Dannii Minogue Ponders The 'X-Factor'

It is not easy growing up in the shadow of a more famous sibling, but Dannii Minogue is doing just fine. Released earlier this year, her fourth international album, "Neon Nights," has been certified g

It is not easy growing up in the shadow of a more famous sibling, but Dannii Minogue is doing just fine. Released earlier this year, her fourth international album, "Neon Nights," has been certified gold in several territories, including the U.K. and her homeland, Australia.

Now, Minogue is gearing up for what may be the toughest hurdle of her career: cracking the U.S. market. But like her sister, Kylie, she is undaunted.

"I must admit, it's been amazing watching the buildup for the new album in America," Minogue says. But she is savvy enough to know that in any country, no matter how much of a marketing push an artist receives, in the end, "It's all timing." Without missing a beat, she quickly adds, "There's also that unexplainable X-factor. Of course, that's half the excitement."

Arriving Oct. 7 from Ultra Records, the '80s-hued, electro-sparked "Neon Nights" is Minogue's second U.S. album. It follows her debut, "Love and Kisses," which Savage/MCA released in 1992. The album includes a handful of global hits, including "Put the Needle on It," "Don't Wanna Lose This Feeling" and "I Begin to Wonder," the last of which is the lead single in the U.S.

Observers are hoping the timing could be right for the younger Minogue's American breakthrough. "This album is happening in countries all over the world," she says. Even in markets like France, where Minogue says she was never a household name, "Neon Nights" has been embraced. "And I recently did my first promotional trip to Canada. People are liking and responding to this album."

Minogue's musical journey has not been without its bumps. "I've had different levels of success at different points in my career," she shares. After her third album ("Girl," 1997), Minogue says she parted ways with Warner. Without a recording contract, she explored a number of employment opportunities, ranging from TV to theater. Recently, she had an eight-week run as host of a weekly show on England's Capital FM radio station.

While appearing in a West End musical production of "Notre-Dame de Paris," Minogue struck gold. "My voice really developed while performing in this show," Minogue says. "People noticed this and began talking."

Word spread to producer Riva, who had a U.K. crossover hit with "Stringer" in 2001. According to Minogue, Riva asked her to lend her vocals to the instrumental track.

With Minogue's added vocals, the track -- rechristened "Who Do You Love Now?" by Riva Featuring Dannii Minogue -- was released by ffrr/London. It became a top five U.K. hit. "It was a magical pairing," Minogue notes. "And it truly put me in the spotlight."

U.S. fans received a taste of "Who Do You Love Now?" last year when it appeared on the Atlantic Records compilation "Big Beat: Future Classics."

Following the European success of "Who Do You Love Now?," Minogue says label offers started pouring in. "Since I was already familiar with the Warner family, I signed with London for six albums."

Plus, she continues, London agreed to "let me make the album I wanted to make." For Minogue, this meant co-writing the bulk of the songs and working with producers Ian Masterson, Neimo and Jean Claude Ades, among others.

Now, U.S. dance enthusiasts are poised to fully savor "Neon Nights." Minogue began a three-week U.S. radio and retail promotional tour Sept. 22. Her trek includes a performance at the 10th annual Billboard Dance Music Summit and an appearance on Howard Stern's radio show -- as well as Vic Latino's "Top 8 at 8" countdown program on WKTU.

"I feel like I'm halfway up a mountain," Minogue says. "I now have some height. I feel like I'm rising."

Excerpted from the Oct. 11, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.

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