Kylie Minogue landed in Sydney this week, ahead of her performance at Saturday’s Mardi Gras post-parade party, to find her name bandied about in the midst of the Labor leadership debacle.
“This is not a celebrity poll, otherwise Kylie Minogue could end up being prime minister,” Human Services Minister Brendan O’Connor sneeringly announced last weekend.
Way to make a girl feel welcomed home, Brendan.
“I did hear about that! Don’t worry, there’s no chance of that happening,” Minogue assured the Star Observer, speaking to us from her Sydney hotel room, where she was battling jetlag while putting the finishing touches on her planned Saturday night spectacular.
Strikes us that with Kylie as PM, same-sex marriage wouldn’t even be a topic of political debate in this country.
“For sure! Definitely,” she sighed.
Despite her credentials as a card-carrying gay icon, it’s been a long time between drinks for Kylie and Mardi Gras — 14 years in fact. Minogue said returning in 2012 just “felt right”, particularly as she’s currently indulging fans in a yearlong celebration of her career to date, dubbed K25.
“It’s going to be interesting for me to see what it’s like, having last been there in ’98. I’m actually trying not to think about it too much because I get a little too excited,” she said.
“I’ll be getting off just as much as they’re all getting off on being there. It’s such a shared, special moment. It’ll feel very free, with a very liberal air of people just doing what they want.
“But I might need to have a nanna nap before I go on.”
As for what she’s got up her sequined sleeve, Minogue wouldn’t give too much away except to confirm she’ll have a solid 20 minutes of stage time.
“It’s going to go by in a flash, because the show will be a pretty fast-paced 20 minutes of goodness. It was really hard to choose what to do in that 20 minutes, because I can’t do everything. I’m sure there’s going to be some people saying ‘why didn’t she do this’ or ‘why didn’t she do that’. But it’s a celebration; I could go there and sing everyone’s name in the hall, and we’d still have a good time.”
She speaks the truth there, which is even more impressive when you consider how much of a fickle lot we gay pop fans are.
Was there a time in her career when Minogue realised the love and support from her gay fan base ran deeper than, say, that for fellow Stock Aitken Waterman contemporaries Sonia or Mandy Smith?
“I guess there was, and it was around the time of Impossible Princess when the music wasn’t sounding what you would call stereotypically gay-friendly. What I was releasing was different from bright, happy pop songs — but it put us on an even deeper level. The fans let me go there, even if it wasn’t a total success.
“And if I’m going to talk specifically about my gay audience? I don’t think they ever went away, and that’s just the most incredible thing. And my understanding of having a gay following started in Sydney, so it feels poetic to come back and celebrate that.”
Is she aware her surname has even passed into the gay lexicon? In certain circles, a Minogue is a collective noun for a group of gay men: a Minogue of gays is to a flock of birds.
“I didn’t know that,” she cackled, “That’s really funny. That term could easily apply to my sister or myself, so that’s good.”
Minogue’s stage spectaculars have become ever-more tailored to her queer audiences in recent years. Who could forget the costume change in 2005’s Showgirl Homecoming tour when her bevy of male dancers kept the crowd entertained by taking a group on-stage shower?
Last year’s Aphrodite: Les Folies tour might’ve taken the cake, though, thanks to the choice visual backdrop displayed during album highlight Cupid Boy. As Minogue sang in the foreground, her brooding Spanish hunk of a boyfriend, Andres Velencoso, appeared on the giant video screens, pouting and preening in nothing but his knickers.
Did Minogue have to persuade her man to get his tits out for the benefit of an arena full of gays night after night?
“I didn’t have to prod him, no. Both Willy [Baker, her creative partner and ‘gay husband’] and I tried to get him into a golden figleaf, but he drew the line there.
“A teeny-tiny-little bit of whatever? Fine, he does that all the time, but I didn’t get away with the figleaf,” she sighed, clearly still smarting from the defeat.
“But I loved seeing him up there every night, it was great. And he did really well to come to as many of the shows as he could — he’d be there, in the Splash Zone, mingling with the fans. He’s a mix-and-mingle kind of guy.”
Post-Mardi Gras, Minogue will take a step back from such camp spectacle to present her music in a more stripped-back setting as part of the ongoing K25 celebrations. Fans have been given a taste of what’s to come in recent weeks as she’s released live orchestral versions of two past hits, Finer Feelings and On A Night Like This, via her YouTube channel.
“The plan for K25 is that there isn’t really a plan. I love that people are interested and got on board with K25, but I wanted to have space this year to do various things. The orchestral stuff I recorded last year, and that’s coming out in dribs and drabs through the year.
“The response to it has been phenomenal. It’s weird though, to me it doesn’t seem like such a groundbreaking thing, but I forget that a lot of people haven’t heard me perform in this way, so for them it’s a revelation. But it doesn’t mean I’ve hung up my hot pants!”
One side effect of Minogue being one of the world’s biggest pop stars is that alongside each of her albums lies a clutch of discarded tracks – many of them brilliant – that don’t make the cut, as top-shelf songwriters from around the world clamour to have her record their song. Just check out the haunting Scissor Sisters-penned offcut Everything I Know, surely a number one single in some alternate universe.
Many — Kylie included — have expressed hope that the K25 celebrations might be a time for some of these officially unreleased gems to shine. There’s been talk of a fan-pleasing ‘anti-tour’,
in which Minogue would eschew her many hits in favour of her forgotten misses.
“I came up with the idea of the anti-tour during the Aphrodite tour. That show was so massive, and people asked ‘How can you top that?’ I don’t know if I can top that — and I probably can’t afford to top it,” she laughed.
“It struck me that it would be really cool to do something that’s the antithesis of that. There are songs that are out there, in cyberspace and now on people’s iPods, that were never meant to go out.
“It’s a double-edged sword, because they’re not finished and they’re not the way they should be heard, but some of them have become fan favourites. I thought it would be fun to perform some of those songs.”
Fans will be please to hear that among all these retrospective activities, Minogue is also looking ahead. There’s a new album due for release in 2013, with sessions already underway in LA with electro pop maestro Greg Kurstin (who produced Wow and No More Rain for the X album).
“Because K25’s all about looking back, it’s good for me to have the feeling that there’s brand spanking new sparkly stuff happening in the new year too.”
For now, though, it’s clear Minogue’s got the past on her mind — she even revamped the oh-so-’80s hair-hat look of her debut album cover in a recent spread for Stylist Magazine.
“I’ve been doing a lot of [looking through old photos] actually, because we’re trying to get a book together. I’ve come across some absolute corkers. Some are great to see, some are not so great, but all in all, I just can’t believe I’ve been in music for 25 years, and in showbiz even longer,” she said.
“It makes me think about the passion I had for music as a kid, which I didn’t realise would lead anywhere. To this day, if I’ve got my headphones on and I’m listening to music, I can’t sit still. I love music, and I get to have it as a major part of my life, so I’m very lucky.”
As our chat drew to a close, Kylie unexpectedly turned the tables, announcing that she had some questions for me. The first two questions were more politely worded orders from the princess of pop: firstly, I was to report that she won’t be riding up Oxford St on a float during the parade. Other media outlets have been falsely reporting that rumour as fact in recent weeks, and Minogue said she didn’t want fans to be disappointed.
Secondly, she wanted to put in a special request for her favourite drag queen, YouTube star and expert Cher impersonator Charlie Hides, to appear at next year’s Mardi Gras.
Her last question was directed squarely at this writer: Kylie Minogue wanted to know what I’d be wearing to the Mardi Gras party.
Ever sartorially underwhelming, I sheepishly informed her I’d most likely be wearing a pair of jeans and my current favourite T-shirt. An, ahem, Madonna T-shirt.
After a pregnant pause, she handed down the verdict.
“No, you can do that,” she mused. “That’s OK.”
There you have it — personal party outfit approval from Kylie Minogue herself. Happy Mardi Gras everyone!
INFO: Kylie Minogue, Mardigrasland Party, Entertainment Quarter, Saturday march 3. Sold out. www.mardigras.org.au