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, the album is predominately a pop and dance album. The album represented another, and most radical change in Minogue's musical style, finding influences in 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 was constantly writing lyrics down in her Chelsea, London home, exploring the themes and meaning of the sentences.[5] 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. Songs like "Jump" and "Limbo" were some of the examples of her feelings that were developed through her songwriter.[6]

Upon release, the album received drastically varied reactions amongst music critics. Many critics complimented its maturity and personal subject matter, while others called it uninspired and unbelievable. 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 for shipments of 70,000 copies. In the UK, however, the album 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.[7] Four singles were released from the album. "Some Kind of Bliss", which was the lead single, was critically and commercially disappointing, while her two following singles "Did It Again" and "Breathe" fared well critically but lacked chart progression.

The album's promotion was supported by the Intimate and Live concert tour. Evidently, the tour achieved rave reviews from critics.[6] Critic's alike had considered the album to be an example of Minogue's constant "reinventions".[8] Dubbing her as "Indie Kylie", it had been recognized as one of Kylie'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, which was released at a similar time but achieved worldwide domination and critical success.[9] A remastered edition of Impossible Princess with title reinstated, was issued by BMG in 2003 with a bonus disc of remixes and B-sides. In 2003, Q magazine hailed the album as a "hidden gem", praising it as a lost pop masterpiece.

Background[edit]

When 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 Minogue or her label PWL progressed no musical direction or development over the years.[10] Although signed for three albums, she recorded four in total, with Let's Get To It being her first album to feature songwriting credits by Minogue.[10] The album 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. Her first album not being yielded by production team Stock Aitken Waterman, it included a variety of new producers and songwriters including Steve Anderson, Dave Seaman and Brothers in Rhythm, all who helped out with the album.[11] Both Anderson and Brothers in Rhythm worked with Minogue previously, both working on her 1992 single "Finer Feelings".[12] The album was originally to be penned earlier, but Deconstruction believed they were not heading the right direction so recorded seventeen new songs. 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 was successful in Australia and the UK.[13] Beside the album's core success, there was not headlining tour nor extensive promotion.

In 1995, Minogue recorded the song "Where the Wild Roses Grow", a duet with Australian rock musician Nick Cave. The song's lyrics narrated 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", saying it contained "one of pop music's most violent and distressing lyrics".[14] The single, released in October 1995 became Cave's most successful single to date peaking inside the top ten in Australia, Belgium, Sweden, Finland and managed to get inside the top twenty in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.[15][16] The song also managed to 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.[10] 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".[17]

The following year, Minogue began a relationship with French photographer Stéphane Sednaoui.[18] Together they embarked on a series of trips across the United States and southern China on a mission of self-discovery. The trips and her relationship with Sednaoui made Minogue feel free to express her own creativity and talent.[18] 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.[18] Being interview with NME, Minogue declared that she trusted his judgement in being more experimental and having more creative control by commenting; "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."[19]

Recording and production[edit]

James Dean Bradfield (pictured) was one of the main producers to the album, who produced "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 that with the creative ability and good formula from her single "Confide in Me" (which was produced by Brothers in Rhythm), it would be easier to collaborate with them 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 real instruments were added to replace the samples or keyboards initially emulating them.[20] All string and orchestral arrangements were recorded at Sarm West studios in London by Anderson and Gavyn Wright,[21] and in mid-1996, the album was mixed at Real World studios by Alan Bremner.[20] The recording of Impossible Princess took nearly two years, becoming the longest period of time Minogue had worked on a project since her time on the Australian soap opera Neighbours.[4] Anderson later explained that the album took a long time to record "due to the pure perfectionism of all creatively involved".[20] 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.[22] Minogue asked the producers to create the album in a sense of Minogue's own personal mind and how she felt at the point of making the album. She told Richard Wilkins in 1998; "The only thing I can say about it [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."[22]

Recording sessions started in early 1996. The first song recorded for the album was with Anderson and Seaman at Real World which was entitled "You're The One", which was a song that did not make it on the album.[19] The next set of songs were demos of "Too Far", "Did It Again", "Limbo" and "Cowboy Style" all which were recorded during the Box sessions. "Breathe", "Limbo" and "Through the Years" were the first songs mastered for the album[23] where they were recorded at Sarm West Studios and mixed by Richard Lowe.[23] The next set of songs where "Cowboy Style" and "I Don't Need Anyone", which 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.[23]

At the UK launch of her album, she said that her record label did not plan a strategy in change her image and allowed her to naturally change as she wanted to, saying "its not like that."[24] Each morning, Minogue would present lyrics to Seaman from the night before. Seamen commented that; "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."[19] Soon after, Minogue had been collaborating with James Dean Bradfield, who had tried to work with her previous but to no success. He originally wanted to record a duet with Minogue bac 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 by him.[25] Bradfield had an idea for the song "I Don't Need Anyone" and he wrote, composed and produced the entire song until he had shown Minogue, till which she had re-wrote.[19]

Writing and composition[edit]

Minogue began writing lyrics for Impossible Princess in 1996 during her trips with Sednaoui to the US and China. When she returned, Minogue was constantly writing down words, exploring the form and meaning of sentences.[5] She had written lyrics before, but called them "safe, just neatly rhymed words and that's that".[26] In an interview with Mag UK, she revelaed 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.'"[27][28] For an interview with Hey Hey It's Saturday, She expressed her concern and anxiety for creating lyrics to previous albums songs and Impossible Princess, saying that she hated referring herself as the songwriter on her songs. 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."[29] 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.[30] 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."[31]

Contains an aggressive vocal style, with alternative and Eastern musical influences.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

In 1996, Minogue collaborated with members of the alternative rock band Manic Street Preachers. She first met with Manic Street Preachers' lead singer James Dean Bradfield at his home. Bradfield later sent her a demo of "I Don't Need Anyone", which she loved, stating "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."[32] 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".

The album became the first release to contain songs solely written by Minogue. Minogue composed the song "Too Far" on a grand piano; additional instruments were added during production.[20] Minogue wrote dozens of songs with various producers 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.[20] All the songs are autobiographical and are based on what she has felt and what she has been through.[33] Musically, Impossible Princess is a pop album that takes several musical changes. According to Chris True, he identified the album as an dance, europop and adult contemporary-inspired album.[1] True said the albums musical composition had been attributed due to the rapid 90's music change to techno, informally dubbed as "Techno Revolution".[1] Michael R. Smith agreed the album had been influenced by techno music,[9] as Classic Pop Magazine found influences of 90's inspired britpop while Nick Levine felt the album was "all over the dance-pop shop."[34] Vocally, the album was also noted for taken on more extensive notes as Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine viewed that Minogue knows the limitations of her vocal abilities by never stepping out of her confort zone, but he acknowledged that she took more vocal risks.[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 the poor health of its head, Pete Hadfield.[35] This left Minogue with creative control over the project. At first she believed that the album contained too many musical styles, but changed her mind, stating, "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".[32] 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 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."[36]

Songs[edit]

"Too Far" was one of the first songs recorded for the album and eventually the first full-length written song by Minogue.[19] Minogue expressed that other song "Limbo" should have been released as the lead single, but Anderson felt "Too Far" or "Jump" should be the lead release due to its composed representation towards the album. However Deconstruction Records did not think it would be a suitable single release, so instead issued it as a b-side to the newly decided lead single "Some Kind of Bliss".[37] 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."[6] "Cowboy Style" was one of the songs dedicated to her then-boyfriend Stéphane Sednaoui. Lyrically, the song uses multiple metaphors to contast Minogue's relationship with then-boyfriend Stéphane Sednaoui, who had directed the artwork and photoshoot for Impossible Princess. According to Minogue's long-term friend and collaborator William Baker, he 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..."[38] Musically, "Cowboy Style" channels yet another different musical genre for Minogue, having been inspired by country music and folk pop. Nick Levine examined the musical composition for the song and wrote that "Oh, and in 'Cowboy Style', it has a track that manages to sound a little bit Celtic and a little bit Middle Eastern. Petey W must have wept!"[39] The album's lead single "Some Kind of Bliss" is an alternative rock and indie pop song. Ultimately, the song was critically panned. It provided Minogue with an edgier sound, with guitars taking the place of the drum machine beats heavily featured on her earlier efforts.[40] "Did It Again" was a similar approach to the lead single which features instrumentation of electric guitars, drums, acoustic guitars and keyboards.[10] The song is a pop rock song which features 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".[10] 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."[41]

Both third single "Breathe" and "Say Hey" are elegant electronica tracks.[42] According to Tom Parker, "'Breathe' is a seductive electronic groove, with a hypnotic subtety and timelessness befitting the theme inward contemplating and resolve" while "'Say Hey' is an intimate midnight soak in electronica" with deliriously spacey effects.[2][6] "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 critics and said although not as spiritual, "this is the voice of hurt and searching. "I ache for great experience…I'm not happy/Waste till I'm wasted,".[2] "I Don't Need Anyone", a solid rock song with indie rock and alternative elements was the albums most straightforward and uplifting tracks.[6] "Jump" is a trip-hop track[43] and was commended as a beautifully downbeat song that shows an heart aching account of determination and acceptance."[6] The tenth track "Limbo" has a mixture of alternative rock, drum & bass and techno.[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.[6] The last two album tracks "Through the Years" and "Dreams" are both ballad-inspired songs; the first a jazz-inspired song that was compared to work of Bjork while the latter talks about the passion to push boundaries. The lyrical content inherits the albums title, "These are the dreams / Of an impossible princess."[6]

Title and artwork[edit]

The name of the album is a reference to a book of poetry written by Billy Childish titled Poems to Break the Hearts of Impossible Princesses. The book was given to Minogue as a gift by Nick Cave, and she has said that the poems summarized where she was at that time in her life.[44] In the United Kingdom and Europe, the album's title was changed to Kylie Minogue following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in August 1997.[45] Because of the re-titling, the album was delayed in both Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom as the period of timing and titling was deemed "inappropriate."[46] Minogue has since explained the name change:[47]

I've lived with that title for two years and I had already done a lot of press talking about the name, but after the tragedy of Diana occurred we had to rethink. It didn't hit me immediately, because I found it so hard to comprehend. But then I thought, I don't want to be constantly explaining or upsetting people. So we've taken the name off for now, but I'd like to keep the option for putting it back in the future. That's what the album is called; it just won't be on the cover.

"[...] 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."[48]

-Kylie Minogue on about the 3D cover

Minogue and Sednaoui wanted to create a special three-dimensional cover for a limited edition of Impossible Princess to represent Minogue's three-dimensional personality depicted on the album. 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 for Minogue to pose for long periods of time, which she quickly grew tired of.[49] To achieve the background of swirling lights, Sednaoui dressed from head to toe in black, ran and jumped around Minogue with a kitchen light covered with plastic gels. For the shoot, Minogue was dressed in a blue and dotted Veronique Leroy mini dress.[48] According to Minogue, the photo shoot received no post-production work and was all handled actuality and she wore a lot of Junya Watanabe and Comme Des Garcon clothes through the shoot, only to perceive a more boyish look.[48] 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 were have done were always fun and easy [...]"[48] The 3D cover was never released in high quality 2D spectrum until her 2012 book Kylie/Fashion, where it was released in full along with another unreleased cover photo, similar to the original album artwork.

Inspired by a mutual appreciation of Japanese culture, they created a visual combination of "geisha and manga superheroine" for the photographs taken for Minogue's sixth album Impossible Princess and the video for "German Bold Italic", Minogue's collaboration with Towa Tei.[50] Several photographs were taken during the production of the album. Some of them were featured in Minogue's self-released books, including Kylie: La La La which contain photographs with her posing with neon lighting and with infrared effects but most remain unreleased. These pictures featured Minogue posing in front of castles and city backdrops, representing the many kingdoms of an impossible princess.[49] The 3D cover was released in Japan in October 1997 and was accompanied by four limited edition postcards.[51] Critics also dissected the albums photo shoot and the single covers associated with the album, who felt they were more darker and mysterious. For the "Did It Again" single artwork, Minogue sported a dark, indie-rock image.[52]

After renaming the album Kylie Minogue in the UK, she revealed that renaming it was the final effect that made her fall into depression during the albums era, straight after the death of both Diana, Princess of Wales, her ex-boyfriend and INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence's suicide in 1997 and her splitting with current boyfriend at the time, Stephane Sednaoui. She said "Princess Diana died and the whole country was shaken. It was a dark time. Michael committed suicide. I had finished with my boyfriend. It was not a pleasant time. There have been many speculations, all were in sheer panic and do not believe I got into a terrible depression, never thought that was it. I always thought there was more work to be done. I just did not know who I was anymore."[53]

Release and promotion[edit]

Impossible Princess had been delayed several times before its initial release, which was May 1997.[29] The album was pushed back to September 22, 1997. However, this date was the scrapped and left the album unreleased until plans had been set. Due to this, the Impossible Princess Album Sampler was released to accommodate the album.[54] Impossible Princess was first released in Japan on 1 November 1997 by BMG with the bonus track "Tears".[55] Despite the Japan release, the album was eventually delayed in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom particularly 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.[51] The album was then released in Australia by Mushroom Records in early 1998 while the album was released in the United Kingdom and Europe in mid-1998 by Deconstruction Records. Throughout the years, majority off all Impossible Princess tracks have been included in many of her compilation albums. These albums include of Hits+, Confide in Me, Kylie Minogue: Artist Collection and Confide in Me: The Irresistible Kylie. Also, Minogue released three different remix compilations consisting songs off the album: including Mixes, Impossible Remixes and Essential Mixes.[56] To accommodate the album, HMV exclusively released an EP of "Too Far" and two previously unreleased songs that came free with the albums purchase 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.[57]

Minogue performing "Dancing Queen" in Melbourne on her Intimate and Live tour.

Minogue embarked a promotional tour in the Oceanic region in October 1997. Minogue performed in Singapore and traveled to different cities in her native Australia including Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. She then traveled to Auckland, New Zealand for a concert and finished off in Hong Kong to finished the promotional tour. This was Minogue's first and last visit to Singapore and Hong Kong until her Aphrodite: Les Folies Tour in 2010,[58] and was her first and last visit in New Zealand since her KylieX2008 tour.[59] After the albums European release, she went on to promote the album with concert gigs in Norway, Denmark and Holland.

To support the album, Minogue embarked an Australian and European tour Intimate and Live. Minogue started rehearsing for the tour while she was asked to perform at the 1998 Sydney Mardi Gras.[60] 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 also wanted a low production value so she could establish more risks in her performances rather than have a production bigger than her.[60] Kylie and her friend William Baker had started drawing stage concepts of how the tour would look like and wanted it to reflect onto the albums personal meaning.[60] 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 band mainly consisting of members of Australia's John Farnham band, 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.[60] The tour received extremely rave reviews from contemporary critics and fans alike. From the supporting album, Minogue performend "Too Far", "Some Kind of Bliss", "Breathe", "Cowboy Style", "Say Hey", unreleased track "Free", "Drunk", "Did It Again" and "Limbo". 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)[3]
Classic Pop Magazine (Positive)[43]
The Daily Vault (A-)[9]
Digital Spy 4/5 stars[34]
NME 4/10[69]
Q 2/5 stars[45]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[2]
Who 8/10[70]

Impossible Princess received drastically varied reactions amongst music critics. Critical response to the album was overwhelmingly positive around the world except for Britain, where its reception was decidedly negative. 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."[71] 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 Minogue's collaborations with James Dean Bradfield, panning "Some Kind of Bliss" as "supremely irritating".[69]

Slant Magazine included the album on their Vital Pop: 50 Essential Pop Albums list in June 2003.[72] Sal Cinquemani, in the magazine's review, stated the album is "littered with many anthemic trance tracks", such as the "deliriously spacey 'Say Hey'", "Chemical Brothers-style techno/rock hybrid 'Limbo'", "frenetic 'I Don't Need Anyone'", "Bjork's 'Venus As A Boy'-evoking yet still unique 'Through the Years'", and "cinematic final track 'Dreams'", that "runs the gamut of styles but manages to remain cohesive and fresh, even six years later." Furthermore, he 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] Nick 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."[34] A reviewer from Amazon.com reviewed the original 1998 release with an editorial review and wrote that "While it didn't sell well at the time of its release, it has become a catalog favorite among both veteran and new fans alike, and the quality of the material is excellent."[3]

Music Week was less than impressed, writing that "Kylie's vocals take on a stroppy edge...but not strong enough to do much".[73] 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".[74] Australian magazine Who compared Minogue's vocal style to a young Sinéad O'Connor, crediting her for her range in vocal styles displayed on the album. The magazine also commented that the album was a major step towards Minogue gaining credibility in the music industry.[70] Citing it as Kylie's best album, The Daily Vault was positive in their review, writing that "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."[9] In a 2014 retrospective review, Classic Pop Magazine had reviewed Minogue's back catalog and was positive towards the album. A reviewer from the publication wrote that "Impossible Princess is by far the most polarizing moment of Kylie's career, [Impossible Princess] still divides Kylie's fans in two camps." The reviewer late said that "[Impossible Princess]'s true strengths lay not in the britpop Manic Street Preachers co-writers, but in the slinky electronica of 'Breathe', the subtle and majestic 'Dreams' and the moody trip-hop of 'Jump'." They concluded writing that the album was very much of its time and "nevertheless revealed Kylie as an accomplished lyricist and allowed her to reveal a more personal side than she has ever done before... or has since."[43]

Commercial performance[edit]

Impossible Princess proved to be an all-round 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.[75][76] It became the highest debuting album and the only debut album on the chart for the week end 25 January 1998.[77] 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.[75] 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.[78][79] It was her first studio album since Rhythm of Love to achieve a platinum recognition.

In the United Kingdom, the album's success was very limited. Re-titled simply as Kylie Minogue, the album entered the albums chart at number ten on 4 April 1998. Despite the album being higher than her previous album Let's Get To It, which reached number fifteen, the album 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.[80][81] Despite the higher charting peak, Impossible Princess was deemed Minogue's worst selling studio album to date due to a variety of reasons. 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 criticized her appearance and the material on the record.[6][82] After a year of its release, 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."[83]

Accolades[edit]

Impossible Princess was noteworthy in many award ceremonies. The album 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.[84][85]

At the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, Minogue won the International Viewer's Choice Awards (Australian entry) for "Did It Again".[86]

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. 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.[40] 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.[87] 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.[88] An accompanying music video was directed by Dexter Fletcher in the deserts of Tabernas, Spain. 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,[89] 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.[90] 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.[91]

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. The song achieved positive reviews from critics who felt it was a better offering on the album and was singled out as a highlight.[34] 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.[92] The songs music video featured Minogue in an airspace of spiralling 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. 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.[93] 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.

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?!'"[94]

-Kylie Minogue on the sales of Impossible Princess

Following the album's release, Impossible Princess was considered to be an example of Minogue's constant "reinventions".[8] 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.[19] 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] The 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.[95] True, who written the biography for Kylie Minogue on 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."[96] 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.[97]

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.[98] 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.[82] 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."[6] 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".[99]

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."[100] 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!"[101]

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:[103]

Personnel[edit]

Credits for Impossible Princess adapted from liner notes.[21]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification
Australia Platinum[79]
United Kingdom Silver[81]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog
Japan[104] 1 November 1997 BMG CD BVCP-6068
Australia[51][105] 12 January 1998 Mushroom Records MUSH33069.2
Cassette MUSH33069.4
United Kingdom[51][106] 23 March 1998 Deconstruction Records CD 74321 51727 2
Cassette 74321 51727 4
26 May 2003 Special edition 82876511152
Australia[107] 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.