Impossible Princess

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Impossible Princess
Studio album by Kylie Minogue
Released 1 November 1997 (1997-11-01)
Recorded October 1995 - May 1997;
Dave and Ingo's Place, DMC Studios, Mayfair Studios, Real World Studios, Roundhouse, Sarm East Studios, Sarm West Studios, Spike Studios
Genre
Length 49:57
Label
Producer
Kylie Minogue chronology
Kylie Minogue
(1994)
Impossible Princess
(1997)
Light Years
(2000)
Alternative cover
Limited edition three-dimensional album cover
Singles from Impossible Princess
  1. "Some Kind of Bliss"
    Released: September 1997
  2. "Did It Again"
    Released: November 1997
  3. "Breathe"
    Released: February 1998
  4. "Cowboy Style"
    Released: August 1998

Impossible Princess (originally titled The Impossible Princess)[3] is the sixth studio album by Australian recording artist Kylie Minogue. It was released in Japan on 1 November 1997 by BMG Records, in Australia on 12 January 1998 by Mushroom Records and in Europe on 23 March 1998 by Deconstruction Records. The album was produced by Dave Ball, Ingo Vauk, Brothers in Rhythm, Manic Street Preachers and Rob Dougan. The album became the longest project ever penned by Minogue since her success on the 1987's TV series Neighbours.

Musically, it is predominately a pop and dance album. The album represented another, and most radical change in Minogue's musical style, finding influences in techno, drum and bass, indie rock, trip hop, folk and jazz, making it a departure from her previous work. Impossible Princess became the first album in which Minogue had assumed full creative control, resulting in her contributing all of the lyrics that appeared on the album.[4] Minogue co-wrote all the lyrics in her Chelsea, London home, exploring the themes and meaning of the sentences. There are many themes associated with the album, as a result of her exploration of her celebrity status, self-identification as an artist, her relationship with Stéphane Sednaoui and her feelings towards her life at that point.

Upon release, the album received varied reactions amongst music critics. Many complimented its maturity and personal subject matter, while others called it unbelievable and felt the image projected towards the album was fraud-like. Impossible Princess was a success in Minogue's native Australia, where it reached number four on the Australian Albums Chart and number one on the Australian Music Report chart in January 1998, and was certified Platinum. In the United Kingdom, however, it was a commercial disappointment, selling 44,000 copies in 1998, considerably less than Minogue's previous albums. The album was retitled Kylie Minogue in the UK following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in August 1997.[5] Four singles were released from the album, which well critically but lacked chart progression.

The album was supported by the Intimate and Live concert tour, which was critically acclaimed. Critics alike had considered the album to be an example of Minogue's constant "reinventions". Dubbing her as "Indie Kylie", it had been recognized as one of Minogue's greatest triumphs and had been recognized as a big step forward in terms of her musical composition. The album was recognized for its critical comparison of Madonna's Ray of Light (1998), which was released at a similar time but achieved worldwide domination and critical success. A remastered edition of Impossible Princess with title reinstated, was issued by BMG in 2003 with a bonus disc of remixes and B-sides. The album has received retrospective acclaim from critics and recognition, calling it one of the most underrated albums in pop history.

Background[edit]

In late 1992, before Minogue was at the brink of signing with Deconstruction Records, she released her two singles "What Kind of Fool (Heard All That Before) and "Celebration". According to tabloids back then, they noticed that her label at the time, PWL created too similar music for other artists that signed to the label.[6] Although she signed for three albums with PWL, she recorded four in total, with Let's Get To It being her first album to feature songwriting credits by Minogue.[6] Her final album with PWL became her lowest charting studio album in both Australia and the UK, just peaking inside the top twenty and did not manage to achieve a certification from either industries. She left PWL and signed with Deconstruction to create the eponymous album in September 1994. As her first album not by the production team of Stock Aitken Waterman, it included a variety of new producers and songwriters including Steve Anderson, Dave Seaman and Brothers in Rhythm.[7] Both Anderson and Brothers in Rhythm had worked with Minogue previously – on her 1992 single, "Finer Feelings".[8] It yelled three main singles; the successful hit "Confide In Me", "Put Yourself In My Place" and "Where Is the Feeling?" which was produced by Brothers in Rhythm, and the album achieved top 5 charting in Australia and the UK.[9]

In 1995, Minogue recorded the song "Where the Wild Roses Grow", a duet with Australian rock musician Nick Cave. The lyrics narrate a murder from the points of view of both the murderer (Cave), and his victim (Minogue). Cave had been interested in working with Minogue since hearing "Better the Devil You Know" (April 1990), saying it contained "one of pop music's most violent and distressing lyrics".[10] The single, released in October 1995 peaked inside the top ten in Australia, Belgium, Sweden, and Findland; and inside the top twenty in New Zealand and the UK.[11][12] It achieve critical acclaim from many of Minogue's fiercest critics, who praised her transition from being the once-dubbed "singing budgie" to a mature woman.[6] That year, she recited the lyrics to "I Should Be So Lucky" as poetry in London's Royal Albert Hall "Poetry Jam" at Cave's suggestion. She later credited him with giving her the confidence to express herself through her music, saying, "he taught me to never veer too far from who I am, but to go further, try different things, and never lose sight of myself at the core. For me, the hard part was unleashing the core of myself and being totally truthful in my music".[13]

The following year, Minogue began a personal relationship with French photographer Stéphane Sednaoui.[14] Together they embarked on a series of trips across the United States and southern China to help her become inspired for the album. The trips and her relationship with Sednaoui made Minogue feel free to express her own creativity and talent.[14] Sednaoui also introduced her to the work of musicians including Björk, Shirley Manson and her band Garbage, Japanese pop artist Towa Tei and the band U2, all of whom would influence the musical styles on Impossible Princess.[14] In an interview published by NME, Minogue declared that she trusted his judgement in being more experimental and having more creative control; "I would like to put myself in an experiment. You know, you've got the Bosnian compilation [the 1995 War Child charity disc The Help Album] where the common denominator is the theme of the album? Well, I'd like to make the common denominator myself and see what a load of different producers and artists can do for me".[15]

Writing and composition[edit]

Minogue started writing songs for Impossible Princess in 1995. When she returned, Minogue was writing down words, exploring the form and meaning of sentences.[16] She had written lyrics before, but described them as "safe, just neatly rhymed words and that's that".[17] Being interviewed by the publication Mag UK, she revealed that writing the lyrics to all the songs was an easy process by saying "No [asked if it was hard or not] strangly enough it wasn't hard enough at all. It was really easy ... I started lots of diary's and burnt them all, I just made a mistake by going back through them and think 'Oh my god thats really bad.'"[18][19] For an interview with TV host Richard Stubbs on Hey Hey It's Saturday, She had joked that she hated herself that she had to be referred as a songwriter on the album credits. When asked if it was nerve-wracking, she said "I didn't find it nerve-wracking this time because I was really pleased with what I done. I had so many delays with the album and I wanted to let it out".[20] For Impossible Princess, she took inspiration from Sednaoui and her own experiences as a celebrity. Minogue initially had a hard time embracing her past, looking back on it as a time of pain and confused embarrassment.[21] Confronting her past helped her improve her confidence; she said "it was like I'd climbed Mount Everest, or jumped out of a plane. So many things that I had avoided for so long were right there. That was what Nick (Cave) was saying to me. 'It'll be brilliant. It'll confront all of your past, all in one fell swoop'. And he was right".[22]

[[:File:KylieMinogueDidItAgain.ogg -->|"Did It Again" (1997)]]
[[File:KylieMinogueDidItAgain.ogg -->|220px]]
The song was the second single and "contains an aggressive vocal style, with alternative and Eastern musical influences."

Problems playing this file? See media help.

When Bradfield sent her a demo of "I Don't Need Anyone", she loved it instantly; "it was so refreshing to hear something so different from what I had been working on. To have something so fresh come in that somebody else had been working on and taken control of, was a nice break for me."[23] Minogue gave Bradfield another two sets of lyrics. He took parts from each set and blended them together to create the album's lead single "Some Kind of Bliss". Impossible Princess became the first album where the songs were co-written by Minogue. Every song issued on the album, except for "I Don't Need Anyone", was written by Minogue, where as the latter she co-wrote.[24] Minogue composed the song "Too Far" on a grand piano; additional instruments were added during production.[25] Minogue co-wrote dozens of songs over a two-year period, many of which remain unreleased. After a set of lyrics were completed, she would record a vocal demo and evaluate the song's potential.[25] All the songs are autobiographical and are based on what she has felt and what she has been through.[26]

Musically, Impossible Princess is a pop album that takes several musical changes. According to Chris True from Allmusic, he identified the album as an dance, europop and adult contemporary-inspired album.[1] True said the album's musical composition had been attributed due to the rapid 1990's music change to techno, informally dubbed as "Techno Revolution".[1] Music critic Michael R. Smith from the DailyVault.com agreed with it showing techno influences,[27] a reviewer from the publication Classic Pop Magazine found influences of 1990's inspired britpop while Digital Spy critic Nick Levine felt the album was "all over the dance-pop shop".[28] Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine praised Minogue for allowing her vocals to step outside her comfort zone.[2] Minogue had greater freedom to make Impossible Princess sound as she wanted it to. Deconstruction's A&R department had not been present for much of the recording due to Hadfield's poor health.[29] This left Minogue with partial creative control over the project. At first she believed that the album contained too many musical styles, but changed her mind; "I thought, partly to justify it to myself, but mainly because it's the truth, that if I had a whole album that sounded like "Some Kind of Bliss", or a whole album that sounded like "Too Far", it would be a lie, because I'm all over the place as a person".[23] Particularly after the album was released, many of her friends and critics dubbed her "Indie Kylie", to which she does not appreciate. She denied, telling an interviewer from Mixmag: "I have to keep telling people that this isn't an indie-guitar album. I'm not about to pick up a guitar and rock."[30]

Recording and production[edit]

James Dean Bradfield (pictured) was chosen to produce the tracks "Some Kind of Bliss" and "I Don't Need Anyone".

Brothers in Rhythm, a house music duo consisting of Steve Anderson and Dave Seaman, were chosen as the main producers of the album. She expressed her likening with "Confide in Me" (produced by Brothers in Rhythm) so she decided to work with the duo again. In 1995, Minogue and Brothers in Rhythm began recording rough demos at Real World studios in Bath, England. The demos consisted of Minogue's lyrical ideas over various backing tracks. The demos were later rearranged and instruments were added to replace the samples or keyboards initially emulating them.[25] All string and orchestral arrangements were recorded at Sarm West studios in London by Anderson and Gavyn Wright,[31] and in mid-1996, the album was mixed at Real World studios by Alan Bremner.[25] The recording of Impossible Princess took nearly two years, becoming the longest period of time Minogue had worked on a project since her time acting on the Australian soap opera Neighbours (from 1986 t 1988).[4] Anderson later explained that its lengthy time was "due to the pure perfectionism of all creatively involved".[25] After the release of "Did It Again", Minogue revealed that each song has its "own Kylie persona" and wanted the album to be her most personal effort yet.[32] Minogue asked the producers to create a sense of her personal mind and how she felt while making the material. She told Australian TV presenter Richard Wilkins from Entertainment Tonight in 1998; "The only thing I can say about [Impossible Princess] is it will be the most personal thing I've done ... It's been the most exciting time to be able to write my own lyrics, my own songs and watch these songs grow and morph into this and that and in what I'm really pleased with".[32] In 1995, Minogue and Brothers in Rhythm began recording rough demos. The first song recorded for the album was at Real World Studios which was called "You're the One", which did not make the album.[15] The next set of songs were demos of "Too Far", "Did It Again", "Limbo" and "Cowboy Style" which were recorded during the Box sessions. "Breathe" and "Through the Years" were the first songs mastered for the album[33] where they were recorded at Sarm West Studios and mixed by Richard Lowe.[33] "Cowboy Style" and "I Don't Need Anyone" were recorded at Mayfair Studios and mixed by Roundhouse, while the rest of the album was recorded at Real World, Sarm West Studios and DMC Studios, mixed by Alan Bremner.[33] "Some Kind of Bliss" was recorded in 1997.[34] The song was recorded in Mayfair Studios, London, England with the Manic Street Preachers and their long-time producers Dave Eringa.

At the UK launch of her album, she said that her record label did not force her in changing her media portrayal and allowed her to naturally change, saying "its not like that."[35] Minogue's view on Impossible Princess was to be taken seriously as an artist and songwriter.[24] Though she was reluctant in being in charge of the album, she reaffirmed "It's my album more than ever ... it's the album I've had most to do with."[24] She believed that her new image would receive a positive approach to many of the public and fans, by not confining herself to a "pigeonhole".[24] Each morning, Minogue would present lyrics to Seaman from the night before. Seaman described writing with Minogue: "It was a song a day really in terms of lyrical ideas. She would write the lyrics down and as a natural singer, would sing her ideas of how it might go melodically".[15] Soon after, Soon after, Minogue collaborated with James Dean Bradfield, who had tried to work with her in the past but did not happen. He originally wanted to record a duet with Minogue back in 1991 with his band Manic Street Preachers but Minogue did not know this at the time. Bradfield had contacted Minogue's A&R at the time, Deconstruction Records chairman Pete Hadfield, asking him what their current project was where Hadfield replied "Kylie Minogue's new album". He asked Hadfield if he could work with Minogue and was approved.[36] Bradfield had an idea for the song "I Don't Need Anyone" and he wrote the song until he had shown Minogue, till which she had added her lyrics in.[15]

Songs[edit]

Impossible Princess opens with the song "Too Far", which was one of the first songs recorded for the album, the first written song by Minogue and lasts a total duration of 4 minutes and forty-four seconds.[15] She said that the lyrical content was written very quickly in a "bad state". She also admitted the song "doesn't really sound like anything I've ever done before."[37] Prior to finishing the album, Minogue expressed that other track "Limbo" should have been its lead single, but Anderson felt "Too Far" or "Jump" should be its lead due to its personal representation towards the album. However Hadfield felt it was too risky, so Instead, it was issued it as a b-side for "Some Kind of Bliss".[38] The song is inspired by drum & bass music,[39] One of her most critically acclaimed songs, the song was noted as a "slab of claustrophobic beat poetry ... set to a striking drum n bass arrangement of juddering strings and pianos."[39] The song was issued as a promotional single in the US, being remixed by US club artists and was eventually served as a promo CD and 12" vinyl.[40] The second song "Cowboy Style" was one of the songs dedicated to Stéphane Sednaoui. Lyrically, the song uses multiple metaphors to compare Minogue's relationship with Sednaoui. According to Minogue's long-term friend and collaborator William Baker, wrote; "In her songs she often described him using the metaphors of Eastern mysticism," referencing the lyrics "From the temple, won't you stay a while ..."[41] The song featured various amount of instrumentation including the fiddle, violin and drum. Minogue constantly tried to strengthen her vocal notes to a crescendo to create the song too.[39] Musically, "Cowboy Style" delivers a new musical genre for Minogue, having been inspired by country music and folk pop. Levine examined its musical composition, which " manages to sound a little bit Celtic and a little bit Middle Eastern. Petey W must have wept!"[42] The album's lead single "Some Kind of Bliss" is an alternative rock and indie pop song. Minogue had presented a new set of lyrics, as did Bradfield. After composing its music, they mixed their suggested lyrics to create a whole new set.[39] It provided Minogue with an edgier sound, with guitars taking the place of the drum machine beats heavily featured on her earlier efforts.[43] The fourth track "Did It Again" used a similar approach to the lead single which uses electric guitars, drums, acoustic guitars and keyboards.[6] The song is a pop rock song which incorporates elements of middle eastern music, which is evident on Minogue's previous single "Confide in Me" (1994). The song features Minogue with more "aggressive vocals".[6] A keyboard makes a "whooshing" sound to open the song. According to Pam Avoledo from Blogcritics, in "Did It Again", Minogue "doesn't know who she is. Her real self is got lost along with her different phases. She has an idea but doesn't know where to start. Celebrity also plays a role. She's also Kylie, Inc. She's expected to be Kylie, Inc. in public. She cannot separate her job from herself. She is her job."[44]

Björk (left) and Shirley Manson (right) met Minogue in the mid-1990s and inspired Minogue on this album.

Both third single "Breathe" and "Say Hey" are elegant electronica tracks.[45] "Breathe" was the second song co-produced by her, despite it being unaccredited. Minogue worked on the vocal synthesiser that is present on the bridge of the song at 3 minutes and twelve seconds.[46] In late 1997, Minogue flew to Chicago to record new vocals with revered DJ-producer Todd Terry, which would be used for Terry's remixes of the song (which featured on the single's various formats). According to Tom Parker, who wrote the album credits on Impossible Princess, "'Breathe' is a seductive electronic groove, with a hypnotic subtety and timelessness befitting the theme inward contemplating and resolve."[2] The sixth track "Say Hey" was the second song self-penned by Minogue at a total duration of 3 minutes and thirty-eight seconds. Parker said that the track is an intimate midnight soak in electronica" with deliriously spacey effects.[2][39] "Drunk" is a trance-inspired song that features elements of dance-pop and electronica was compared to songs from Madonna's album Ray of Light, which was critically compared by Cinquemani and said although not as spiritual inspired, "this is the voice of hurt and searching. "I ache for great experience ... I'm not happy/Waste till I'm wasted,".[2] Another track, "Free" was written and produced in the same sessions as "Drunk", which incorporated similar elements of freedom and help.[39]

"I Don't Need Anyone", a solid rock song with indie rock and alternative elements was the albums most straightforward and uplifting tracks.[39] "Jump" is a trip-hop track[47] and was commended as a beautifully downbeat song that shows "an heart aching account of determination and acceptance".[39] The tenth track "Limbo" has a mixture of alternative rock, drum & bass and techno and was written by Minogue, Ball and Vauk.[2] Another critically appreciated track, the song is a tough fusion of rocky guitars and club beats that talks about her lack of control, frustration and powerlessness.[39] The last two album tracks "Through the Years" and "Dreams" are both ballad-inspired songs. "Through the Years" was written Minogue, Vauk and Ball and was frequently compared to Björk's single "Venus as a Boy".[2] Lyrically, the song talks about betrayal through her lifetime. The last track on the album "Dreams" inherits the albums title "These are the dreams / Of an impossible princess."[39] The lyrical content details her passion in pushing boundaries in which was displayed while re-inventing her image during the late 1990s. The song was critically acclaimed, with Levine commenting "Tucked right at the end, 'Dreams' is a gorgeous, string-swathed ballad with thought-provoking lyrics about an "impossible princess" who's striving to have it all. (For the record, she wasn't singing about Fergie.)[28]

Other songs[edit]

A number of songs were written, recorded, composed and/or produced during sessions of Impossible Princess but were ultimately not included on the album. Some tracks over the years have appeared on various compilations and live albums. The first track ever recorded for the Impossible Princess project was "You're the One".[15] It was written by Minogue, Anderson and Seamen who recorded the track at Real World in late 1996.[15] It was not officially released although a very rough demo later surfaced on the internet. The first three tracks that became visible were "Tears", "Love Takes Over Me" and "Take Me with You". The tracks were written by Minogue while in the production of Impossible Princess but none made the final cut, except for "Tears" which was a bonus track on the Japanese version.[48] All songs were exclusively released on the Other Sides EP released in Australia in accommodation of the album.[49] Another track was issued on the Live and Other Sides EP which was "Love is Waiting".

The first commercially worldwide unreleased track was "Free". The song was written and produced by Minogue and Anderson which they were in the sessions of recording "Drunk".[39] Both the track featured similar themes and lyrical aspects, but Minogue had chosen the latter to appear on the album. The song was written in late 1993 but was never recorded until 1998 where it featured on the Intimate and Live (1998) album. Ever since, the studio version has never been released. In 2003, two new tracks which were recorded during Impossible Princess sessions were released on her second compilation Hits+, entitled "Stay This Way" and "Take Me with You". The first was written by Minogue and Anderson and was featured on both this compilation and Confide in Me: The Irresistible Kylie. "Take Me With You" was previously released but was never featured on a full-length album or compilation.[50]

In 2003, Impossible Princess was fully remastered and repackaged with new tracks and remixes. A new track, "This Girl", written by Minogue and Anderson, appeared on this version.[39] The two tracks "Tears" and "Love Takes Over Me" were used on the repackaged form. Many songs written during the era have never been released fully and have either been leaked or snipped. These tracks include "Fallen Angel",[51] "Something That We Started",[51] "Floating", "Prisoner of Time", "I'm Ready",[51] "Stay With You",[51] "Miles",[51] "Soon" and "Let It Go".[51]

Title and artwork[edit]

The title references Poems to Break the Harts of Impossible Princesses (1994) by Billy Childish. It was given to Minogue as a gift by Cave; she said its poems summarized where she was at that time in her life.[52] She recalled "The first time "The first time I saw the name Impossible Princess, It had me written all over it."[24] She elaborated "It is practically about everything, even impossible things - The desires to have all my sense full, to experience life in the most possible way. "[24] Due to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in August 1997, the title was changed to Kylie Minogue for the UK and the rest of Europe.[53] its appearance was delayed in Australia, New Zealand and the UK as the timing was "inappropriate". Minogue has since explained the name change:[54]

Minogue and Sednaoui wanted to create a special three-dimensional cover for a limited edition of Impossible Princess to graphically represent her greater depth of personality. The cover photo shoot ran for a week, with Minogue not leaving the studio until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. Shooting a cover in 3-D required multiple static cameras and she grew tired of posing for long periods of time.[55] Its background of swirling lights was achieved by Sednaoui, who was dressed in black-out suit, he ran around the singer with a light covered by plastic gels. For the shoot, Minogue was dressed in a blue and dotted Véronique Leroy mini dress.[56] Minogue recalled "The shoot was so very difficult but we knew that once we got it right it would be amazing. All the lights were done in actuality, not post-production, so Stephane was whizzing around me in black-out clothing as I tried my best to stay very still for a long exposure."[56] Sednaoui exclaimed that Minogue had a lot of positive energy through the shoot, writing that "Besides the Impossible Princess 3D cover, which was technically complicated and physically demanding for Kylie, all the other shoots we did were always fun and easy ..."[56] The 3D cover was never released in high quality 2D spectrum until her 2012 book Kylie/Fashion, where it was festured along with an unreleased cover photo, similar to the original album artwork.

Inspired by a shared appreciation of Japanese culture, they created a visual combination of "geisha and manga superheroine" for the cover photographs and the video for "GBI: German Bold Italic", Minogue's collaboration with Towa Tei.[57] Some previously unreleased photos were featured in Minogue's self-released books. Her self-released book, Kylie: La La La, includes photographs from this shoot with her posing with neon lighting and infrared effects but most remain unpublished. Some show Minogue in front of castles and city backdrops, representing the many kingdoms of an impossible princess.[55] The 3D cover was released in Japan in October 1997 and was accompanied by four limited edition postcards.[58] Critics also dissected the photo shoot and the single covers associated with the album: they felt the artwork was darker and more mysterious. For the "Did It Again" single artwork, Minogue sported a dark, indie-rock image.[59]

Release and promotion[edit]

Impossible Princess had been delayed several times before its initial release on 1 November 1997, in Japan, by BMG with a bonus track, "Tears". The original proposed appearance was in early January 1997, this was pushed back to May, then September but it remained unreleased.[20] Due to this, the Impossible Princess Album Sampler was released to let fans listen to some album tracks.[60] Impossible Princess was first released in Japan on 1 November 1997 by BMG with the bonus track "Tears".[61] After its Japan release, the album was delayed in Oceania and Europe due to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The Japanese edition included four limited edition postcards, the hologram cover and a slipcase to hold the items together.[58] Early in 1998 it appeared in Australia on Mushroom Records; then in mid-Year in the UK and the rest of Europe by Deconstruction Records. HMV in Australia exclusively released an EP of "Too Far" and two previously unreleased songs that came free at their stores. In an interview with Billboard, she announced plans for a US release by commenting "I'm ready to tackle that territory". However, after commercial disappointment, plans were scrapped.[62]

Minogue embarked a promotional tour in the Oceanic region in October 1997. Minogue performed in Singapore and then followed with Australian state capitals Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide. Next was Auckland and she finished off in Hong Kong. After the albums European release, she went on to promote the album with concert gigs in Norway, Denmark and Holland. Minogue embarked an Australian and European tour Intimate and Live, which spanned from 2 June 1998 to 8 July 1998. Minogue started rehearsing for the tour while she was asked to perform at the 1998 Sydney Mardi Gras in January.[63] The production made for the tour was on a lower budget than her previous tours, only to give it more off a "special and unique" atmosphere. She decided to have it low budget so she could establish more risks in her performances rather than have a production bigger than her.[63] Kylie and Baker had started drawing stage concepts of how the tour would look like and wanted it to reflect onto the albums personal meaning.[63] Objects in the albums content, including the "K" symbol and the multi-coloured cone had been featured on the tour. During the tour, Minogue was accompanied by only two dancers (David Scotchford and Ashley Wallen) and a backing group – mainly John Farnham's band members – with added backing vocalists. Despite initial plans not to take the show outside of Australia, she decided to extend it into Europe due to high demand.[63] The tour received favorable reviews from critics and fans alike. From the supporting album, Minogue performed "Too Far", "Some Kind of Bliss", "Breathe", "Cowboy Style", "Say Hey", "Drunk", "Did It Again", "Limbo" and unreleased track "Free". The live album with the same name was released on 30 November 1998 in Australia and the live DVD with the same name was released in July 2002.

The list below are the compilations/EPS/remix albums that the tracks off Impossible Princess were featured on:

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Amazon.com (Positive)[70]
Classic Pop Magazine (Positive)[47]
The Daily Vault (A-)[27]
Digital Spy 4/5 stars[28]
FasterLouder 5/5 stars[71]
NME 4/10[72]
Q 2/5 stars[53]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[2]
Who 8/10[73]

Impossible Princess received positive reviews from contemporary music critics. Billboard (magazine)|Billboard's Larry Flick described the album as "stunning", concluding that "[i]t's a golden commercial opportunity for a major [record company] with vision and energy [to release it in the United States]. A sharp ear will detect a kinship between Impossible Princess and Madonna's hugely successful album, Ray of Light."[74] Allmusic's Chris True called it "a pretty damn good record" and opined, "Unlike [Minogue's] early work, this album sounds stronger and has a more natural feel. Her songwriting abilities have come a long way, and Impossible Princess actually flows together as an album."[1] In a scathing review for NME, Ben Willmott slammed the entire work and Minogue's latest musical direction, branding her "a total fraud" that was "unconvincing". Specifically, he lambasted her collaborations with Bradfield, panning "Some Kind of Bliss" as "supremely irritating".[72]

Slant Magazine included the album on their Vital Pop: 50 Essential Pop Albums list in June 2003.[75] Sal Cinquemani, in the magazine's review, was impressed with the album's "starkly personal and unified cord", where "Minogue fiercely declares her independence but admits to her innate vulnerability". Finally, he noted the album found her "stretching herself way beyond anything she had done before (or anything she has done since)" and "is the work of an artist willing to take risks, not a pop queen concerned with preserving her reign."[2] Levine from Digital Spy commended the album for being her most "intriguing" album of her career. Levine wrote that although the content mismatches at times, he said "its myriad charms do begin to materialise after a few spins. Brave, revealing and rarely less than surprising, it's a key piece in the trickier-than-you-think jigsaw puzzle that is Kylie Minogue's recording career."[28]

A reviewer from the publication Music Week was less than impressed, writing that "Kylie's vocals take on a stroppy edge ... but not strong enough to do much".[76] John Mangan, in a review for The Age said that the album "sounds right and constitutes another step in the right direction", praising the "moody trip-hop style" of "Jump" and the "funky hoe-down sound" of "Cowboy Style".[77] A reviewer from Australian magazine Who compared Minogue's singing to a young Sinéad O'Connor, praising her range in vocal styles. The author also commented that it was a major step towards her gaining credibility in the music industry.[73] Michael R. Smith, in The Daily Vault, cited it as the singer's best album; his positive review continued: "Impossible Princess was a giant step forward for Kylie. She may have overshot her mark when it came to her core audience, and since this one she has returned to the predictable, safe dance music that she is known for."[27] Listing their best Kylie songs, a reviewer from Samesame.com.au said "[Impossible Princess] remains Kylie watershed moment creatively. Recorded over two years and free from many record company restrictions pushing her here and there, the resulting LP remains Kylie at her most pure."[78] Sarah Smith from FasterLouder said the album is one of the most adventurous pop albums of the '90s. She commented "Rearing its head amid a glut of girl bands and post-grunge nonsense it defied critics' expectations of Kylie, who for the first (and last) time in her career left "the real Kylie" fully exposed."[71]

Commercial performance[edit]

Impossible Princess proved to be an success in Australia. The album debuted and peaked at number four on the ARIA Albums Chart and number one on the Australian Music Report chart in January 1998.[79][80] It became the highest debuting album on the top 50 chart for the week end 25 January 1998.[81] It dropped to eight for two consecutive weeks, unable to reach a higher position and descended out of the chart on the week end 26 April 1998, staying in the charts for fourteen weeks. It re-entered at number forty and managed to enter back inside the top ten, staying there for three non-consecutive weeks and stayed in the albums chart for thirty-five weeks in the top fifty (including three separate stays in the Top 10 during its run) making it Minogue's longest-charting album at that point.[79] It became the thirty-first best-selling album of 1998 and was certified Platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipments of 70,000 copies.[82][83]

In the UK, the album's success differed from Australia's success. Re-titled simply as Kylie Minogue, it entered the UK Albums Chart at number ten on 4 April 1998. Despite being higher than her previous album Let's Get To It, which reached number fifteen, it descended its way out and had a duration of four weeks, in compare to the other album which stayed in for sixteen weeks on the chart and was certified Silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on 1 April 1998.[84][85] Despite the higher charting peak, Impossible Princess was deemed Minogue's worst selling studio album to date. Publications in the United Kingdom pointed out that the lack of devoted promotion with a tour was a benefit of low sales, along with Minogue's radical change through the media industry, who criticised her appearance and the material on the record.[39][86] After a year of its release, UK Virgin Radio mocked the sales of the album along with Minogue's concepts, stating: "We've done something to improve Kylie's records: we've banned them."[87]

Accolades[edit]

Impossible Princess was noteworthy in many award ceremonies. It was nominated three times at the ARIA Music Awards, for "Album of the Year", "Best Female Artist" and "Best Pop Release", which lost respectively, and the two singles; "Did It Again" and "Cowboy Style" was nominated for "Single of the Year" and "Best Female Artist" respectively.[88][89] Sarah Smith from FasterLouder rated the album at number five on their The Most Underrated Albums of All Time, saying "Why Madonna's [Ray Of Light] was acclaimed for pushing these boundaries at the very same moment [Impossible Princess] was maligned for it, is confusing, but perhaps best explained by the music media's ongoing narrative of these two singers: Madonna is meant to challenge, Kylie, to smile, pout and spin round.[71]

At the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, Minogue won the International Viewer's Choice Awards (Australian entry) for "Did It Again".[90] That same year, Minogue was awarded an special achievement award from the Government of Australia for her contribution towards Australia's Music Exports.

Singles[edit]

Indie Kylie, Dance Kylie, Sex Kylie and Cute Kylie in the video for "Did It Again"

"Some Kind of Bliss" was released as the lead single from the album on 8 September 1997. Originally, "Limbo" was registered for being the lead single off the album but was refused by her label. This ultimately created a deadlock between them, where the label later recommended this song.[38] Written with James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers, the song gave Minogue an edgier sound, with guitars taking the place of the drum machine beats heavily featured in her earlier efforts.[43] Initially after the song's release, "Some Kind of Bliss" received negative reviews from most music critics, many who were not convinced with her transfer to rock music and criticized the production.[91] It managed to achieve only moderate success around the globe, peaking inside the top forty in Australia, Greece, Hungary and the United Kingdom, her first single to miss the top twenty in both her native country and the UK. The single was released the week of Diana, Princess of Wales's funeral and had to compete against Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997", but ultimately peaked at number 22.[92] An accompanying music video was directed by Dexter Fletcher in the deserts of Tabernas, Spain. The suspense of critical and commercial failure resulted in her A&R Pete Hadfield to express his guilt in not promoting the release. The album's second single "Did It Again" was released on 24 November 1997. Featuring more aggressive vocal style, with alternative and Eastern musical influences,[6] It became a top-twenty hit for Minogue in the UK and Australia, which became her only top twenty single in both countries during the Princess era.[93] The song received positive commentary from music critics who felt it was better than the lead single. The song peaked at number thirteen in Australia, becoming one of her successful singles at the time and peaked at fourteen in the United Kingdom. The song also featured a music video, directed by Pedro Romanhi. Minogue satirised her image in the video, in which four major incarnations of her career, "Indie Kylie", "Dance Kylie", "Sex Kylie", and "Cute Kylie", battled for supremacy.[94]

The album's third single "Breathe" was the final single offered by her record label Deconstruction Records and was her third overall on February 1998. Musically inspired by trip-hop music and electronica, the song achieved positive reviews from critics who felt it was a better offering on the album and was singled out as a highlight.[28] The song reached the top twenty in the UK, as well as the top thirty in Australia. It was moderately successful in other parts of the world, reaching number one in Israel.[95] The songs music video featured Minogue in an airspace of spiraling effects, as she floats through the atmosphere. The albums last single "Cowboy Style" was an Australian-only single released on 18 August 1998 by Mushroom Records, her label since 1987. Musically, "Cowboy Style" channels yet another different musical genre for Minogue, having been inspired by country music and folk pop. The song was chosen as a single while Minogue was performing on her Intimate and Live tour and due to huge fan impact, she released it in her native country. The song achieved positive commentary, who likened her metaphorically twisted lyrical content and praised the Celtic influences. Commercially, the song achieved only limited success, peaking at number thirty-nine on the Australian Singles Chart.[96] An accompanying music video was shot during the Intimate and Live Tour. "Cowboy Style" was her only single to be released separately by Mushroom Records.

Promotional single[edit]

The album's opener "Too Far" was released as the albums first and only promotional single.[39][97] The song was contemplated on being the lead single for the album by Steve Anderson. As mentioned, Minogue wanted to release another album track called "Limbo" as the albums lead single but Anderson believed that either "Jump" or "Too Far" would serve better as the lead single because it represented the album better.[39] After the discussion, her label Deconstruction Records did not like either Minogue's choice or Anderson's choice and were lead to a deadlock. Eventually, "Some Kind of Bliss" was served as the albums lead single.[98] Ultimately, it failed both critically and commercially. After the single's release, Deconstruction Records released "Too Far" as a promotional single in the United Kingdom and the United States as a radio format and vinyl.[97] The vinyl and its radio format was released as remixes, the first side being the Brothers in Rhythm remix and the other side being the Junior Vasquez Mix.

Impact and legacy[edit]

"... when you look at Impossible Princess, it wasn't exactly selling truckloads of albums. But what I think we've ended up with, through all the different things that I've done, is the real luxury that fans expect something different. This isn't like, 'What?! What has she done?!'"[99]

-Kylie Minogue on the sales of Impossible Princess

Widely recognized as her most personal and experimental album to date,[100] Impossible Princess was considered to be an example of Minogue's constant "reinventions".[101] During the period, many commentators, critics and her friends alike had often referred her to as "Indie Kylie" mainly due to her creative process during the Impossible Princess era. Minogue herself had commented that she had always disliked being dubbed Indie Kylie.[15] Sean Smith, who wrote the Kylie Confidential book, examined that the era of 1997 and 1998 was her expiernece of "Saturn return". He wrote in the book "Saturn is a great testing planet and the first time it returns to the same position as its birth chart ... It should bring the realization that a substational part of your life has passed and heralds a desire for change."[102] Many critics had believed that, out of all of Minogue's discography, Impossible Princes was her biggest leap forward in terms of musical composition. Chris True from Allmusic examined that "She recruits Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore, and Nicky Wire, starts writing unaided, and completely changes musical direction. Enter Kylie Minogue's Impossible Princess (the title was changed to Kylie Minogue after the death of Princess Diana). From the trippy cover art to the abundance of guitars and experimental vocal tracks, this was her "great leap forward."[1]

Minogue's portrayal of four different Kylie's; Sex Kylie, Cute Kylie, Indie Kylie and Dance Kylie was heavily lauded from critics and the public. During an interview given by Minogue for Jetstar Airways magazine, interviewer and journalist Simon Price stated that the four different Kylies were brilliantly satirised in the video.[103] The image she adopted presented a very different image in its active retreat from the glamorous aspects of 'Sex Kylie,' replacing it with a pared-down vision of Minogue, emphasizing a simple sense of style, lack of overt make-up, and a short, elfin-style hairstyle. William Baker commented that "Many of Kylie's fans still regard Impossible Princess as their favourite album, a sentiment shared by many who worked with her ... Even at its release it was received rather well by the critics - but the public was not apparently willing to accept a darker, more serious Kylie.[86] Tom Parker, who wrote the liner notes for the special edition of Impossible Princess, wrote that "One listen proves that [Impossible Princess] is not, as is often suggested, the morose antithesis to Kylie's trademark disco music - it is as full of life and love as many of her greatest hits." He concluded that "Arguably, Kylie's strength has always been her talent for reinvention, her courage to subvert and twist the pop mould without ever quite breaking it completely. As such, and with its intended title finally restored, Impossible Princess remains as one of her greatest triumphs."[39]

Minogue had contributed in her Kylie: La La La biography stating that acknowledging that she had attempted to escape the perceptions of her that had developed during her early career, she commented that she was ready to "forget the painful criticism" and "accept the past, embrace it, use it".[104] Alan McGee from The Observer dissected her image as "Self-realized Kylie" and opined that she had been fighting her previous egos to be taken seriously, "[But] Sadly, Kylie Minogue lost the battle and Impossible Princess bombed. She was written off again."[105] Michael Paoletta from Billboard in the US said that the album is her most misunderstood album in her discography, praising her self-penned tracks "Too Far" and "Say Hey".[106]

Portrayal in media backlash[edit]

After its release, Minogue was heavily publicized negatively from media press.[24][107] Despite its overwhelming acclaim from other parts of the world, the United Kingdom was particularly negative towards her image and album material which had eventually grown in other countries around the world.[107] Many publications at the time were criticizing her because of the album's low success in that region and front pages consisting of Minogue was featured. The singer's radical change of imagery and music had been published worldwide in many newspapers and magazines but this was only because of the negativity the album received and that her fans were less impressed.[1] The image of Indie Kylie, however, was not well received from many of her fans.[108] British press and critics such as NME and Q were decisively negative. Ben Willmoth from NME said that Minogue's new persona as "Indie Kylie" was total "fraud-like" and felt that the only persona that will ever suit her is "Sex Kylie", which has been evident towards her career ever since Impossible Princess'.[109] An editor for Classic Pop magazine said that "[Impossible Princess] still divides Kylie's fanbase into two comps. One half regards the album as a bold artistic statement that strips away the veneer of the pop princess, while the other half sees it as a pretentious vanity project that almost ended her career."[47]

"The move got her in the papers, but, unfortunately, critical acclaim was lacking (and so were sales). Critics called it a mistake, and the public was less than impressed. Which is sad because it is a pretty damn good record."[1]

-Chris True from Allmusic on his views of the medias depiction of Impossible Princess.

Media press have always compared the album negatively with American singer-songwriter Madonna's 1998 album Ray of Light, which had more success, despite Impossible Princess being released first. Michael R. Smith questioned whether both albums had been influenced similar in coincidence or whether Impossible Princess had copied other artists while Ray of Light served a more superior effort despite criticism.[27] Despite this, he believed that the album deserved a better fate than it did.[27] However, global critics outside Britain including Allmusic, Who and Classic Pop had contrasted, being more positive. Allmusic commented about the negative publicity saying "The album, soon retitled Kylie Minogue in England due to the death of Princess Diana, was successful, but her attempt at developing her sound met firm resistance critically, with many radio stations and journalists writing her off, figuring her career had run its course."[107] On the album's review, True said "The move got her in the papers, but, unfortunately, critical acclaim was lacking (and so were sales). Critics called it a mistake, and the public was less than impressed. Which is sad ..."[1] Adrian Denning said that the album contained the biggest misconception in going "Indie Kylie" and eventually concluded "So, a brave yet flawed album? An inconsistent album? Well, both of those things but also a transitional album that had to be made. Once Kylie had put in such a performance creatively, make no mistake about this being her album, there was no turning back, really."[110] The album became Minogue's lowest selling album to date in the United Kingdom but withheld being her lowest in Australia, which actually became her most successful album since her debut album.[111] Tim Jonze opined that Minogue going back to pop music and disco saved her career if she did another album similar to Impossible Princess.[112]

Reaction by Minogue[edit]

During the era, Minogue denounced her release of "Some Kind of Bliss" in the same week release as Elton John's "Candle in the Wind", which claimed up to 75% percent of the sales in that month. She commented "I think the static was that Elton had 75 percent of the sales that week, so mine didn't get off at a good start."[24] She then related the bad release date to the albums release, stating "I've told not to be frustrated, but I was frustrated because the album should be out ... The point of it is to get it out and maybe people will like it, they may love it or they might hate it, but it was in my hands."[24] She also felt guilt for parting with Stock Aitken Waterman after her production team with deConstruction was not in good terms.[24] A press insider for deConstruction Records revealed that if sales did not increase, they would have immediately dropped her, but Minogue trying all ranges of musical genres and images lead to deConstructions decision to allow her to go.[113] Deconstruction Records had lost a strong profit from income sales of the album and Minogue said she did not enjoy this. Because of the lack of sales and income, Minogue contemplated retirement due to the overwhelming failure of the campaign, saying "I have no qualifications, what else am I suppose to do?"

After the release of her studio album Light Years (2000), Minogue responded about the album to Billboard. She believed that the press branding her "Indie Kylie" scared off her fans, saying "The press had a bit of a field day with it, calling me 'Indie Kylie' and such, which I think people were scared off."[114] She described the era and project as a "bit of a purge."[114] She has since stated that while at the time Impossible Princess was strong, "I've gotten stronger and more focused since that album."[114]

Impossible Princess was Minogue's last album with both her record labels; parent label Deconstruction Records and distribution label Sony BMG. She released a press statement to AAP in Australia stating "I am no longer with deConstruction Records. It was a mutual agreement completely, which is great because it was very amicable. Thank God, because I would have hated it to have been anything other than that. You become like family with a record company, particularly with deConstruction. They're lovely, genuine, Northern bastards!" In an interview in 2008, she told NME that if she ever wrote another album solely by her or wrote song that were personal to her, "it'd be seen as 'Impossible Princess 2'". She did, however reveal that she does not intend to do this because she may fear it "it would be equally critiqued."[115] In October 2012, she revealed that her most disappointing career moment was in fact the low sales of Impossible Princess by stating "look at Impossible Princess - it didn't exactly sell truckloads of album!"[116] She reaffirmed that the period of Impossible Princess was not a period of "mistake" but "wanted more help" than she had received.[114]

In an interview with MudgeGuardian.com, when Minogue was asked if the songs she wrote have a different reaction now than it does then, she replied; Oh yeah, definitely. I don't always realise it at the time. Now when I listen to some of the songs on Impossible Princess - actually, my least successful album - I think, 'Wow, you weren't very happy then, were you?'"[117] In retrospect, both Nick Cave and James Dean Bradfield expressed their loyalty towards her during the time of the album, with Bradfield saying "Kylie, love her to bits. She got dropped because I worked with her, which I am sorry for."[118]

Use in various culture[edit]

In a 20 year career revelation, Peter Conrad from The Guardian wrote about the album; "The roles she played jarringly contradicted each other, but Kylie took pride in her inauthenticity. One of her albums admitted as much in its title: it summed her up as an [Impossible Princess]. In a photo story for Vogue Australia, Luhrmann joked more dangerously about the nonentity that lay beneath this versatile shape-changing. Hiring Bert Stern as his photographer, he made Kylie act out the life story of an imaginary starlet. 'Who's that girl?' asked one of Luhrmann's made-up magazine headlines. No one knew, not even the girl herself."[119] Dorian Lysnkey from the same publication exampled Impossible Princess, Massive Attack's album Massive and The Strokes debut album on why pop culture would not prevent political or social massacre, which used American singer-songwriter Kesha's single "Die Young" as thee example for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. When the song was banned from the US temporary because of the shooting, Lysnkey opined that the decisions of removing the song was based on hypersensitivity and hypocrisy while Impossible Princess, Massive and New York City Cops were dropped because the decisions may have created panicky decisions based on fear of outrage.[120]

In 2009, American author and screenwriter Kevin Killian wrote the gay poetic book, Impossible Princess which was named after the album. The book, loosely about homosexuality and erotica, was mentioned to be about Minogue herself.[121] Nico Medina, a writer and author, wrote the book entitled The Straight Road to Kylie (2007). The book, which talks about a boy pretending to date a popular it-girl in order to see Kylie Minogue live, comments about the album branding it "Kylie's most masterful album."[122]

Track listing[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Impossible Princess.

No. Title Music Producer(s) Length
1. "Too Far"   Kylie Minogue 4:43
2. "Cowboy Style"  
  • Brothers in Rhythm
4:44
3. "Some Kind of Bliss"  
4:13
4. "Did It Again"  
  • Minogue
  • Anderson
  • Seaman
  • Brothers in Rhythm
4:21
5. "Breathe"  
  • Minogue
  • Ball
  • Vauk
4:37
6. "Say Hey"   Minogue
  • Brothers in Rhythm
3:36
7. "Drunk"  
  • Minogue
  • Anderson
  • Seaman
Brothers in Rhythm 3:58
8. "I Don't Need Anyone"  
  • Eringa
  • Bradfield
3:12
9. "Jump"  
  • Dougan
  • Jay Burnett (co.)
4:02
10. "Limbo"  
  • Minogue
  • Ball
  • Vauk
  • Ball
  • Vauk
4:05
11. "Through the Years"  
  • Minogue
  • Ball
  • Vauk
  • Ball
  • Vauk
4:19
12. "Dreams"  
  • Minogue
  • Anderson
  • Seaman
Brothers in Rhythm 3:44
Total length:
49:57

Release formats[edit]

  • CD — containing the 12-track album.
  • CD Japanese Edition — 13-track album including the bonus track "Tears".
  • CD Limited Edition — 12-track album including lenticular cover art.
  • CD Promo — 12-track album released exclusively in the United Kingdom.
  • UK Cassette Promo — 6-track cassette released exclusively in the United Kingdom. Contains the songs "Cowboy Style", "Through the Years", "Breathe", "Jump", "Drunk" and "I Don't Need Anyone".
  • CD Australian/New Zealand Sampler — 6-track CD released exclusively in Australia and New Zealand.
  • Cassette — containing the 12-tracks.
  • 2002 Re-Issue — containing original 12-track album with bonus disc off 12 new remixes/songs.

Source:[124]

Personnel[edit]

Credits for Impossible Princess adapted from liner notes.[31]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification
Australia Platinum[83]
United Kingdom Silver[85]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog
Japan[125] 1 November 1997 BMG CD BVCP-6068
Australia[58][126] 12 January 1998 Mushroom Records MUSH33069.2
Cassette MUSH33069.4
United Kingdom[58][127] 23 March 1998 Deconstruction Records CD 74321 51727 2
Cassette 74321 51727 4
26 May 2003 Special edition 82876511152
Australia[128] September 2003 Mushroom Records MUSH337322

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Bibliography
  • Baker, William; Minogue, Kylie (2005). Kylie: La La La. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-73440-X.  Paperback version.