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Can Kylie Break In The U.S.?
Since making her recording debut 14 years ago, Australian singer/songwriter Kylie Minogue has sold more than 32 million records -- encompassing eight studio albums, a greatest-hits collection, and numSince making her recording debut 14 years ago, Australian singer/songwriter Kylie Minogue has sold more than 32 million records -- encompassing eight studio albums, a greatest-hits collection, and numerous singles -- worldwide. In the process, she's become a phenomenon around the world -- with the exception of the U.S, where superstar success has managed to elude her.
The objective of the Feb. 26 U.S. release of Minogue's eighth studio album, "Fever" -- her third U.S. release and first for Capitol -- is to finally make the artist a household name in America.
"Fever" and its lead single, the infectious and hook-laden "Can't Get You out of My Head," are certified No. 1 smashes throughout Europe. The single has already reached the summit of the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, and climbs 13 notches to No. 20 this week on The Billboard Hot 100, thanks in part to major support from radio stations in Chicago, New York, Boston, and Los Angeles, as well as a Dawn Shadforth-directed video that is currently airing on MTV, MTV2, and VH1, among other networks.
Like other such U.K.-rooted artists as David Gray, Dido, and Craig David, Minogue is incredibly suited to an American audience. But Americans need access to her -- just as they did with Gray, Dido, and David, each of whom understood the importance of touring the U.S. Yet, due to Minogue's schedule -- which includes an upcoming sold-out European tour -- a U.S. trek is unlikely in the near future. In fact, Capitol president Andy Slater acknowledges that a "U.S. tour has not been discussed yet."
Even so, Slater remains confident that Minogue will conquer America this time around. "'Can't Get You out of My Head' is one of Kylie's best songs in recent history," he says. "For Kylie to break big in the U.S., it's going to take people connecting the song to her, as well as to her overall artistic vision."
Keith Wozencroft, managing director of EMI U.K.'s Parlophone imprint -- which signed Minogue for the world, excluding Australia and New Zealand, where she is directly signed to Festival Mushroom Records (FMR) -- concurs. "The doors to America have definitely opened," notes Wozencroft, who along with Parlophone's A&R director Miles Leonard and senior A&R manager Jamie Nelson is responsible for bringing Minogue to the label.
"Of course, now she'll need to present herself to America," he adds. "It can get pretty difficult if people don't see the artist. That is the key to breaking her in the U.S. And while she'll be touring throughout Europe for the next few months, other opportunities may arise to get her presence in the U.S."
"This is an extremely strong time to break her again in the U.S.," says longtime manager Terry Blamey of London-based Terry Blamey Management, referring to both the success of "Can't Get You out of My Head" and Minogue's previous flirtation with U.S. stardom. (In the U.S., Geffen released the singer's debut album, "Kylie" -- which spawned a top-5 hit with a cover of "The Loco-Motion" -- and its follow-up, "Enjoy Yourself.")
To date, "Can't Get You out of My Head" has sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide. In Minogue's biggest international market -- the U.K. -- the single has sold more than 600,000 units, and "Fever" has passed the double-platinum mark (600,000 units). In Australia, "Fever" is quadruple-platinum (280,000). In both territories, "Fever" entered the album chart at No. 1.
As befits one who's been down this road before, Minogue (who turns 34 May 28) is excited and nervous about the prospect of successfully making the Atlantic crossing. The singer even has an analogy about this. "It's like when you fancy somebody at school," Minogue says. "The minute you stop fancying that person is when the person starts taking a fancy to you. That's how I feel about the U.S.
"I don't know if I have the drive and enthusiasm to break in America. Quite honestly, I don't feel the need to have to tell people how to say my name or discuss 'The Loco-Motion.' Up until now, I've resigned myself to the fact that America wouldn't be like the rest of the world for me. I'm anonymous there -- which, I must confess, I kind of like."
But that was then and this is now -- and Minogue realizes this. "I always did follow up my U.S. thoughts, though, with the knowledge that if I did have a runaway hit, it would be rude of me not to go and do what needs to be done," she adds. "I guess I'm nervous that it might actually happen this time. Yes, you could say the pressure's on."
Following her whirlwind trip to the U.S. -- Minogue arrived in the U.S. Feb. 1 for a two-week promotional blitz that included a Feb. 4 appearance on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" -- she embarks on the Kylie Fever tour, which lasts until the end of June, making stops throughout the U.K. and the rest of Europe. "If I didn't have such a ridiculous schedule, I think I'd be even more stressed, because then I actually could spend a lot of time [in the U.S.]," she says.
And Minogue isn't even sure how her live show would be received in the U.S. "It's such a fan-based show. I don't know what Americans -- most of whom don't know my material -- would think. Except for the gay community in the U.S., I'm not really sure who else knows my songs." On Feb. 15, she is scheduled to make her only U.S. public appearance, at the Virgin Megastore in New York's Times Square.
Fans visiting the label's Web site (hollywoodandvine.com) have access to six "Kylie buddy icons," a screensaver, and a four-part greeting from the artist. The site is also streaming the single. The official Minogue Web site (kylie.com) includes up-to-date news, audio snippets, merchandise, links, and a fan forum.
For the U.S. release, the album's sports a different cover image from the international set, and the first pressing will also include two bonus tracks: "Boy" and "Butterfly." Globally, the album's second single, "In Your Eyes," will be released Feb. 18; it will be followed by "Love at First Sight."
A QUICK REVIEW
For those who need a refresher course, Minogue was born in Melbourne, Australia, to an Australian father and a Welsh mother. Throughout the '80s, she supported herself by acting in a handful of TV shows, including the soap opera "Neighbours."
With "Neighbours" proving itself a certified hit in the U.K., Minogue teamed up with British production outfit Stock Aitken Waterman (SAW) and recorded "I Should Be So Lucky," which was released on SAW's own PWL imprint. It was the first of many No. 1 U.K. hits. Her full-length debut, "Kylie," topped the U.K. album chart and peaked at No. 53 on The Billboard 200.
Numerous international hits followed. In the U.S., Minogue's second album, "Enjoy Yourself," failed to find an audience, and the artist parted ways with Geffen.
Four studio albums later, Minogue moved from PWL to BMG's Deconstruction label in '93. One year later, the imprint released "Kylie Minogue," which Imago picked up for the U.S. After one single -- "Confide in Me"-cracked the top-40 of the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, Imago folded, and the album was never released in America. Deconstruction followed with "Kylie Minogue" (titled "Impossible Princess" in Australia), which confused many with its rock-etched leanings and left Minogue without a U.K. label to call home.
Three years ago, she signed with Parlophone. "She had an incredibly successful 10 years, followed by an odd musical turn," Wozencroft recalls. "She just needed the right record to push her back into the forefront."
Enter 2000's "Light Years" (which spent more than one year in the Australian top-100), a disco-splashed set that found Minogue reveling in her dance-pop roots. Last year's equally dance-speckled "Fever" continues to duplicate the international success of its predecessor.
Minogue explains, "'Light Years' was like finding my feet again -- albeit in Manolo Blahnik stilettoes. For the public at large, 'Light Years' was my comeback. For me personally, it was a return to form. And it felt good."
Looking back over her illustrious career-which has included collaborations with Robbie Williams and Nick Cave and an appearance in last year's "Moulin Rouge" -- Minogue admits to being "slightly disillusioned" in the years between Deconstruction and Parlophone. "But one thing was certain," she says. "I knew I wasn't finished yet."