After the success of their fifth studio album, Listen Like Thieves (1985), and its second single "What You Need" (1986), INXS knew their new material would have to be even better, according to guitarist Kirk Pengilly, "We wanted an album where all the songs were possible singles". They recorded Kick in Sydney and Paris, it was produced by Chris Thomas again, but Atlantic Records was not happy with the result, as manager Chris Murphy remembers:
They hated it, absolutely hated it. They said there was no way they could get this music on rock radio. They said it was suited for black radio, but they didn't want to promote it that way. The president of the label told me that he'd give us $1 million to go back to Australia and make another album.
Despite Atlantic's protests, Kick was released in October 1987 and provided the band with worldwide popularity; it peaked at No. 1 in Australia, No. 3 on the US Billboard 200, No. 9 in UK, and No. 15 in Austria. It was an upbeat, confident album that yielded four Top 10 US singles, "New Sensation", "Never Tear Us Apart", "Devil Inside" and No. 1 "Need You Tonight". "Need You Tonight" peaked No. 2 on the UK charts, No. 3 in Australia, and No. 10 in France. They toured heavily behind the album throughout 1987 and 1988. The video for the 1987 INXS track "Mediate" (which played after the video for "Need You Tonight") replicated the format of Bob Dylan's video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues," even in its use of apparently deliberate errors. In September 1988 the band won 5 categories in the MTV Video Music Awards with the video for "Need You Tonight/Mediate".
It was stated on an interview disc that the name of the album was considered halfway through production when it was seen that the word "Kick" was featured in a couple of tracks at that point. There was also the appeal that the word had four letters like the band name. During the second half of the production a song of the same name was written, thus the song was named after the album as opposed to the usual naming of the album after a song.
During 1989, Hutchence collaborated with Ian 'Ollie' Olsen on a side project, Max Q, the two had previously worked together on Lowenstein's film Dogs in Space. The rest of the band also took a break to work on side projects, but returned to the studio to record their follow-up album X (1990).
In 2002 Rhino Entertainment released a remastered reissue of 'Kick', with four previously unreleased bonus tracks. Mercury/Universal reissued the album in 2004 as part of their Deluxe Edition series of albums. The two-disc collection was bolstered by a disc of remixes, B-sides and outtakes. Kick is the band's best-selling album and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified it as 6× Platinum, with shipments of six million units, in 1997. According to INXS: Story to Story: The Official Autobiography (2005) it has sold more than 10 million copies in the US alone.
In March 2010, as part of his Record Club series where he covers classic albums in their entirety, Beck released the first video of his cover version of Kick on his website. The videos were submitted weekly in the same track order as the original release, although the whole album was recorded in just twelve hours on 3 March. In October, it was listed at No. 11 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums.
AllMusic's Steve Huey described the album as "an impeccably crafted pop tour de force, the band succeeding at everything they try".Robert Christgau describes INXS as "silly middlebrow hacks" but acknowledges that Kick delivered "danceable rock and roll that sounds smart in the background".BBC Music's Cormac Heron reviewed the 2004 deluxe edition, "superfluous second disc notwithstanding, this is a near flawless collection of songs" and felt that the "production still sounds fresh and the song-writing partnership of Hutchence/Farriss wins you over with an anthemic glory". Australian rock music historian, Ian McFarlane, advises that "it became the band's most enduring release by mixing the hard rock sound of Thieves with a looser approach to dance grooves".