Impossible Princess (retitled Kylie Minogue in Europe for a temporary period) is the sixth studio album by Australian singer Kylie Minogue. It was first released in Japan by BMG on 22 October 1997, and distributed worldwide by Mushroom and Deconstruction months later. The singer asserted partial creative control over the project—taking part as a co-producer and composer to the material—and was assisted by various musicians and producers, namely Brothers in Rhythm, Manic Street Preachers, David Ball and Rob Dougan.
|Studio album by|
|Released||22 October 1997|
|Kylie Minogue chronology|
|Singles from Impossible Princess|
Sonically, Impossible Princess is a departure from Minogue's previous music, having taken influence from the techno and Britpop revolution in the mid-to-late 1990s. Conceived as an experimental record, the material encompasses a variety of darker styles from the dance genre, including trip hop, electronica, rock, drum and bass and house. Additionally, selected recordings experiment with cultural elements like Middle Eastern and Celtic music. Lyrically, the album's central focus is Minogue's self-discovery after a series of trips around Asia, America and Australasia, and further delves into the freedom of expression, relationships and emotions.
Upon its release, critical and public reception of Impossible Princess was divided by regions, particularly between the UK, and throughout Australasia and the Americas. In retrospect, the record has achieved critical acclaim for its status as an underrated release, and was highlighted for Minogue's creative input and mixture of genres. Commercially, the album reached the top 10 in Australia, Scotland and the United Kingdom, and was certified Platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for physical shipments of 70,000 units; however, its lack of success in Europe was further scrutinised by the British media.
Five singles were released from the album: "Some Kind of Bliss", "Did It Again", "Breathe", "Too Far" (only as promotional single), and "Cowboy Style", all of which experienced moderate success. After a small promotional tour in 1997, Minogue embarked on the Intimate and Live tour in Australia and the UK the following year, which was a commercial and critical success. Since the album's release, Impossible Princess has been cited as Minogue's best work by various commentators, and achieved numerous nominations and recognition by best-ever lists. Despite this, Minogue has clearly stated that she would never create another studio album like Impossible Princess.
Background and developmentEdit
Minogue signed a three-album deal with British dance label Deconstruction in 1993, and released its first offering, her self-titled fifth studio album on 19 September 1994. The following year, the singer worked with Australian musician Nick Cave and his band the Bad Seeds as a featuring artist to their single "Where the Wild Roses Grow". Additionally, Minogue began a relationship with French photographer Stéphane Sednaoui, and embarked on a series of trips throughout North America, Asia, and Australasia to gain inspiration for her upcoming record. She was encouraged by Sednaoui and Cave to take creative control over her next musical project, so she started writing lyrics. Explaining to British magazine NME that she wanted to "experiment" with her image and sound, Minogue decided to team up with British trio Brothers in Rhythm, who previously worked on her self-titled album.
"If [the album] works, it'll be my graduation. I've learned a lot, but–if this works–it'll mean I'm past a certain point. I've grown up. It's the best I can do at this moment, the most I can ask of myself."
Each morning, she would present a set of lyrics to Brothers in Rhythm member Dave Seaman from the night before, and by October 1995, they started recording rough demos in Chippenham. From those sessions, they completed their first track "You're the One", which remains unreleased. Four more songs were developed at Real World studios in Box, Wiltshire; "Too Far", "Did It Again", "Limbo", and "Cowboy Style". Moreover, "Limbo" and "Did It Again" were published in their original demo form because Minogue felt the "raw[ness]" of the tracks worked better than being polished.
Seaman noted that Minogue's input was more significant this time round, stating that majority of the album's subject matter was taken from "her own ideas", and that she wanted to grow as a person from this experience. Sonically, Minogue was inspired by artists-producers including Björk, Garbage, Towa Tei, and U2, all introduced to her by Sednaoui. Furthermore, she cited British "pioneers" like The Verve, The Prodigy, The Chemical Brothers and The Eels as influences to the album. Originally crafted to be an electronic dance record, the singer began working with Welsh band Manic Street Preachers, and the initial sound started to blend with rock elements. It was Minogue's first record to incorporate live instrumentation, a technique that was never introduced in her first five studio records.
Deconstruction's A&R department were absent during the album's process, due to the illness of the label's director Pete Hadfield. Because of this, Minogue stood in to take partial creative control over the project. In order to help produce the album, she attended each music session with Steve Anderson and Seaman to learn about composing, arranging instruments, and "distorting" sections of the album's tracks. As a result of this, she was credited as a co-composer and co-producer on the songs "Too Far", "Breathe", and "Say Hey" with Brothers in Rhythm; she played the grand piano and the synthesizer. In total, Impossible Princess took nearly two years to record, the longest period of time Minogue had worked on a project since her time acting on the Australian soap opera Neighbours (from 1986 to 1988). Anderson later explained that its lengthy time was "due to the pure perfectionism of all creatively involved".
Musically, Impossible Princess is a departure from Minogue's previous sound, encompassing various elements from the dance genre, and adopts a more "experimental" approach. Music publications like AllMusic, the Daily Vault and Slant Magazine identified the record as part of the techno and Britpop revolution that spanned between mid-to-late 1990s. Some reviewers, such as Nick Levine at Digital Spy and Marcel Anders from Orkus, labelled Impossible Princess a straightforward dance record, though Anders noted some tracks were heavily "guitar-driven". Moreover, Pop Cultured editor Bence Illés wrote that it is a "very dark trip hop album", that was influenced by drum and bass, trance, and even elements of jazz and alternative rock. Chris True, writing for AllMusic, believed that Minogue's transition to more mature dance-oriented music moved outside of her typical sound, which "seemed to be the domain of teenage girls." The vocal production on the record is diverse; it features segments of spoken word and rapping, alongside shouting and singing. Slant's Sal Cinquemani compared Minogue's vocals to those of American singer Madonna by saying that they never "venture outside her comfort zone", but noticed that Impossible Princess "finds Minogue stretching herself way beyond anything she had done before—or anything she's done since."
Lyrically, a mass proportion of the album deals with the theme of self-discovery and freedom of expression. The first batch of darker tunes opens with the "chaotic" drum and bass composition "Too Far", which has Minogue discuss her paranoia and anger; she had to write the song at a local cafe in order to leave her home in London, which she claimed to have infested "negative vibes" at the time. "Did It Again", a rock song heavily influenced with Middle Eastern beats, was inspired by negative stories that the British press had published about her. As a result, Minogue used this as an advantage and wrote it as if she was "telling herself off". The guitar-driven tune "I Don't Need Anyone" doesn't have a linear story, as Minogue commented with Deconstruction that it was taken from four sets of songs, all interpreting different moods and stories. "Jump", the album's only recognised trip hop number, advises the public to accept her during the course of her career and personal choices.
"I wanted to put as much of myself into this album as possible. I've written lyrics before, but they've been safe–just neatly rhymed words and that's that. Now I have songs in which, from beginning to end, I don't want another word, I don't want a word removed. [...] It's a new harmony I've found, that I haven't had before. It's not that I've dragged any demons out of myself, but they're much more personal songs than ever before."
Moreover, other material consists of softer tunes, including the joyful number "Some Kind of Bliss", which was the first single to the album. According to Sean Smith—author of the Kylie biography—he said that it was the first track that showcased the infamous "indie Kylie" style that attracted mixed responses in the UK, and is fully composed with live instrumentation. Written in Japan, the fifth track, "Breathe", was described as a "subtle" electronica song that expresses Minogue's ability to contemplate and feel "very still" while in an intense environment. Another electronic-infused tune is "Say Hey", which Minogue proclaims it to be a "late-night, early-morning" type of song. The lyrics, although inspired by her relationship with Sednaoui, highlights the need for communication, though not delving into conversation. "Dreams" serves as the album's closing song, and is an orchestral pop ballad that discusses the persistence of pushing boundaries and experimentation through her career.
The remaining tracks on the record discuss her relationship between herself and Sednaoui. The first track on the album to introduce their relationship is "Cowboy Style", a country number that was influenced by Celtic and tribal percussion. It details Minogue meeting Sednaoui for the first time and achieves a metaphorical experimentalism throughout its lyrical delivery. However, the theme of frustration lingered into the album's seventh track, the techno-induced "Drunk", which has Minogue feeling unsatisfied with the relationship, despite "having so much feeling for [someone]". "Limbo", a hybrid between rock, techno and drum and bass beats, was written in Spain, where Minogue discusses her inability to leave a certain country to meet someone, due to bureaucracy laws. Outside of Sednaoui, Minogue mentions her meeting an ex-boyfriend on "Through the Years", feeling insecure and doubtful about the entire situation; the composition was compared to Björk's single "Venus as a Boy" by Cinquemani and R. Smith.
Packaging and titleEdit
The cover sleeve and images were shot by Stéphane Sednaoui. Inspired by French and Japanese pop culture, Sednaoui took inspiration from Nobuyoshi Araki's work and tried to convey a similar aesthetic to the photo shoot. The cover depicts Minogue sitting and surrounded by swirling multi-coloured lights, dressed in a blue Véronique Leroy mini dress. Because Deconstruction wanted to distribute a limited-edition version of the album, Sednaoui had to photograph separate artwork and dedicate it to those editions. The lenticular sleeve required multiple static cameras to shoot Minogue in the dark. In order to create the long-exposure effect of the lights circulating around the singer, Sednaoui fully dressed himself in a black body suit so he couldn't be seen in the final shot. However, Minogue remarked that "the shoot was so very difficult but we knew that once we got it right it would be amazing."
The title of the record is a reference to the 1994 novel, Poems to Break the Harts of Impossible Princesses, written by Billy Childish. A copy of the book had been dedicated to Minogue but was accidentally passed on to Nick Cave, who eventually gave it to Minogue not long after. She recalled only looking at the title of the book and saying that "It had me written all over it." Additionally, she believed that the poems in the book summarised where she was at that time in her life. Furthermore, the title was used in the album's song "Dreams", during the chorus: "These are the dreams of an impossible princess". Although copies of the album and its title were printed in mid-1997, on 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a fatal car accident. Due to the impact of her death, Minogue and Deconstruction felt the album's aforementioned title was "insensitive" and the label delayed its release. Also feeling the title would be inappropriate to have on the album, Minogue and her management came to a mutual agreement to re-title it Kylie Minogue in Europe, the same name as her 1994 record. However, the album re-instated the Impossible Princess title in those regions upon its re-release on 23 March 2003.
—Minogue, discussing the delays of the album's release.
Deconstruction planned to have the album out in January 1997, but it was postponed to May. Then the label aimed to release it in September that year, but the album was postponed again. Because of constant delays, Mushroom Records premiered six of the album tracks—"Some Kind of Bliss", "Too Far", "Say Hey", "Limbo", "I Don't Need Anyone", and "Did It Again"—on a special sample compact disc, and all six recordings were distributed as radio singles to both Australia and New Zealand. Because of the European postponement sparked by Diana, Princess of Wales' death in August, Deconstruction conducted a similar promotional campaign and distributed six different songs on a sample cassette tape.
On 22 October 1997, BMG released the album in the Japanese market, which included the bonus track "Tears", alongside the lenticular cover sleeve and four additional post cards that included images of the album's photo shoot. The following month, Impossible Princess was printed on both CD and cassette formats in Russia and Poland. The standard edition of Impossible Princess was finally made available in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan in early January, and was issued in Europe and the United Kingdom in March that year. The following month, BMG distributed it as a cassette tape in Malaysia, whilst the standard edition with new artwork was released in Taiwan. Deconstruction planned to release Impossible Princess in North America, but after its commercial failure, Minogue's label pulled the idea. Five years after its original release, Impossible Princess was remastered by Festival Mushroom in Australia and New Zealand, and BMG for European and UK regions, as a double CD album; the first disc featured the standard track list, whilst a bonus disc featured remixes and three unreleased recordings.
Deconstruction and Minogue held a release party at Tower Records, United Kingdom in March 1998. Minogue conducted a small-concert tour, where she travelled to Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong through October 1997; it was her first time in both New Zealand and Hong Kong. It then expanded the venues in Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Furthermore, she appeared on several television shows to promote the singles off the album, such as the UK channels Top of the Pops, the National Lottery Show, amongst many others. However, because the album had not been released in the UK at the time, and the album was "selling better" in Australia, she performed several album tracks on television shows in her home country such as Hey Hey It's Saturday and MTV Australia. Although she did not perform any non-singles, she promoted the album's release at the 1998 Mardi Gras ceremony in Sydney, Australia, where she performed "Better the Devil You Know" and the Leonard Bernstein cover "Somewhere".
In May 1998, Minogue confirmed the Intimate and Live concert tour, which commenced on 2 June at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne, Australia that same year. She initially wanted to finish the tour in Melbourne on 4 July, but due to high demand in England, the singer hosted three additional concert performances. The tour attracted positive reviews from spectators and publications, praising the idea of a smaller venue show, alongside compliments towards her vocal performance and stage presence. Each concert had drawn in approximately 2,000 audience members in Australia, and was deemed a commercial success by the Australian media. To complete the tour's promotion, an accompanying live album and DVD were released on 30 November and 23 July 2003, and was shot at Capitol Theatre, Sydney.
The first single of Impossible Princess, "Some Kind of Bliss" was released on 8 September 1997. Initial critical responses were mixed, who were ambivalent towards Minogue's shift to rock music, though retrospective reviews have become more positive, noting it as a "lost classic". Commercially, it reached the top 40 in Australia and the UK, whilst peaking at number 46 on the New Zealand Singles Chart, her last charting release in the 1990s decade in the latter region. The album's second single was "Did It Again", which was released on 24 November 1997. It achieved a better critical and commercial response in Australia and the UK, reaching the top 20 on both regional charts, and was certified Gold in the former region for shipments of 35,000.
The third single off the album was "Breathe", released on 9 March 1998. Unlike the album's previous single, it made moderate impact on the charts, reaching number 23 in Australia and inside the top 20 in the UK. "Too Far" was released on 21 May 1998 as the first and only promotional single, and the album's fourth single overall. The track, along with Jump, was at first considered to be the lead single, but was scrapped. A 12" vinyl was issued in the UK and US, which included two remixes, but did not chart in either territories. "Cowboy Style", the album's fifth and final single, was distributed only in Australia on 5 October 1998; it was not released in the UK due to Minogue's leave with Deconstruction. Owing to a limited number of issued formats, the track managed to chart for a sole week at number 39 on the regional top 50.
Upon its release, critical reception of Impossible Princess was divided by regions, particularly between the UK, and throughout Australasia and the Americas. Ben Willmott from British magazine NME rated it four points out of 10, criticising the production of collaborator James Dean Bradfield, and labelled Minogue a "total fraud" for introducing new musical genres that were disparate from her previous work. Likewise, magazines such as Music Week and Q lambasted the record's repetitious nature, though the former publication did acknowledge the improvement in Minogue's vocal range and abilities.
Australian and American media were generally welcoming to the album; John Mangan from Australia's The Age newspaper commended the diverse set of styles and Minogue's songwriting skills, saying "Impossible Princess sounds right and constitutes another step in the right direction." Similarly, an editor at Who magazine commended the sound, and pointed out that "Vocally, Kylie has never sounded better or more human. Her phrasing here is unique." In conclusion, they acknowledged that "Impossible Princess is the best, most complete work of her career." Cameron Adams, writing for Herald Sun, listed the record as his "CD of the Week"; He favored the singles as the album's best tracks, but also said, "Impossible Princess is her best yet, the classy, personal pop album she has always threatened." Michael Dwyer, writing for the Western Mail highlighted the "club-dance" tracks as the better cuts, while examining that "Impossible Princess' range of styles approaches and collaborators makes it as hard as ever to say just who is making progress here, but progress it most assuredly is." Larry Flick from American magazine Billboard described the album as "stunning", concluding that "it's a golden commercial opportunity for a major record company with vision and energy to release it in the United States...".
Retrospective reviews on Impossible Princess—both from European and Australasian areas—have been much more positive, with AllMusic's Chris True labelling it a "pretty damn good record", and openly criticised the critical reception around the album's early release, deeming it a "shame". Nevertheless, he believed that "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." Slant Magazine editor Sal Cinquemani awarded it four stars, and was impressed with the album's "starkly personal and unified cord", saying it "is the work of an artist willing to take risks, not a pop queen concerned with preserving her reign." Cinquemani added it to the staff choices of their Vital Pop: 50 Essential Pop Albums lists. Awarding four stars, Nick Levine from British tabloid Digital Spy commended the mixture of genres and Minogue's input. Although he noticed the material's lack of commercial appeal, he concluded, "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." While reviewing her tenth album X (2007), Evan Sawdey from PopMatters commented "For those who still have a copy of her Manic Street Preachers-assisted Impossible Princess, then you have one of the most crazed, damn-near perfect dance-pop albums ever created."
Commercially, the album experienced success on the Australian Albums Chart. It debuted at number four on 25 January 1998, the highest debuting album by an Australian female artist of the year. It stalled at number eight during its second and third week, but fell outside the top ten in its fourth. By 26 April, the album had spent 14 weeks in the chart and was placed at number 48, before leaving the chart. When Minogue promoted the album with live shows, alongside the announcement of a national tour, Impossible Princess re-entered the charts on 10 May at number 40. Whilst embarking her Intimate and Live tour in June, it entered the top ten for three non-consecutive weeks between the months June–July. In total, the album was present for 35 weeks in the top 50, making this Minogue's longest charting album at the time until her following studio album, Light Years, spent 41 weeks in the top 50 chart. The album was certified Platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for physical shipments of 70,000 units.
In the UK and Scotland regions, Impossible Princess made minor impact on the record charts. It debuted at number 10 on the UK Albums Chart, making it the third highest debuting album of that week. It fell to number 22 the following week, and again to number 41, its final charting position was at 70. However, it entered the chart again during the start of May 1998, at number 91. In a similar run, the album also charted at number 10 on the Scottish Albums Chart. The album's lack of success in the UK and Europe, led British publications to recognise it as Minogue's worst-selling studio album in those regions, was noted for the lack of promotional activity such as touring and live performances, alongside constant delays and title changes. After a year of release, UK Virgin Radio mocked the album sales, stating: "We've done something to improve Kylie's records: we've banned them."
Impossible Princess is widely considered Minogue's most personal and experimental work to date, and is thus far her only release where she plays the role of a co-producer and composer. Despite this, she identified the album's release period as her most disappointing moment in her career. Minogue has commented that if she wrote another album of personal songs, she would consider it Impossible Princess part two, and vowed never to do such a thing again, as she feels it would "get equally critiqued". When asked again in 2015, she confirmed she would never create another album like Impossible Princess.
During its commercial release, Impossible Princess was the subject of scrutiny by the British public, who did not appreciate her move into indie music and electronica. Michael R. Smith from Daily Vault noticed the sonic and lyrical similarities between this and Ray of Light (1998) by Madonna, though he believed Minogue's release "deserved a better fate". Minogue's long-term friend, British fashion designer William Baker, felt that the lack of proper promotion and management on Deconstruction's end was partly the reason for the album's commercial failure in the UK. Because of this, Minogue contemplated retiring from the music industry for good, but decided to part with Deconstruction and BMG in December 1998. Signing to Parlophone in 2000, she released her studio album Light Years that same year to positive reception; The Guardian's Tim Jonze believes that Light Years saved her career, whereas Michael Paoletta from Billboard mentioned that Impossible Princess is the most misunderstood album in her career.
Nevertheless, Impossible Princess has been included on several lists of the most underrated albums, including from publications such as Flavorwire, Slant Magazine and Faster Louder. Alongside this, it was nominated for Album of the Year at the 1998 ARIA Music Awards, her first nomination in that category, but lost to Unit by Regurgitator. It was further nominated for Best Pop Release and for Best Female Musician, losing both out to Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia. The following year, Minogue was nominated for Single of the Year for "Did It Again" and Best Female Artist. Larrisa Dubecki, writing for The Age, felt the album was one of the key re-inventions of her career. In 2018, Slant Magazine called it Minogue's best album; Sal Cinquemani wrote that it "offers few spiritual revelations of the sort found on Madonna’s landmark album Ray of Light [...] She had a hand in writing every song here, lending a starkly personal and unified cord that she wouldn’t achieve again until 2018’s Golden". On the 20th anniversary of the album, Ben Neutze of Daily Review wrote that "The Impossible Princess Kylie may never be what Minogue is remembered for, but it stands as the most intriguing chapter of her career, and the only significant glimpse at who this pop icon might be when stripped of the showgirl feathers, gold hot-pants, and other glorious facades."
|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"||Brothers in Rhythm||4:21|
|7.||"Drunk"||Brothers in Rhythm||3:58|
|8.||"I Don't Need Anyone"||3:12|
|11.||"Through the Years"||4:19|
|12.||"Dreams"||Brothers in Rhythm||3:44|
|1.||"Love Takes Over Me"||Brothers in Rhythm||4:19|
|2.||"Too Far" (Inner Door Mix)||Minogue||6:19|
|3.||"Did It Again" (Did It Four Times Mix)||5:49|
|4.||"Breathe" (Tee's Dancehall Mix)||6:21|
|6.||"Too Far" (Junior's Riff Dub)||Minogue||5:49|
|7.||"Breathe" (Tee's Dub of Life)||7:55|
|8.||"Some Kind of Bliss" (Quivver Mix)||8:39|
|9.||"Did It Again" (Razor-n-Go Dub)||9:53|
|10.||"Breathe" (Tee's Glimmer Mix)||4:46|
|11.||"Too Far" (North Pole Mix)||Minogue||5:54|
- ^a signifies a producer, but unaccredited towards the album.
- ^b signifies a co-producer.
- ^c signifies a remix producer.
- Other Sides (1998) – an extended play featuring the two B-sides, "Love Takes Over Me" and "Tears" and an unreleased Impossible Princess track, "Take Me with You"; it accompanied Australian releases of the album at HMV.
- Live and Other Sides (1998) – an extended play featuring two unreleased Impossible Princess tracks, one unreleased Kylie Minogue track, and three live tracks; it accompanied Australian releases of the album at HMV, but was removed and replaced with Other Sides for unknown reasons.
- Mixes (1998) – a remix album that includes singles from the album; it was released in the UK.
- Impossible Remixes (1998) – the Australian issue of Mixes.
- Hits+ (2000) – a compilation album that includes several album tracks and three unreleased tracks from Impossible Princess; it was released in Europe.
- Confide in Me (2000) – a compilation album that includes several album tracks from Impossible Princess; it was released in Europe.
- Kylie Minogue: Artist Collection (2004) – a compilation album that includes several album tracks from Impossible Princess; it was released in Europe and Asia.
- Confide in Me: The Irresistible Kylie (2007) – a compilation album that includes several album tracks from Impossible Princess; it was released in the UK.
Credits adapted from the CD liner notes of Impossible Princess:
*sales figures based on certification alone
|Japan||22 October 1997||CD||Bonus edition||BMG|||
|Australia||12 January 1998||CD||
|United Kingdom||28 March 1998||Deconstruction|||
|Malaysia||Cassette tape||Standard edition||BMG|||
|Australia||23 May 2003||Special double disc edition||Festival Mushroom|||
|Japan||26 November 2003||Deconstruction|||
|Worldwide||18 November 2008||Digital download||Standard edition||Mushroom|||
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