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Kylie Minogue, ‘Tension’ review: Pop icon delivers irresistible dancefloor paean

With her 16th album, Kylie, the iconic club queen, invites you to let loose and burn up the dance floor.

4.0 rating

By Hannah Mylrea

(Picture: Rolling Stone UK)

‘You look like fun to me”, purrs Kylie on the opening to her inescapable summer smash, ‘Padam Padam’. “You look a little like somebody I know,” she adds, her distinctive vocals cutting across percolating beats and throbbing synth licks. It’s an introduction that’s become a calling card to the dance floor, from 2023’s unofficial song of the summer. ‘Padam Padam’, with its onomatopoeic title and lyrics that see Kylie assert: “I know you wanna take me home … and get to know me close” —
is pure hedonistic joy, evoking sweaty clubs, new opportunities and the electricity of
summer trysts.

It’s no surprise, then, that the earworm has become a mega hit. Kylie’s first song in over a decade to chart inside the UK top 10 has introduced the icon to a new generation of Gen-Z fans, and caused what is now being dubbed the “padam-ic”. The euphoric energy that pulsates through ‘Padam Padam’ is evident throughout the Australian star’s 16th studio album Tension, each track sizzling with possibility. Minogue has explained that when writing began on the LP, she drew from her techno-laced, 2003 belter ‘Slow’, and unlike her previous two records (2020’s Disco and 2018’s
country-pop Golden), she avoided having a theme. Instead, there was a focus on “finding
the heart or the fun or the fantasy of that moment”. You can hear that in the sugar rush of songs filled with reckless abandon, love and lust, and the restorative nature of the dancefloor.

As with ‘Padam Padam’, Tension shines when showcasing its vivid sonics. The warm synth-pop of ‘Things We Do for Love’ is perfectly nice, but pales in comparison to the house-flecked title track ‘Tension’, with Minogue’s vocal inflections and jangly piano riff making it reminiscent of a Charli XCX song. There’s an early 00s Balearic bounce to the sun-drenched ‘One More Time’, lashings of Eurodance on perky ‘10 Out of 10’, and ‘You Still Get Me High’ is all-out bombast — with its 80s synth-pop sonics and slinky sax riff , it’s almost Kylie Minogue doing Bruce Springsteen at a disco.

The Robyn-evoking ‘Hold On to Now’ is a late-night shimmer, conjuring the same
jubilation as Minogue’s 2010 sparkler ‘Get Outta My Way’. “Baby what are we holding
on to,” she breathes in the ecstatic chorus, the earnest lyrics accompanied by itchy, flickering electronics that ooze with tension.

And then there’s the slinky, nostalgia of ‘Hands’, all funky bass line and R&B inflections, complete with a bratty pre-chorus that asserts: “I’m that cherry on the top of the cake / All up in your face / I’m about to give you a taste”.

As Tension’s predecessor, the glittering Disco, was the soundtrack to pandemic kitchen discos and Zoom parties, it’s a joy to know that we’ll be able to experience Tension outside the confines of our homes. This is a record for late nights with old pals and new romances, for dancing — and crying — in the club. Ultimately, it’s brilliantly good fun. It’s soaring pop music with a huge amount of heart that brings big emotions to the dancefloor — much like its creator.