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Kylie Minogue Getty 1.jpg

All Hail Kylie Minogue and the Summer of ‘Padam Padam’

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Music | June 21, 2023 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Music | June 21, 2023 |

Kylie Minogue Getty 1.jpg

Padam. Padam. It’s everywhere. The 76th official single by Kylie Minogue (as far as I have been able to see, not counting promotional numbers, featured singles, or other) has stomped its way onto the scene, hoping to claim the title of the Song of the Summer for 2023. It’s ridiculously catchy, both retro and modern, with a hook that will baffle and endear itself to you for the rest of this long hot season.

In my life, ‘Padam Padam’ has been inescapable. It’s played at almost every exercise class I attend. Every Amazon Music playlist has it smuggled into the selections, regardless of genre or artist. In bars, the song seems to start a trend of spontaneous bopping whenever it starts. Every Pride-related event has turned it into an anthem. As someone whose music tastes don’t typically stray towards Top 40 fare, it’s been a fascinating experience. It’s also given Kylie one of her biggest hits in years, earning Minogue her 52nd top 40 single in the UK, her first top 10 single on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Songs chart since 2013, and her first top 40 release in her native Australia in 11 years. Not bad for a 55-year-old who has been repeatedly told for decades that she’s ageing out of pop.

Minogue’s 40+ years in music have made her beloved worldwide, making her one of the biggest artists on the planet who has dominated the scene even without having had to break through in America. Prior to ‘Padam Padam’, many feared that Kylie was becoming a niche act, one with more nostalgic allure than current appeal. Of course, Kylie is hardly some bright young start-up on the pop scene. They don’t call her the Princess of Pop for nothing.

‘Padam Padam’ is a masterclass in pop music efficiency. It’s ruthlessly slick, so committed to the simplicity of its concept that nothing beyond pure perfection of execution will do. The electro intro has a near-hypnotic quality, lulling you into that beat that seems perfect for a dancefloor grind. There’s nothing here more thematically dense than Kylie’s declaration that her beau makes her heart thump and they’re going to get it on soon. The magic is in that production, which feels both quintessentially Kylie and the stuff of hyper-2023 specificity. Even if you’re a mutant who hates the song, you have to respect the laser-focused efficacy of it.

This is what Kylie does best, and has done for several decades. Disco-dance-pop is her default but she’s had her fingers in many musical pies since leaving Neighbours to strike it out behind the mic. Her best work treads that fine line between being easily digestible and pushing the oft-narrow expectations of popular music. It’s all taken 100% seriously from a technical perspective, so worthy of respect that even Pitchfork pays attention. You can’t often accuse Minogue of slacking it (although her country-flecked album Golden is a rare exception and felt like the singer playing dress-up rather than inhabiting the genre as she is so proficient at.)

Unlike many other era-defining stars of music, like Madonna and Janet Jackson, Minogue has almost entirely avoided getting personal in her songs. She’s seldom mined her oft-turbulent private life for inspiration, whether it’s her romance with the late Michael Hutchence or her battle with breast cancer. When she did dare to dig deeper with the Impossible Princess album, audiences and critics alike widely rejected it and she decided to never replicate it in her future work (that album is great and deserves better). There are no deeper messages than ‘let’s dance and fall in love and do it’, and she’s never come close to making something as truly provocative as an ‘Erotica’ or ‘Velvet Rope.’ The glut of her music, notably, is more universal than intimate. Usually, this is seen as a sign that your career will lack longevity. It’s a criticism faced by many current pop divas, like Ava Max and Dua Lipa. If you’re not going deep, your listeners will get bored and move on once the hits stop coming, so goes the logic of the industry. This is not to malign her work but rather to note the sheer skill of being a multi-million seller based on pure joyous vibes. There are exceptions in her discography, such as the beautiful murder ballad ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’ she sang with Nick Cave. Mostly, however, Kylie just wants to make you happy. And really, isn’t that relevant regardless of the decade?

She also does great horny music. Pure and simple, Kylie makes songs for fucking, for getting ready to fuck, for finding someone to fuck, for how to fuck. Slow, one of her best songs, is about the palpable thrill of a long hot night with someone who knows what they’re doing. 2 Hearts takes inspiration from Goldfrapp for an electro-jaunt that is just ominous enough to keep you on edge. All the Lovers is melancholy dance-floor fodder about reassuring a new partner after a few years of proudly going ‘round the block. While she can aim for provocation, Kylie’s sex jams are more interested in pure pleasure than shock.

Of course, we can’t talk about the enduring force of Kylie without talking about her fiercely devoted queer fandom. You know who bloody loves Kylie? Gay men. It’s something she has heartily welcomed for many years, noting how ‘my gay audience has been with me from the beginning […] they kind of adopted me.’ She sings with drag queens, performs at Pride events, and works with the likes of Jake Shears. A naturally camp figure, having been a soap star who went pop-disco, it’s not tough to see her allure. Minogue is also willing to be preposterous, with songs as knowingly daft as ‘Your Disco Needs You’ practically lab-grown to be played in gay bars. Anyone wondering how ‘Padam Padam’ became so ingrained in this Summer despite being patently bananas is new to Kylie’s fandom.

Aside from the music, Kylie is a figure of such warmth and welcoming appeal, a true diva without the expected diva shenanigans. She knows what she wants and she delivers it with maximum happiness. It’s certainly a good time now for some queer joy, for music to feel simple, undiluted euphoria too. So, we bow down to ‘Padam Padam’ and eagerly await the album release. All hail the princess of pop.