REVIEW: Kylie Minogue – Step Back in Time

REVIEW:  Kylie Minogue – Step Back in Time: The Definitive Collection (BMG, 2019)

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In the age of Spotify and the ability of  listeners to  download any song and configure a playlist however they want, the “Greatest Hits” album concept seems outdated and pointless. When that artist already has numerous compilations in the market already (albeit only a choice few released with her participation and the many others the decisions of greedy record company executives), a new package seems even more redundant than ever.  And yet. . .Kylie Minogue has the number one album in  the UK this week with “Step Back in Time: The Definitive Collection”.   Of course, few performers have a catalog solid enough to warrant this constant repackaging.  (In the case of Kylie Minogue, that repackaging has not only been without her participation; in some cases, it’s even been without her photo.  At least two packages by labels she was no longer signed to issued compilations using body doubles on the cover and one used a disastrous illustration.)  So, in many ways, this is really only Kylie Minogue’s third proper career-spanning compilation, following her wrapping up her initial phase (with Stock Aiken & Waterman) in the form of 1992’s Kylie: Greatest Hits, and the post-worldwide domination, 2004’s double-disc Ultimate Kylie.  So the first question is:  Why is this collection the same length as 2004’s packed-with-hits Ultimate Kylie?  After fifteen years, shouldn’t it have been a longer set, considering all the material to be added?

Well, the key word in the title here is “Definitive”. “Step Back in Time” (which takes its title from one of Minogue’s 1990 chart topping singles) is not “Comprehensive.”  So instead of a single-by-single rundown spanning from 1987’s original “Locomotion” to this year’s “New York City” (a rundown which would have spanned in the area of four CDs or more, considering how many singles she’s had from her three decade career and how many one-offs and EPs and non-album songs she’s released), we are presented with the songs people familiar with Minogue would think of as her standards.  Perfect for the casual fan as well as the more passionate, the compilation tells some bona fide hits (“Into the Blue”, “Chocolate”) to take a hike so that more-loved tracks (like “The One”) can take their rightful place.  The result is an impressive, career-spanning selection of songs showing why Minogue remains, thirty-plus years into her career, one of pop music’s most enduring chameleons.

If there’s a problem with this set, it’s a problem inherent in any compilation: the sequencing.  Like that other pop chameleon, Madonna, and Madonna’s last greatest hits compilation, Celebration, the songs on Minogue’s Step Back in Time seem placed with little rhyme or reason.  Any Kylie fan will talk about her various eras:  S-A-W, DeConstruction, Parlo, and so on.  Yet the songs from each aren’t placed in any logical order; it’s not arranged by beats-per-minute, nor era, not chronology  (which, with most artists, causes a compilation to lose steam quickly).  The order isn’t even alphabetical.  Instead, the track listing (comprised of radio/single edits) seems to be like someone curated all these songs on a playlist and hit the shuffle option during playback–and maybe that’s the point.  The listener can slip these discs on and get a playback that seems almost random but is just jarring enough to make you realize just how long Kylie Minogue has been giving music lovers world class pop.  When the flamenco-flavored “Please Stay” slips into the New Wave-ish, “2 Hearts” and then that rocker transitions into the pulsating, gentle, “Breathe”, only to have that give way to the sassy, “Red Blooded Woman”, it delivers a thrill no chronological playlist would achieve–and it’s better than any trip down year-by-year Memory Lane.  (And the only new track, the added-so-late-it’s-missing-from-the-track-listing, “New York City” fits right in with the collection as a whole, though, coming as it does after the dark “Where the Wild Roses Grow”, it provides a jerk back from the tragic Eliza Day to light-hearted, effervescent Kylie.)  Does the selection of tracks miss some favorites?  Absolutely.  In fact, several albums–including two of her best–are given very little representation and at least one–Kiss Me Once–is blatantly excluded, as are two phenomenal EPs she delivered.  But, again, the key word is “Definitive.”

And if a listener’s favorite’s aren’t here, they can always create a playlist on Spotify suited to their exact wants.  Perhaps that’s why greatest hits albums and career retrospectives continue to be packaged in the download age.  And, in addition to a back catalog that any other pop or dance artist would envy, why Kylie Minogue is celebrating yet another #1 album in the U.K.


Track Listing:  (Note that “Step Back in Time: The Definitive Collection” is also available as a slimmed down double vinyl release that comes with a digital download of all tracks, compensating for the vinyl set containing just twenty of the official release’s forty-two tracks.  Asterisks * indicate tracks on the vinyl two-disc set.)

Disc: 1
1. Can’t Get You out of My Head*
2. Spinning Around*
3. Love at First Sight*
4. Dancing*
5. In Your Eyes*
6. Slow*
7. All the Lovers*
8. I Believe in You*
9. In My Arms*
10. On a Night like This*
11. Your Disco Needs You
12. Please Stay
13. 2 Hearts*
14. Breathe (Radio Edit)
15. Red Blooded Woman
16. The One
17. Come into My World
18. Wow*
19. Get Outta My Way
20. Timebomb
21. Kids (with Robbie Williams)*
22. Stop Me from Falling

Disc: 2
1. Step Back in Time*
2. Better the Devil You Know*
3. Hand on Your Heart
4. Wouldn’t Change a Thing
5. Shocked (DNA 7″ Mix)*
6. Especially For You*
7. I Should Be So Lucky*
8. Celebration
9. The Loco-Motion (7″ Mix)
10. Give Me Just a Little More Time
11. Never Too Late
12. Got to Be Certain
13. Tears On My Pillow
14. Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi
15. What Kind of Fool? (Heard All That Before)
16. What Do I Have to Do
17. Confide in Me (Radio Mix)*
18. Put Yourself in My Place (Radio Mix)*
19. Where the Wild Roses Grow (2011 Remastered Version) – By Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds & Kylie Minogue
20. New York City

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