The original dancing queen

2011-07-01 13:30

Her petite frame, much-talked-about rear, fun videos and dancefloor-filler tunes are just a few of the reasons why Kylie Minogue has been an international music staple for 23 years. They are also why she is still relevant today.

Long before iPods, digital downloads and HD TV, an Australian girl sporting bigger hair than her frame became a worldwide phenomenon.

Her first single, Locomotion, spent seven weeks at number one on the Australian singles chart in 1988 and became the best-selling single of the decade.

While the iconic pop single had everyone grooving, it was Minogue’s leotards, leggings and big, bouncy curls that won her favour with fashion slaves the world over.

You know the Sex and the City opening sequence where Carrie Bradshaw struts down a New York street in a tutu and white tank top? Well, Minogue did the look in the 1988 video for I Should Be So Lucky.

What about the skin-tight catsuits with plunging necklines preferred by the likes of Mary J Blige? Minogue did it way back when. And as for the the cargo pants and heels a la Keri Hilson? Minogue’s been there and totally done that .?.?.

During the late 80s and early 90s, Minogue struggled to break into other markets across the world, particularly in the US.

Her album, Enjoy Yourself, failed in Europe with the Daily Mirror describing it as “as charismatic as cold porridge”.

Minogue’s tenure as a rising pop star seemed to be over.

That is until director Baz Luhrmann of Romeo and Juliet fame introduced the then 30-year-old to photographer Bert Stern, the man responsible for the deified images of Marilyn Monroe.

It’s widely reported that in an effort to ditch her cute, girl-next-door-image, Minogue purposefully positioned herself with edgy photographers who worked with magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair, realising that her success in the music industry would not lie solely with record sales. That’s when Kylie the diva was born.

She drew inspiration from various sources. For example, her video for Where the Wild Roses Grow saw her inspired by John Everett Millais’ Ophelia from the 1800s.

While the song – co-written and sung with rocker Nick Cave – was controversial, it transcended the boundaries and confines of pop music, proving that Minogue was indeed an entertainer beyond her reedy voice.

Her stylist, William Barker, whom she befriended at Vivienne Westwood’s flagship boutique, said the reason Minogue entered into mainstream pop culture in Europe during the 90s was because she realised that concentrating solely on the music wouldn’t be enough.

But it was 2000’s Light Years that opened the floodgates to a new audience.

The sexually charged Spinning Around video saw her wearing those now-infamous gold hotpants designed by Barker.

Their skimpiness was the edgiest thing around in pop circles at the time. Critics, trend-spotters and even celebs noticed.
It was when Madonna asked Dolce & Gabbana to design a T-shirt for her with Minogue’s name on it that the pop pixie’s rep as the real deal was cemented.

This was the ultimate sign of respect and support, proving that she had finally broken into that elusive American market and with the Queen of Pop’s stamp of approval to boot.

Hot on the heels of the success of Light Years, Minogue followed up with Fever, which went multi-platinum. Sporting white hotpants and a matching tank on the cover may have helped too.

The hit single, Can’t Get You Out of My Head, saw Minogue setting another trend – a white catsuit with plunging neckline also designed by Baker.

Beyoncé released Crazy in Love not long after, posing in denim hotpants and a white tank top.

Even the bootylicious one’s dance moves in her video mimicked those of Minogue. The video showcased futuristic dance moves and settings long before Katy Perry tried the all-white ensemble in her E.T. video featuring Kanye West.

When asked by a Seattle Post-Intelligencer journalist what she thought was her greatest strength, Minogue said: “I am an all-rounder. If I was to choose any one element of what I do, I don’t know if I would excel at any one of them. But put all of them together, and I know what I’m doing.”

Minogue’s stylist and creative director Baker explained that the music videos for the Fever album were inspired by science-fiction films – specifically those of Stanley Kubrick.

The multiplatinum-selling artist took it a step further on her Fever tour when she opened as a space-age vamp.

She described it as a “Queen of Metropolis with her drones” look. It’s now impossible not to draw similarities with Lady Gaga’s Born This Way video.

In 2007, Minogue kicked off her Showgirl tour. The concept had burlesque 1950’s glamour. Her entire wardrobe and dressing room were rumoured to be filled with Chanel couture, with every ensemble individually crafted for a particular song by the international fashion house. During the tour, Minogue was diagnosed with cancer.

Not long after, the likes of Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani followed suit in all their red lips, shiny materials and
bottle-blonde glory.

That same year, she released X which included hits such as 2 Hearts and Wow.

Her comeback had many showing respect for the dignified way she had handled her illness as well her consummate pop professionalism.

Her appeal solidified as an artist who evolved, picking up new fans as she went on over the years.

Minogue’s current tour, Aphrodite, is a combination of Greek goddess-meets-pop sensation. The use of golds, crystals, satins and feathers by the grand-daddies of fashion Dolce & Gabbana will transform the dainty performer into a celestial being when we see her on stage.

According to Stefano Gabbana, the aim of the wardrobe is “to create a show within a show”.

Whether she’s strolling down a London street in cargo pants or is draped in Emilio Puchi on the red carpet in Los Angeles, there’s something enigmatic about this tiny star with the megawatt smile.

And that’s why her concerts will be filled with at least two generations of fans.

» City Press, Real Concerts and Sun International are giving away one set of double tickets valued at R2 000 for Kylie’s Sun City concert, including a night’s accommodation.

No transport will be provided. We are also giving away two box sets titled Kylie: The Albums 2000-2010 (containing 5 CDs) valued at R200 each, and another two CD/DVD combos titled Kylie Hits, valued at R150 each. SMS your name/Kylie/7 to 42987 (SMSes charged at R1.50). The competition closes on July 6 2011

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