Kylie's pivotal songs

“I have so many characters lurking around my body – I’m possessed!” And with over five decades of hits, Kylie Minogue has explored many of them via some of the most era-defining singles in pop. We trace Kylie’s pivotal songs and discover how she and those around her created such milestone events.

To Stock Aitken Waterman, Kylie Minogue was initially just another voice to create songs with at their Hit Factory, but nearly 40 years later, she has easily outshone all the other voices on their roster and become a global phenomenon.

Like Madonna and Bowie, Kylie has done this – at least in part – by exorcising those ‘characters lurking’ within her to constantly reinvent herself, to go from factory singer to an artist that stays ahead of the curve or even helps create the curve.

Over 36 years of hits there have been so many versions of Kylie that you could almost host a cosplay event dedicated to them – that or create an entire Eurovision audience from them.

Great tunes and the lady herself have been at the core of the success, but so have her image changes, genre leaps, great videos, and a variety of songwriters and producers.

There have been many career-defining moments, of course, but we’ve narrowed it down to six key releases, those that took her from soap opera car mechanic to global superstar and electro LGBTQ+ queen.

Kylie pivotal songs

I Should Be So Lucky (1987)

The meteoric rise of both SAW and Kylie Minogue go hand-in-hand, of course, but Kylie’s singing career was actually already underway before the recording of I Should Be So Lucky, the single that ignited their relationship.

Kylie had enjoyed success in Australia by way of an earlier version of the single Locomotion which was produced by Mike Duffy. SAW were then contacted to see if they would produce a follow-up which became I Should Be So Lucky.

There are a couple of accounts about what SAW’s Mike Stock wrote the lyrics of the song about. According to Pete Waterman it’s about Kylie’s relationship with Jason Donovan, both on and off screen: “Mike watched Neighbours, saw this little girl Charlene, [and] worked out what the appeal was,” he told The Daily Star. “The song is about her relationship with Jason Donovan, because we knew they were actually going out with each other. And she thought she was really lucky to go out with this hunk of a guy in the programme. And that’s why it works because you can work out from the lyric that it is sincere.”

Soapstar to Popstar

Or you could argue that the song worked because it’s a very catchy tune! Either way it was a single written by SAW in record time, and Waterman can take some credit for that too – although not necessarily in a good way.

“I didn’t know she was turning up to the studio, as Pete had forgotten to tell us!” Mike Stock said of the moment he realised that Kylie was waiting to record the song. “She was due to fly back to Australia that afternoon. So we came up with the idea and it was probably written in 40 minutes. We got her in the studio and she sang it. She was out in an hour and back to the airport!”

 PWL was the production company behind SAW with little experience of releasing records at the time, so Waterman started trying to sell the song to other labels for as little as £500.

“We offered Kylie to every record company because we didn’t want to be a record company,” he recently told GB News. “But the great thing is they all turned us down [saying], ‘You’ll never break a TV star’. And that was the greatest break we ever had.”

After the song was rejected, Waterman decided to release it through PWL Records instead, and as he said to Louder Than War in 2015: “Suddenly the kids kicked in that were watching Neighbours and our record sales went through the roof.”

Read more: Step back in time: Kylie on film & TV

 better the devil

Better The Devil You Know (1990)

If PWL had given Kylie a lift to stardom, she certainly returned the favour with interest. By the early 90s, her success was helping to sprinkle fairy dust across the entire SAW portfolio, almost to the point that the golden goose of Kylie was being pushed aside.

“We had no spare songs,” Waterman explained to Louder Than War. “We were writing songs, particularly later on in Kylie’s career like Better The Devil, [where] we’d literally finish the song when she was in the studio.”

And just as Waterman said I Should Be So Lucky was about Kylie’s romance with Jason Donovan, so he says that Better The Devil You Know was about her relationship with INXS frontman Michael Hutchence. 

“That’s what it was like at the time,” he recalls of the recording session, during which the song was also written. “Suddenly there you are, you’re writing a song about Jason Donovan falling out with Kylie Minogue.”

In The Spotlight

But unlike her previous work on PWL, Kylie was starting to get at least a little more input in the studio. “I must have had a few little grumbles about wanting to be my own musician”, Kylie told Paper Mag in 2019. “I remember Pete Waterman saying, ‘Alright, kiddo, what kind of song do you want?’ I said, ‘I really like C’mon And Get My Love by D Mob.’ If you listen to that and Better the Devil, it’s very similar.”

The first reinvention of Kylie happened within the confines of PWL, then. Kylie’s relationship with Michael Hutchence was certainly at play here, and when asked a direct question about his role on the TV show A Current Affair, Kylie replied: “He wished that people could see all the parts of me and I have so many characters lurking around my body, it’s frightening.”

The song was not a massive departure, though, which even Pete Waterman admitted: “Going from Jason Donovan to Michael Hutchence is a bit more bloody radical than going from I Should Be So Lucky to Better The Devil You Know!” 

Read More: Kylie – the inner circle

confide in me

Confide In Me (1994)

While Better The Devil You Know might not have been such a radical change, Confide With Me certainly was, as Kylie’s departure from PWL would herald in an altogether new direction. After four albums with Waterman and co, Kylie wanted to get more credible and, more importantly, have more input after becoming frustrated with the creative process on those earlier albums.

“In the five years with them, [I was] going from a 19-year-old to early twenties, becoming furious, wanting to become more involved, be in the room, not be in the waiting room until they were ready,” she told Jessie Ware’s Table Manners podcast.

The result was a new record deal with the label Deconstruction and a new writing and production team, including Brothers In Rhythm.

Dave told “When Kylie left PWL for Deconstruction – a label we knew well – I just picked up the phone and asked if we could write some songs for her. We’d never written for anyone before, but they gave us that chance and thankfully it paid off for everybody.”

New Adventure

“We went into a huge blind panic!” Steve Anderson said in a Time To Talk Podcast “I’m a massive Kylie fan. I always was and always will be – she’s an incredible artist.

“We thought, ‘We’ve got to have something for her’ and went into the studio. We just threw this demo together so we could say, ‘Here’s an idea that we’ve got, and by the way, we don’t think it’s something you’ve ever done before or what people might want.’ And she recorded the demo that day.”

This would also mark the start of a long working relationship between Anderson and Kylie and a phase in Kylie’s career where she finally felt at home with the creative process. She told A Current Affair: “I’ve loved going to work and I’ve felt part of it, not just dragging myself to the studio and them saying, ‘This is the name of the song and this is how it goes, OK?’. So it’s nice to be involved.”

And on the same show, she said of her new image: “Yes I’m more mature but aren’t most people?” And then correctly predicted: “I think I’m at the beginning of a completely new adventure. I’ll be different next year and I’ll be different five years from now.”

Read More: Kylie Q&A

Kylie pivotal songs - spinning around

Spinning Around (2000)

“I thought my career was, if not over, very much clinging on,” Kylie told Paper Mag about her success in the very late 90s. “I bought a place in L.A. and I thought I might just might hang out in America for a while. Then, Spinning Around [came along]. I didn’t know that was going to happen, and thankfully it did. And we were off again.”

If the 90s was all about the trip-hop and indie side of Kylie, then the new century would welcome ‘DiscoKylie’ with seventh album Light Years – taking a leaf from Madonna’s book, she was certainly mastering the art of reinvention. That meant another new label, new writers and producers, gold hotpants videos, and, in Spinning Around, yet another brilliant comeback track.

“People at this point had assumed Kylie couldn’t get back inside the Top 20,” Spinning Around’s producer Mike Spencer told “She’s an iconic artist, but her career had gone adrift somewhat. Spinning Around was, in its original demo form, a soul record. We upped the tempo and made it into a disco record.”

Spinning Around wasn’t easy to get right,” Kylie said. “My part recording it was really difficult, but my A&R was like a dog and a bone with that song. He just wouldn’t let go until it was right. Turns out, it was right.”

Indeed it was. Spinning Around was Kylie’s fifth UK No.1, her first in Australia since Confide With Me, and gold lamé hotpants sales went through the roof.


Kylie pivotal songs - Can't get you out of my head

Can’t Get You Out Of My Head (2001)

After Spinning Around, no one was ever going to write Kylie off again. Yet no one really expected her to maintain that kind of success either, let alone exceed it. Can’t Get You Out Of My Head not only topped it – and that of any other Kylie single – but its video became even more iconic. The song was written by Rob Davis (ex-Mud) and Cathy Dennis (also no stranger to the odd hit record).

“It was just one of those days where everything worked,” Davis told Sky in 2021. “It was all written as we went, no preconceived ideas. All I started with was a 125bpm drum loop. I played a bit of guitar and [Cathy Dennis] came in with ‘I Just Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ straight away.”

“It wasn’t [written] with Kylie in mind,” Davis told PRS For Music in 2020. “Everybody loved it when it was done, but I didn’t think it would be a No.1. Kylie was hot at the time, and a great person to front it.”

Next Level

Kylie told The Quietus in 2012 about the first time she heard the demo that Rob and Cathy had recorded: “My A&R at the time said, ‘We’ve got to play you something.’ So I went to the EMI office, and I couldn’t even fathom what I was hearing. It just did something. I was beside myself. At the end of the song, panic set in. I was saying, ‘Are you sure we’ve got this song? Is it secured? Can we have it?’ And we did!”

“It was a sweet moment, she was really nice,” Davis said of when Kylie recorded the track. “She brought her own food – smoked salmon and stuff like that, from a deli – and brought enough for everybody. It was all done in the garage, just me and Cathy producing it. She’s very pro, Kylie. It was just such a massive record. I couldn’t believe how big it went.”

“It kickstarted a whole different phase in my career,” Kylie said of the song, and five million sales later, it has certainly helped take her success to a level that has kept her in the public eye (and charts) to this day. Talking of which…

Kylie pivotal songs - Padam Padam

Padam Padam (2023)

“I’m working on my next album,” Kylie told The Guardian newspaper at the end of last year. “It’s always a challenge to find the song and feel of the album but I do love the process. I’ve loved getting back into the studio with some of my favourite creatives.”

And with Padam Padam, it looks like Kylie found just the song and yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s another reinvention. Kylie has gone from the girl who lives next door – who happens to be in a soap opera and work as a car mechanic – through so many sexy, sophisticated, disco, pop, indie and even alien phases.

Padam Padam is the latest – and some are saying greatest – and an over-too-quickly burst of off-world electro that is very much packaged to appeal to a 2020s audience.

Written by yet another set of new collaborators, Ina Wroldsen and Peter Rycroft (aka Lostboy), the track is the first song from Kylie’s 16th studio album, Tension.

With its Middle-Eastern scales, massive, earworm hooks and techno swirl of a production, it could easily have been in any Eurovision final of the last five years (and next 20, come to that), while the video features Kylie in a catsuit and dancers popping around a desert in L.A., very much welcoming 21st century Instagram meme creators and TikTok influencers.

TikTok Generation

The headlines (so far) are that Padam Padam has given Kylie a Top 10 UK hit in five decades of music-making, and also that it is a Kylie song that bridges the gap between the old generation of record buyers and a TikTok generation of streamers.

Kylie herself has said of the record and working on platforms like Instagram: “It’s been a little tricky trying to navigate and to understand it. Now I think it’s amazing and I do wonder what it would have been like if it had started with my career. I feel like I have one foot in the old world and one foot in the new.”

Whether you think Padam Padam is overly targeted for a new audience or just another great reinvention for Kylie, you can’t argue that it is a fabulous record, and looks like starting another great chapter in her career.

And just how many more reinventions – how many more characters “lurking around” – we will get, remains to be seen, but we very much doubt this will be the last of them.

Check out these songs and more here


Want to read more? here we celebrate the albums of Kylie