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Friday, Nov. 23, 2007

LISTENING POST

CD REVIEW

Kylie Minogue — "X"
Britney Spears — "Blackout"


As 2007 dribbles to a close, we are treated to long-awaited comeback albums by two renowned lady stars.

Kylie Minogue's "X" is likely to be the subject of fevered praise from loyal fans and critics alike, but if we're brutally honest, it's really not that good. A battle with breast cancer may have kept Kylie out of the charts for several years, but here she delivers a two-dimensional checkbook album recorded with a handful of hit-factory producers (including the chaps behind Britney's amazing "Toxic" single), featuring ham-fisted lyrics advocating love, dancing and the hideously annoying trend of people wielding the loudspeakers on their mobile phones as tiny, tinny boomboxes.

If there's a reference to her struggles here, it's well hidden. Kylie can write about what she likes, of course, but it's hard to imagine how such vacuous subject matter has earned her a reputation as an "artiste" some 19 years after making her similarly vacant debut. The album lacks character almost entirely; when she attempts to get raunchy, as on "Nu-di-ty," it's like watching pornography with your mum. That said, there are some strong Goldfrapp/Madonna-inspired tracks on "X" that will pack out the dance floors at clubs the world over.

Britney Spears, on the other hand, has neither artistic credibility nor public sympathy — her four-year recording absence has seen her marry and divorce twice, have two sons, find and renounce cabala, shave her head and pop in and out of rehab. But what an album she delivers in "Blackout." An edgy, sexy set of grown-up dance-pop, she confronts her critics on "Piece of Me," attacking the paparazzi who have stalked her since her teens and the magazines that have criticized her wavering weight and jolly escapades. And on "Toy Soldier" she seemingly disses her ex-husband Kevin Federline while laying down a gritty floor-filler that bursts out of the speakers.

Of course, "Blackout" is no less a checkbook album, put together by a host of pricey producers, but it oozes personality, hooks and blokes with "silly voices," eschewing the syrupy ballads that made Britney America's sweetheart and presenting her as a force to be reckoned with.



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