the 21st century and how that would continue in the second.

In an unusual move for Minogue, she enlisted an executive producer to oversee the direction of the album as a whole. As a producer and remixer, Stuart Price was integral to the sound of dance music in the ’00s. His remixes of artists ranging from The Killers to Royksopp to Gwen Stefani, released under various names, permeated nightclubs. Moreover, he was a producer for Madonna’s landmark 2005 album, Confessions on a Dance Floor. Minogue and Price hadn’t worked together before – in an interview, Minogue mentions that they connected via mutual pal, Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters – but their aural aesthetics were strikingly similar. In fact, back in the late ’90s, Price (under his Les Rythmes Digitales moniker) remixed Bis’ club hit “Eurodisco” with a Depeche Mode vibe that was a precursor for the synthpop revival Minogue brought to the mainstream with “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.”

Under Price’s watch, a slew of collaborators brought Aphrodite to light. They included some names recognizable to indie music fans of the time. Shears (who previously worked with Minogue on the 2004 song “I Believe in You) co-wrote “Too Much.” Tim Rice-Oxley of Keane helped pen “Everything Is Beautiful.” Richard X, who made a name for himself during the initial mashup craze and went on to work with artists like Annie and M.I.A., was a writer on “Can’t Beat the Feeling.”

Aphrodite also benefited from the work of a few up-and-comers who would see their own careers blossom in the following years. Calvin Harris, who co-wrote “Too Much” with Minogue and Shears and produced the track, was a rising star who had collaborated with Minogue on her 2007 album X. However, it would be another year before his collaboration with Rihanna, “We Found Love” became a monumental hit. He would go on to spend more than half of this decade as the world’s highest paid DJ. Meanwhile, “Cupid Boy” was co-written and co-produced by Sebastian Ingrosso, who was right on the cusp of superstardom with his pals in Swedish House Mafia. Sisters Miriam and Olivia Nervo (you might know them best by just their last name) co-wrote “Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love).” They were already acclaimed songwriters, but as this decade progressed, they became known for their own dance hits and DJ sets.

In some respects, Aphrodite was an incubator for the artists who would go on to mold the sound of dance music in this decade. But, it also foreshadowed what Minogue would do in her own career. In 2015, she appeared on Nervo’s debut album, Collateral, alongside Shears and Nile Rodgers on the song “The Other Boys.” In 2018, she merged country and dance music on Golden. At the time of that album’s release, she told Billboard how Aphrodite played a role in the development of the songs, thanks to a “Dolly Parton litmus test” that she and Price had developed. In the summer of 2019, she played the Legends spot at Glastonbury. BBC reported that her set drew the highest viewership in the festival’s broadcast history. When this decade started, Minogue cast herself as part of the Greek pantheon but, by its end, she became part of the pop pantheon.

How EDM Helped Me Heal from Anxiety

It’s June 2016 and I’m testing how low I can get before breaking down. I’ve worked until midnight and gotten up at four to churn out more writing assignments. Seeking comfort from the stress, I reach for the chips in my cupboard, eat more than I intended, panic, and make myself throw up. Unable to focus on an empty stomach, I do it all over again. I move my laptop to Starbucks and order iced cold brew after iced cold brew, telling myself to focus until I’ve finished my 18th article of the day. My stomach feels like negative space.

I write a resignation email for my most stressful job and fantasize about sending it, knowing I’ll never have the courage. I don’t need the money, but the thought of turning down work makes me recoil. I must be successful and success means more bylines and more money.

This is a pattern I’ve become all too familiar with. But at least this time, I have something to look forward to. After another four hours of sleep and 15 articles, I’m headed to Vegas for Electronic Daisy Carnival, an electronic music festival I’d never heard of until the press trip invitation arrived in my inbox.

To accommodate my crazy work hours, I fly in the night before and pull an all-nighter. I sign in for my shift at 3 a.m. from a casino cafe and churn out 7 articles until it ends at 11. Just when I think I’m done, my editor keeps me late to post an update on the Orlando alligator attack.

Meanwhile, a college friend’s blowing up my Facebook chat, begging me to join her in Ibiza in two weeks. I can’t because of this goddamn job. Getting time off is impossible.

Skrillex and Diplo’s “Where Are U Now” wakes me up from a three-second, sitting-up nap. Emboldened by the catchy riff punctuating Justin Bieber’s refrain and fantasies of Ibiza opening parties, I write another resignation email. This time, I type my supervisor’s email address in the “recipients” box.

I still can’t hit “send,” but getting close makes me feel wild. I pack up, put on a tiny $3 romper, and walk along Las Vegas strip. As I pass Serendipity and hum along to Calvin Harris’s “This Is What You Came for,” I visualize myself lounging by the fountain, eating over-priced, calorie-packed ice cream. That would be self-indulgent. Unproductive. Bad. Glorious. Free. How freeing it would be to be bad. I don’t dare enter, but the thought alone loosens my mental shackles.

Something has to change this weekend. Either life as I know it will be destroyed, or I will. Either the part of me that forbids eating ice cream and dropping work will die, or the part of me that wants it will. I secretly root for the former.

As I enter the Las Vegas Motor Speedway that night with a parade of EDM heads in wings, animal faces, and bathing suits, that little voice in me that wants to fuck work and go be an ice cream eating fairy kitten princess says, “Hey, there. I missed you.” I pass giant glowing flowers, foreboding owl statues, and a tiny schoolhouse where people are coloring. This is the closest thing adults have to Disney World.

My pace picks up. I don’t know where I’m running, only what I’m running from: everything outside this land over the rainbow the Nevada dust had dropped me in.

In a pavilion where Russian DJ Julia Govor is playing, I make timid, barely detectable movements, flashing back to middle school dances. Then, I see a dude doing a little catwalk in a floor-length fur coat and bull horns.

Oh, OK, so nobody gives a fuck. This is not middle school. This is not a networking event. Toto, we’re not in New York City anymore. No matter what I do, someone next to me will be crazier.

But nobody’s judging the crazy person either. I want to be the crazy person. The one people compare themselves to so they can shed their misdirected shame. I run from stage to stage doing exaggerated moves I learned in zumba class or ballet or wherever the hell I picked them up. I smile at everyone, not caring if they smile back, but they do.

A cute guy intercepts me to ask where the bathrooms are. I tell him I don’t know, and his glance lingers on me. “Can I kiss you?” he asks.

“Sure,” I shrug, because why not, and we make out amid the blending cacophony of DJ sets. He gives me his number and tells me to let him know if I come to LA.

I can’t believe this is actually a way to live, I think. This is a world where I don’t have to prove anything to be accepted. Where I don’t need a pretentious OKCupid profile to get a kiss. Where don’t need a job to feel good about myself. Where my only job is to have fun.

The next morning, I hit “send.” Three minutes later, my boss asks if she can change my schedule to keep me. Maybe, I think, but not if that rules out Ibiza. “I’ll come,” I Facebook chat my friend.

On the bus to the next day’s festival, I spot a woman with rainbow hair. I see something in her I want to bring out in myself, so I sit beside her and recount my spontaneous makeout sesh.

After flirting with a new guy in line, I see her again at Anna Lunoe’s show. Then, as the neon lights glow against the blackening sky, she gives me molly on a rooftop overlooking the ferris wheel.

On my way back to the stage, the guy from the line asks why I didn’t answer his text. I hug him and walk on, throwing off my shirt. I can do better.

I meet the LA guy by the bathrooms, and we make out again. After chugging his water bottle, I say with honesty I didn’t know was in me that I’d like to go off by myself again. Stupid boys. I’ll have more fun alone because I’m fun. I’m a fairy kitten princess, dammit.

I merge with a crowd jumping and shouting through JAUZ’s mix of System of a Down’s “BYOB.” This is the best moment of my year, I think, and then I think about how contrary that is to everything I believed. The thing that made me happiest was not when my income hit six figures or when I published 20 articles in a day or when I lost five pounds or even when Whoopi Goldberg discussed my writing on The View. It was when I was was doing something so incredibly unimpressive (unless screaming “why do they always send the poor?!” louder than anyone else is impressive). Maybe you don’t have to suffer for the best things in life.

The next day, I realize that in an attempt to film the festival, I accidentally recorded my trip. “The themes in my life,” I listen to myself telling my rainbow-haired friend, “are discipline and deprivation. Whether it’s food or work, it’s all the same.”

When I hear that, I know hanging onto that job would be just as destructive as hanging onto my disordered eating. As Anna Lunoe and Chris Lake’s “Stomper” fills my hotel room, I tell my boss that if she wants me to stay, she has to pay me more. As I anticipated, she can’t.

I panic with the urge to go work on other jobs to make up for that one’s loss. Instead, I return to Serendipity, get an ice cream sundae, and don’t throw it up or keep eating after I’m full. I chuck the half-empty cup in the trash and call up a guy I’ve been crushing on as I walk along the strip. Then, I stop inside Sephora and buy makeup, something I’d always considered too indulgent. On the way, a guy sees my arm band, says “EDC fam!”, and hugs me like we’re long-lost relatives.

Over the next two weeks, I jog around my neighborhood listening to Elliphant’s “Not Ready”:

“I guess I’m not ready for reality / A young woman in a new world / I have a big responsibility / to live life wild and free like a bird / Now is the time to be dancing.”

My first night in Ibiza, as Chris Liebing fills the Amnesia opening party, I ask a German guy I would’ve deemed too hot for me before if I can bite him. We fall in love in just two days, and I leave in tears. But on the plane home, I realize New York and I are over anyway. I’m going to travel the world like I’ve always told myself I couldn’t, and Germany’s my first stop. I spend my flight to Dusseldorf transcribing an interview with Mexican DJ Jessica Audiffred, who told me,

“People want to experience a festival. People want to get crazy. They just want a place where they can let their emotions go. They just want to have fun. They just want to get wild and electronic music can give that and a lot of other things. Just to be in the festival scene, you realize why people go. You realize why people are interested. I think electronic music is a way for people just to be free and just to be themselves and have fun and let everything go.”

Slowly, my inner fairy kitten princess takes power back from the workaholic, money-driven person I never wanted to be. Now, nine months since EDC, I’m partying in a new country practically every month, I haven’t made myself throw up since last summer, and am still with the guy from Amnesia. And I’ve got rainbow hair.

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The right photo was taken the week before EDC; the left was taken the week I arrived in Germany.

My world used to extend from the Kips Bay studio apartment where I worked myself to the bone and stuffed my face to the 28th Street Starbucks where I filled my empty stomach and heart with cold brews. Now, it’s expanded through the beaches of Ibiza, the nightclubs of Berlin, the casinos of Vegas, and the Brooklyn clubs I used to pass by because I was “too busy.”

But there’s much more fairy kitten princess left in me, telling me to chuck it all and be a DJ, and she grows louder every time I hear “Stomper.”