Beyonce declared that we are in a club renaissance and here comes Kylie Minogue to back it up. Delivering a record that could be played start to finish and keep feet moving on the floor, ‘Tension’ is a slick, nostalgia-packed yet future-facing album that makes Kylie cool again.
‘Padam Padam’ has some magic in it, being one of the rare TikTok-rinsed tracks that doesn’t sicken you off. A unique track that captured the attention of listeners who would never have gone seeking out Kylie Minogue’s back-catalogue beyond the school disco hits for a brief nostalgia trip, ‘Padam Padam’ signalled a very different era for the artist; one that wanted to reclaim her position as queen of the gay bars.
And on ‘Tension’, she more than succeeds. Produced to perfection with pop hit after pop hit, tracks like ‘Tension’ and ‘Hands’ have the feeling of a remix without being overdone. Finding the golden middle ground where Charli XCX and Kim Petras sit, mixing maximalist production with singalong-able vocal lines, Kylie has created a club album that will have you screaming the words.
She’s also managed that fine-line balance of creating a club-ready album that isn’t too much for the day-to-day. ‘Tension’ will sound incredible blasted out of the sound system by the sticky dancefloor or with the bass thumping, echoing into the smoking area – but it will also sound great in your AirPods walking down the street to Tesco. Staying high octane and fun, ‘Tension’ manages to never be too much or become exhausting if you’re just listening casually at your desk. Bringing the club vibes to you rather than making you feel like you’re strikingly sober and slap bang in the middle of a headache-inducing party, it has the optimism and joyousness of a night out without the irritation of being dragged along to one.
We are in a party era it seems as artists from Fred Again.. to Dua Lipa provide fresh club classics and bring dancefloor disco to the mainstream. ‘Green Light’ especially feels primed to take over the baton from Dua Lipa’s storming success with ‘Dance The Night Away’ – proving to all the new pop girlies that Kylie is the queen and they are Princesses, building their careers off the foundations laid by timeless hits like ‘Love At First Sight’ or ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’. The title track ‘Tension’ especially delivers as the vocal lyric, “baby break the tension” already has that classic quality, as if this is a Kylie track you grew up dancing around the kitchen to. Not straying so far from her origins that she’s denying her age or tarnishing anything she’s done before as cheesy, instead, ‘Tension’ has the energy of an icon stepping into the lineage of icons and reminding us why she deserves to be there.
This feeling comes through best on ’10 Out Of 10’, a track that could easily sit on Beyonce’s ‘Renaissance’. The similarities between the two records are undeniable as both artists connect to the history of the club scene, ballroom and drag, especially as you hit the second half of the album. But while Beyonce connects to its history within the black community, borrowing external voices and prioritising the record as a start-to-finish play through concept piece, ‘Tension’ does kind of feel like a ‘Renaissance for white people, with the category being RuPaul’s Drag Race meets G.A.Y Lates.
But just like ‘Renaissance’, ‘Tension’ is an album made for the queer community with its plethora of queer musical inspirations and references. It’s an album that asserts Kylie as a gay icon but endeavours to make her a cool one again as she borrows from the fresh, new class at the forefront of pop right now. ‘Hold On To Now’ feels like a Tove Lo song or like a track you’d see Romy drop at a DJ set. ‘You Still Get Me High’ could be mistaken for a MUNA hit. It’s exciting to see Kylie modernise so much, clearly plugged into the current music scene and making music designed just as much to hook in new fans as it is for life-long Kylie stans.
It’s rare to finish off a review of a record made by such a seasoned icon and say the phrase, I’m excited to see what Kylie does next – but I’m in. ‘Tension’ heralds in a vibrant and fun new era that sees Kylie refreshed and ready to lead again. The perfect album for a ‘Renaissance’-style tour, she could play this album from start to finish and even skip the hits and it wouldn’t be a let-down. A genuine thrill from an artist who could rest on her nostalgia laurels, Kylie is back for her well-deserved crown.
Words: Lucy Harbron