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HomeMusicKylie Minogue's 'Impossible Princess' - Looking Back At The Classic Album 25...

Kylie Minogue’s ‘Impossible Princess’ – Looking Back At The Classic Album 25 Years On

By the mid 90s, Kylie already had a phenomenal chart record under her belt with 23 Top 20 singles and 5 Top 20 albums (including the biggest selling album of 1988 in her debut ‘Kylie’). In 1994, she released her first album post-PWL on trendy dance label de:Construction, simply called ‘Kylie Minogue’. With its glossy, sophisticated black and white photography on the artwork (Kylie in boss lady mode!) and singles like ‘Confide in Me’ and ‘Put Yourself in My Place’, it was clear that Kylie had matured as an artist.

In late 1995, rather than releasing a fourth and final single (rumoured to be ‘Time Will Pass You By’) from what has since become affectionately known by fans as KM94, Kylie threw a curveball by duetting with Nick Cave on a murder ballad called ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’.

A beautiful, macabre song where Kylie plays the victim who is bludgeoned to death with a rock and dubbed the Wild Rose on account of the killer (sung by Nick) leaving a rose between her teeth. It certainly raised many eyebrows and gave Kylie further credibility in the cooler echelons of fashion and media. It peaked at No.11 in the UK and just missed out on the top spot in Australia where it peaked at No.2.

Kylie was in full experimental mood and her newfound friendship with Nick Cave had helped her to embrace rather than shun her past pop glories. She was also loved up with new beau, photographer and director Stephane Sednaoui who was working with the likes of Björk and Garbage. It was through road trips with him across North America, Australia, Japan and Asia that Kylie began to write song ideas and lyrics for what would become her sixth studio album.

She started the recording process with Brothers in Rhythm who had worked on KM94 and they helped build tracks around Kylie’s lyrics and melody ideas. Working at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Bath, they produced a 10-track album (with six of the tracks making the final record), but the label wanted Kylie to experiment with some other writers and producers before deciding the final selection.

She worked with dance act Olive on a couple of tracks (one which used Kylie’s lyrics that would go on to find a home on the released album track ‘Limbo’), but for whatever reason these tracks still haven’t seen the light of day. She also worked with Dave Ball who had previously found success with Soft Cell and The Grid, and Ingo Vauk. They contributed three pieces to the final tracklisting, as well as a bside in ‘Tears’.

Through one of her pals, Skinny, Kylie also had an introduction to fellow Australian, Rob Dougan who had a club hit with ‘Clubbed to Death’ in 1995 (becoming more famous when it was used in ‘The Matrix’ in 1999). Kylie worked with him on just one track for the album, ‘Jump’.

Nick Cave had also worked on a track (since rumoured to be called ‘Soon’) with Kylie telling NME at the time that it was a “beautiful” song, but that she was having a moment and “couldn’t do it justice”.

Finally, a collaboration that had been in the making since 1991, came to fruition when Kylie worked with Manic Street Preachers. The band had originally wanted Kylie to guest on their track ‘Little Baby Nothing’, but the request didn’t ever make it to Kylie’s ears and she remained blissfully unaware for years. She told ID magazine how the first time she met the band’s James Dean Bradfield, he played a track and told her that’s how he heard her. She gave him some lyrics and hoped that something would come out it. The track he played was said to have been Motown leaning and this influence can certainly be heard in the throwback vibe of ‘I Don’t Need Anyone’. The Manics also merged the lyrics of two different song ideas from Kylie to create ‘Some Kind of Bliss’ which became the first single released from the album in September 1997.

The video was one of only a handful of Kylie’s that has more of a filmic storyline to it and sees Kylie in a Bonnie ‘n’ Clyde style pairing with Dexter Fletcher as her onscreen lover, as they attempt to rob a bank. Kylie looks stunning with red hair cut into a bob as she wears a variety of figure-hugging outfits. Unfortunately, the UK public just didn’t seem ready to take IndieKylie seriously and the song had the dishonour of becoming Kylie’s first official single not to chart inside the Top 20 in the UK when it stalled at 22.

Princess Diana had tragically died in a car crash in Paris the previous week and Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind’ dominated the chart with unprecedented sales. The outpouring of public grief for Diana was so immense that out of respect to her, the album title ‘Impossible Princess’ was seen as potentially insensitive and swiftly the album was delayed in the UK and Australia (although it would keep its original title and release date of 22nd October in Japan). Strangely, it was renamed simply, ‘Kylie Minogue’; a little confusing following the previous album also being called the same name and her debut being called ‘Kylie’.

The second single was ‘Did It Again’, which was like being inside Kylie’s mind as she berates herself for making the same mistakes and not learning. The video is one of her cleverest in both use of green screen and playing on the media’s obsession with labelling Kylie throughout her career. We meet SexKylie, IndieKylie, DanceKylie and CuteKylie in the video where the four of them fight each other for the limelight against a police identity parade backdrop. The single reached No.14 on the UK chart in December 1997 and Kylie got a little help from some drag queens to perform the track on TOTP.

The third and final UK single from the album, ‘Breathe’ slowed the pace right down (although the album version was sped up slightly for single release) when it was released in March 1998, just ahead of the UK album release. One of four tracks from the era produced by Dave Ball and Ingo Vauk, the track matched the No.14 peak of ‘Did It Again’ and has been revived for Kylie’s live tours on several occasions since. It’s a track Kylie wrote in Japan in a moment of stillness and has became a firm fan favourite and been mashed up with ‘Je T’aime’ at Kylie’s ‘Money Can’t Buy’ show in 2003.

A final UK single was prepped to be released in the form of album opener ‘Too Far’ but, despite mixes from Junior Vasquez being issued on a 12″ promo, it never saw a full commercial release. This is one of two tracks that was fully written by Kylie on the album (‘Say Hey’ being the other) and was produced by Brothers in Rhythm. Its drum ‘n’ bass influence, sees Kylie creating a frantic, claustrophobic feel as she talks about the perils of being stuck in her own head and analysis-paralysis. Today, we’d probably refer to this as mindfulness! In an interview CD that was issued to media as part of the album’s promotion, Kylie said “I wrote ‘Too Far’ very quickly and in a very bad state….I was angry and hurt, all these nasty emotions… I just had to escape and get some air.” It was the perfect album opener, almost visually inviting people inside Kylie’s house and mind for her most personal album.

‘Impossible Princess’ was finally released in the UK in March 1998 and entered and peaked in the UK Official Albums Chart at No.10, going on to be certified Silver by the BPI. Unfortunately, it spent just two weeks in the top 40 and was deemed a commercial flop in the UK. Some critics however, could hear something special in the album with Sunday Times calling it ‘a hip and sexy dance hybrid’.

In Australia, the album was released in January 1998 and faired far better peaking at No.4 initially, and buoyed by Kylie doing a run of ‘Intimate and Live’ show dates in June 1998 (playing 20 nights in around 2000 capacity theatres in Australia), managed to rack up over 30 weeks on the ARIA Top 50, being certified Platinum. This led to an Australian limited edition fourth single release in the guise of ‘Cowboy Style’ with a video lifted from the hugely successful tour. This track is all about her then boyfriend Stephane and his unusual aesthetic.

‘Impossible Princess’ mixes many genres that were all synonymous of the late 90s in the UK; drum n bass, Brit pop, trip hop, electronica and of course pop. At 12 tracks long, each track has lyrics written by Kylie and deals with introspection and love. Highlights include the Rob Dougan produced ‘Jump’ which takes the listener on a trippy journey, pondering the future and embracing all one’s emotions.

The two Manic Street Preachers tracks do stand out as being more indie led than the rest of the album (and perhaps warped the publics perception of what the album actually sounds like – predominantly dance influenced pop), but the glorious ‘I Don’t Need Anyone’ is warm, summery, guitar-pop song. Kylie performed it live on her Anti-Tour in 2012.

Kylie performs ‘I Don’t Need Anyone’ for an MTV Special for ‘Impossible Princess’

‘Limbo’ is a fast-paced assault on the senses that Kylie is rumoured to have wanted as the first single (it appeared as the b-side to ‘Some Kind of Bliss’) and a song she made even more trancey on her Fever Tour in 2022.

The album title ‘Impossible Princess’ came from a book of poems by Billy Childish called ‘Tales to Break the Harts of Impossible Princesses’ given to Kylie from the author via Nick Cave. Kylie instantly identified with the character of an Impossible Princess and it even gets a line mention on album closer ‘Dreams’. Perhaps the closest sonically to previous hit ‘Confide in Me’, this track cleverly uses orchestral instrumentation to build the song delicately as Kylie deals lyrically with all the wishes of her impossible princess. Kylie describes the track as “wanting to have everything…to have the impossible. Not wanting it to be greedy but, wanting it to experience everything.”

Speaking about the album Kylie said “It is really diverse and that’s one thing that worried me, because working with different producers…and doing different sounding songs. But I realised what I’ve tried to do is be myself….and I am all of those different areas…I justified it to myself in the end that it’s a very good representation of my life in the last two years.” She also described her ambition for the album in Mixmag at the time as “I wanted to make a pop dance record that is commercial but with sharp edges.” I think she succeeded!

A special mention to some of the tracks associated with the album, that had to settle for b-side or rarity status. ‘Take With Me You’ is an epic track that makes great use of percussion instruments to give a nod to World Music. In its original incarnation it’s over 9 minutes long.

There’s also the darker, hypnotic ‘Love Takes Over Me’, the pulsating ‘Tears’, jazzy ‘Stay This Way’ and calypso-lite ‘This Girl’ to check out. Finally, there’s ‘Free’ which was performed on the ‘Intimate & Live Tour’ but a studio version has never been released and may not have been recorded. It conjures the perfect image of Kylie on her road trips and how freeing the experience was for her.

This was also an era of great remixes with Junior Vasquez, Trouser Enthusiasts, Todd Terry, Nalin & Kane and more providing completely reworked versions of the singles. A particular highlight for me is the Sash! remix of ‘Breathe’ which transformed the thoughtful ballad into a dancefloor banger.

This album has such a special place in my heart as I too was in a phase of self-discovery when it was released and I found many of Kylie’s lyrics very relatable. It is an eclectic mix of sounds, but it gives a real insight into the true Kylie and where she was in her life at that time. I imagine for any fans or casual Kylie observers who became more familiar with Kylie from 2000 onwards, this album might be quite the aural shock. It’s sonically very different from much of her catalogue in terms of not only the production but also her vocal delivery. Lyrically, it gives a view of someone on the brink of being 30, looking inward and assessing their life up to that point and beyond. The next time Kylie would give us such personal lyrical input across an entire album, wouldn’t be until 2018’s ‘Golden’ where she lets us in on broken relationships and how it feels to be turning 50.

‘Impossible Princess’ is available for the first time on vinyl to celebrate the 25th Anniversary. Pre-order your copy at Kylie.com.

Revisit more Classic Albums including ‘Kylie’, ‘Fever’ and ‘Aphrodite’.

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