Kylie Minogue’s ‘Fever’ Turns 10: Backtracking
Backtracking is our recurring look back at the pop music that shaped our lives. Friends may come and go, but we’ll be spinning our favorite albums forever.
“Give it up, give it up. I just can’t get enough.” So begins “More More More”, the opening track on Kylie Minogue’s seminal LP Fever, which was released in the US on February 26, 2002. The words could easily have been a mantra from the accomplished Australian singer‘s American fans at that time, as it marked Kylie’s first album to be issued on a US label in 13 years. In that sense, it was somewhat of a gamble for Capitol Records to re-launch the globally successful pop icon stateside, all those years after “The Loco-Motion” and “I Should Be So Lucky”. But as it turned out, 2002 was the year we just couldn’t get Kylie Minogue out of our heads. These days, Kylie, 43, is in the midst of celebrating her 25th anniversary in the music business. Among the countless awards she’s collected over that time, she has a Grammy at home on her mantel. She’s also toured the States twice in the past three years.
But a decade ago, Minogue’s American success seemed all the more unlikely, given that the airwaves and charts were heavily dominated by homegrown hip hop and R&B in the first half of the ’00s. The week Fever was released in late February, Ja Rule and Ashanti’s “Always On Time” was the #1 song in the country. Other popular singles that ruled the Hot 100 in 2002 included Nelly’s “Hot In Herre” and “Dilemma”, Ashanti’s “Foolish” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”.
Despite the odds, along came Kylie with a sexy, robotic, dance-oriented jam called “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”. The lyrics were penned by onetime pop star Cathy Dennis (who would go on to have even more success in ’02 by writing the American Idol theme song) and Rob Davis, and, amidst a swirl of electronic blips and bleeps, they warned the following: “There’s a dark secret in me, don’t leave me locked in your heart, set me free.”
How could we resist that hypnotic beat? Or those crimson lips in the music video? Or — yikes! — that barely there white hooded dress?
Kylie Minogue — “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”
Parent album Fever was itself a perfect pop storm that had producers Dennis, Davis, Richard Stannard, Julian Gallagher and Pascal Gabriel bringing filtered disco, R&B and popular-at-the-time electroclash influences to the table. Minogue had always traveled easily in the pop realm, but the groundwork for her current dance diva status had been laid two years earlier on Light Years.
After gaining creative freedom by breaking away from production team Stock Aitken Waterman in the early ’90s, Minogue signed with the label Deconstruction. Her 1994 eponymous album for the UK-based indie outfit produced enduring hits such as “Confide In Me” and “Put Yourself In My Place”, but 1997’s darker Impossible Princess proved to be her worst-selling album to date. It was time for a return to the basics.
Kylie assumed her position on Parlophone Records’ UK roster and churned out several global hits from Light Years, including “Spinning Around” (which counts Kara DioGuardi and Paula Abdul among its co-writers), “On A Night Like This”, the Robbie Williams duet “Kids” and “Please Stay”. As a result, it was time to once again for the singer to test the American waters through Parlophone’s US arm Capitol Records.
Fever‘s unstoppable lead single “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” wound up topping the charts in over a dozen different countries. Here in the States, the song peaked at #7 on the Hot 100, and was followed by “Love At First Sight”, yet another Top 40 hit.
Kylie Minogue — “Love At First Sight”
Meanwhile, Fever, which had been released overseas months prior, made a splashy debut at #3 on Billboard‘s Top 200 album chart. Not bad, considering her previous US release (1989’s Enjoy Yourself) charted at — um, well, it didn’t chart. Fever was eventually certified Platinum here and sold six million copies worldwide.
Kylie’s third single off the LP, the swirling, bouncy “Come Into My World”, won her a Grammy for Best Dance Recording. Multiple Minogues inhabited the song’s dizzying music video, which was lensed by Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry.
Kylie Minogue — “Come Into My World”
Of course, the singles aren’t the only bright spots on Fever. “Strong hands are healing, I’m dancing on the ceiling,” Kylie coos on the album’s title track, which sounds as if it could have been recorded by Christina Aguilera during the turn of the millennium. Elsewhere, “Fragile” offers the one-two punch of Minogue’s dreamlike vocals and a hypnotic wall of sound. The blond beauty takes a one-night stand to the disco on “Love Affair”, and “Burning Up”, the album’s bombastic final track, is possibly the most funked-up we’ve ever heard the saucy Aussie.
Following the release of Fever, Britney Spears recorded the Cathy Dennis-penned “Toxic” (a song that was reportedly turned down by Minogue) for 2003’s In The Zone, Paris Hilton took a stab at a recording career with dance-laden debut LP Paris, Madonna returned to the club with Confessions On A Dancefloor and radio gradually shifted toward more groove-oriented sounds by the end of the decade.
Of course, we have no way of knowing whether Kylie Minogue’s eighth studio album was directly responsible for these pop happenings. All we’re really sure of is that, a decade ago this week, we began to run a high fever that has yet to let up.