After ‘Padam’ Fever, Kylie Minogue Intends to ‘Maximize This Brilliant Wave’ in America

It’s Friday night in Las Vegas, and Voltaire, the intimate art deco-meets-Studio 54 new performance venue within the Venetian, has transformed into an extremely lit gay club. Beneath countless sparkling disco and glass balls, the crowd of 1,000 dances to the DJ’s mix of a who’s who of dance-pop — Jessie Ware, Spice Girls, ABBA, Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s recently revived “Murder on the Dancefloor.” Intermittently, elastic-limbed burlesque artists enter to striptease, dance and execute feats of dazzling flexibility. This is Voltaire’s Belle de Nuit “preshow.” And it’s just the warmup to the main event.

“It’s almost time for Kylie Minooooogue!” the evening’s MC declares. “Yeah, that’s right — Mother is coming!”

The screams become truly deafening when, roughly 10 minutes later, the curtain opens to reveal the diminutive 55-year-old Australian pop star clad entirely in metallic gold. She launches into “Your Disco Needs You,” a rousing track from her 2000 album, Light Years: “Let’s dance through all our fears, war is over for a bit,” she sings. “The whole world should be moving, do your part, cure a lonely heart!”


For the next 70 minutes, Minogue follows her own command, belting songs from her three decades-and-counting career that have united listeners with their infectious dance-pop melodies and lyrics that, whether ebullient or bittersweet, are always anchored by a deep, sincere sense of joy. She shimmies to her cover of Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s “The Loco-Motion,” one of her earliest hits from 1987 (and still her highest-charting Billboard Hot 100 entry, peaking at No. 3); she rises above the stage in a flowing red cape like some disco high priestess to sing her seductive current smash, and her biggest in the United States in more than 20 years, “Padam Padam.” She’s a consummate pop diva, stomping down the stage’s catwalk and striking poses — until each song ends. Then, she simply becomes Kylie: giggling, kicking up her stiletto heels in a happy dance and, at one point, speaking into her water bottle when she mistakes it for a microphone.

These two sides of Minogue — the glamorous, charismatic performer who has somehow also remained deeply relatable — have helped her to maintain a remarkably consistent yet organically evolving career amid the shifting waters of the music industry. “A feeling you get from Kylie’s music is that from an artistic point of view, she enjoys her place in pop culture. She doesn’t challenge it or try to run away from it — she looks to innovate herself and develop within that space,” says Stuart Price, the British electronic music producer who executive-produced Minogue’s pivotal 2010 album, Aphrodite. “And it’s infectious to see someone enjoying being themselves. There’s an openness there that creates a connection between Kylie and her fans.”

Kylie Minogue Billboard Women In Music Photo Shoot
Richard Wilbraham dress, Magda Butrym jacket, Saint Laurent boots and David Yurman jewelry.

Much of that core fan base feels connected to Minogue because they actually grew up with her. They met her as the feisty teenager Charlene on Australian soap opera Neighbours; followed her first era of pop stardom in the late ’80s as one of the flagship teen idols from the Stock Aitken Waterman (SAW) “hit factory” that also produced Rick Astley and Bananarama; watched her break out of that mold in the ’90s on British label Deconstruction, exploring more experimental dance-pop on 1997’s Impossible Princess; and embraced her evolution into global star in the 2000s, especially in the United States, with the release of 2001’s Fever, her highest-charting album on the Billboard 200 (No. 3), which yielded “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” the song with a hypnotic “la-la-la” chorus that was a self-fulfilling prophecy and propelled it to No. 7 on the Hot 100.

Over all those years, Minogue has stayed both impressively prolific and commercially viable. Eleven of her albums — including her last nine studio releases dating back to Fever — reached the Billboard 200, and 10 appeared on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart, including Disco, a highlight of the dance-pop renaissance of 2020 that went to No. 1 on the latter. She has notched seven Hot 100 and five Mainstream Top 40 Airplay hits. It helps, of course, that her songs tend to “help people to smile and forget their daily problems for a bit as only a good piece of dance-pop music can do,” as disco legend Gloria Gaynor puts it. (She joined Minogue for “Can’t Stop Writing Songs About You” on an expanded rerelease of Disco.) But her releases also always feel fresh, genuine and intentional. “Every time she delivers an album, to her it’s like the first,” says Jamie Nelson, senior vp of new recordings U.K. at BMG, Minogue’s label, who is also her longtime A&R executive. “There’s nothing lazy or dialed-in about it.”

Minogue has long been considered pop royalty in the United Kingdom (she’s about to receive the BRIT Awards’ Global Icon honor), Europe and Australia, where she’s the highest-selling female solo artist born in the country of all time; still, her U.S. audience has never quite reached that level. But she has remained popular — and at the front of pop culture consciousness — for long enough that while her older fans stateside remain loyal, younger ones continue to discover her. And that happened in a big way last June, when she released one very unusually titled single and experienced the kind of bona fide U.S. breakthrough that few artists manage in their mid-50s.

“Padam Padam” — an onomatopoeia for the sound of a heartbeat — went viral on TikTok, with everyone from actress Suki Waterhouse to employees of the British art supply chain Hobbycraft making videos with it; to date, videos using “Padam Padam” have been viewed over 1.3 billion times on the platform. Simultaneously, “padam” became part of the pop lexicon, thanks in large part to Minogue’s LGBTQ+ fans who encouraged use of it as a noun, verb, exclamation or really any part of speech that called for it.

The song was such a runaway hit that, Minogue says, BMG delayed releasing Tension’s title track as a second single, “because ‘Padam’ just kept… Padaming.” With that momentum, Tension became her highest-charting album on the Billboard 200 since 2010 (peaking at No. 21) and her second Top Dance/Electronic Albums No. 1. “Padam Padam,” which is now her second-most-streamed song in the United States after “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” became her first Mainstream Top 40 Airplay hit since 2004, her highest-peaking (No. 32) since 2003 and just garnered Minogue her second Grammy Award — the inaugural win in the new best pop dance recording category and her first since “Come Into My World” took home best dance recording two decades ago.

Now, with the Tension train still going strong (Xtension, an album of extended dance mixes, arrived in September) and her Vegas residency a coveted ticket, Billboard’s 2024 Women in Music Icon is energized and determined to make the most of this moment. “I told someone at my label: It’s happening now. There’s no snoozing,” Minogue says firmly. “I am wildly inspired right now. I’m at a point in my life where I know it’s not eternal. I just want to maximize this brilliant wave. If you’re not out paddling for when that wave comes along, you’ve got no hope.” And, she promises, she paddles — constantly.

The afternoon following the show in late January, Minogue is in her favorite sweats, sipping tea in the empty Voltaire space and looking surprisingly awake. She doesn’t go onstage each night until after 11, and a two-show weekend renders her “kind of the amoeba version of myself,” she admits, crumpling her tiny 5-foot frame up, amoeba-style. “I’ll have a momentary internal dialogue with myself like, ‘OK, try to go a bit cruise control tonight?’ But it doesn’t work.”

Autopilot has never been Minogue’s thing. When she started out with Stock Aitken Waterman, she found the hit factory’s way of doing things a natural fit — “It’s like working on a TV show: ‘Here’s the script, you know what to do, here’s some direction, do it’ ” — but once her four-year contract ended in 1992, “I was gone. I’m a curious person, and I wanted to do more.” She had observed how the trio of songwriters of SAW worked, seen the craft and diligence it took to create “that song” — but becoming one herself? “That took a bit of haggling,” she says. “It wasn’t easy to make that segue.”

Kylie Minogue Billboard Women In Music Photo Shoot
Tony Ward Couture dress and David Yurman jewelry.

Thanks to signing with Deconstruction, and particularly her second album with the label, 1997’s Impossible Princess, Minogue escaped the “normalness” of the SAW starlet image, Price recalls, and public perception of her started to shift to “Kylie the Artist.” When he met her around 2009 — a match made by her label at the time, Parlophone, where she had moved in 1999 — Price saw up close one way in which her soap opera training had benefited that artistry.

“She was able to so consistently deliver great performance after great performance,” he recalls — a skill, Minogue matter-of-factly told him, she supposed might come from the days when she would drive to set with a script she had just received and memorize her lines at traffic lights. “Her memory and recall is incredible, and it was the same when we were writing things together,” Price continues. “If she came up with a melody, it was just there — we could go eat a meal, then she’d bring it straight back up.”

“There’s probably a misconception out there that she’s not a traditional songwriter, but she’s phenomenal,” BMG’s Nelson says. “She’s got a belief that the song is God. She’ll really scrutinize her own music in comparison to outside songs, and anything that’s not up to scratch will get dismissed.” Minogue’s collaborators describe her as a fount of fully formed ideas. “The last three albums I’ve done with her, she has been coming up with whole ideas on her phone,” says Richard “Biff” Stannard, who co-wrote the 2002 hit “Love at First Sight” and, more recently, seven Tension tracks with Minogue. “She’s really confident to say, ‘I’ve got this melody that’s bugging me, I’ve got to get it out.’ It’s proper songwriter stuff.”

Kylie Minogue Billboard Women In Music Photo Shoot
Oscar de la Renta dress and David Yurman jewelry.

That said, Minogue has never been precious about accepting material from other writers — “Padam Padam” was co-written by Norwegian singer-songwriter Ina Wroldsen and producer Lostboy — and she relishes figuring out not just whether a song presented to her is a likely hit, but a hit for her. “Songs like ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ and ‘Padam,’ I can’t reply fast enough,” she says. “Not only is it an amazing song, but it and me… it’s like, ‘I can do this!’ If someone else performed ‘Padam’ it could’ve been great, but it would have been different.” Lately, she has been spending time in Los Angeles (her home base is Melbourne), working with two entirely new collaborators she won’t reveal quite yet, other than to say she has long wanted to work with them. “I was on cloud nine for like the next couple of days” after their most recent sessions, she says, grinning.

But since 2020, Minogue has also become a lot more independent in the studio: By necessity, amid pandemic isolation, she taught herself Logic and other essential tools of production. “It’s so liberating,” she says. “I’ve had a lot of uncomfortable moments [in the studio]. No one would have known because I just pretended my way through it. But to have my own mic and do it on my own time? It’s amazing. I could go for hours.”

Minogue’s manager, Polly Bhowmik of A&P Artist Management, says Minogue’s infatuation with studio tech has gone so far that “there is now very much ‘studio engineer Kylie’ as well as artist Kylie.” (Minogue has vocal engineering credits on much of Disco and Tension.) At Stannard’s suggestion, I ask about her personal mic collection (“She’s really geeky about microphones now”), and she quivers with excitement describing her current favorite. “It’s a Telefunken 251, and it’s beautiful,” she gushes. “It’s more to carry, but it’s like graduating to the big leagues.”

Her new studio skill set has been both empowering and freeing (she can now record herself and work on music from her Vegas hotel room, for instance), as well as impressive to her collaborators. “She’s actually useful in the studio!” exclaims singer-songwriter Sia, who co-executive-produced Minogue’s 2014 album, Kiss Me Once, and just released the duet bop “Dance Alone” with her. “She’s actually good at her job. And I would say she’s one of the most prolific idea generators of all the artists I’ve worked with.”

Kylie Minogue Billboard Women In Music Photo Shoot
Richard Wilbraham dress, Magda Butrym jacket, Saint Laurent boots and David Yurman jewelry.

It has also helped her to achieve more vocal precision. “She’s very forensic about getting her vocals exactly how she’s happy with, and this has given her that ability,” Stannard says. On Tension, the strikingly wide range of Minogue’s voice — she goes from a sultry purr to full belt to stratospheric whistle tones, and at one point even raps — is on full display. The confidence she now has in her voice took time, Minogue says, and voice lessons starting in 2001 taught her techniques that have helped her preserve and develop it.

“Maturing as a person and my voice maturing too, add to that these past two years of self-recording — [my process] is becoming more vacuum-sealed, and that’s so pleasing to me,” Minogue says. “And to accept that I don’t have that big voice, but being proud I have my voice, and really owning that? That has again taken a long time. But I can adapt and be many voices, just like my [visual] presentation. I’m chameleon-like,” she concludes, satisfied. “That is who I am.”

The morning after her “Padam Padam” Grammy win in early February, Minogue still seems to be wrapping her head around what happened.

“I don’t think I’ve touched down yet,” she admits over the phone. She wore a bright “Padam red” gown; she marveled at Miley Cyrus’ hair (“Amazing. She absolutely smashed it”); she sat with Karol G at the ceremony (“I don’t assume anyone knows who I am, but she’d been on my radar for the last year”); she finally met fellow Aussie Troye Sivan. She was embraced by fans new and old, including Olivia Rodrigo, Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa, who invited Minogue to appear in her Studio 2054 pandemic-time livestream and, shortly after, featured on a remix of Minogue’s Disco track “Real Groove.”

As for the award itself: “It’s a big win for longevity — let’s put it that way,” Minogue says. It’s also concrete proof to both Minogue and her team that she has, as Sia puts it, “broken her glass ceiling” in the United States. “I’ve had this kind of to-and-fro thing with America,” Minogue reflects. “I was the ‘Loco-Motion’ girl for a long time, then I was the ‘la-la-la’ girl, and I guess I’m ‘Padam’ now. But now that we’ve got streaming, the algorithms will take you to discover more of my music.”

Kylie Minogue Billboard Women In Music Photo Shoot
Kylie Minogue photographed on January 27, 2024 at Voltaire in Las Vegas. Tony Ward Couture dress, Christian Louboutin shoes and David Yurman jewelry.

Nelson says BMG has seen “an uplift on the catalog” since the Vegas residency began in November (it runs through early May), but is careful to note that it’s the culmination of a gradual increase in listenership — beyond the devoted core fan base that already buys multiple vinyl and cassette versions of Minogue’s records — over the past few years. “We are firmly seeing a new audience embracing Kylie,” Bhowmik says, pointing out that 60% of “Padam Padam” and Tension streams have come from listeners under 35 and that her audience on TikTok has grown 43% since the song’s release.

And that expanded audience includes the U.S. market, where Minogue hasn’t done a major tour since 2011’s spectacular Aphrodite trek. Considering the momentum behind her now and the fact that the pandemic prevented her from touring Disco, the time seems ripe for a major Minogue tour hitting America — and indeed, UTA just signed her for representation in the United States and Canada. Bhowmik says that with “more opportunities and accolades than ever before,” there are plans for her to perform across the United States and internationally “in the not-too-distant future.”

It’s a rebirth for Minogue — but really just the latest of many she has had throughout her career. “It’s a continuation, not a comeback,” Price says. “Everything from [Tension], it’s just a short steppingstone away from every other hit she has had. They all sound like innovative pop records made in the year they were released that are ahead of their time. And what they all have in common is that Kylie fever.”

That ineffable Kylie essence is always present regardless of whether Minogue wrote on a song or not. It’s the fizzy effervescence that makes “Love at First Sight” a euphoric dance party starter. It’s the very adult, subtle magnetism that makes songs like “Hands” and “Tension” sexy rather than ridiculous. And above all, it’s the true joy — the kind that’s all the more meaningful because you’ve known sadness, too — that suffuses every moment of anthems like Aphrodite’s “All the Lovers,” Disco’s “Say Something” or Tension’s “Hold On to Now.”

“Joy can come from a dark place,” Minogue says. “But if someone’s able to feel that joy and they might not have felt it this morning? It’s a moment of release. I want the audience to feel…” She searches for the right word, waving her hands excitedly, and then just exclaims: “Feel! I’m a conduit for all the emotions.”

This story will appear in the March 2, 2024, issue of Billboard.

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