7 Best Kylie Minogue hits from her early career

Jon O'Brien

BY Jon O'Brien

3rd Jul 2023 Music

7 Best Kylie Minogue hits from her early career
To celebrate the anniversary of her self-titled debut album, we look back at some of Kylie Minogue's greatest early hits
The rapturous response to “Padam Padam,” the first single from her forthcoming 16th studio effort Tension, proves that Kylie Minogue still has a claim to the title Queen of Pop.
Of course, it was her early years with Stock, Aitken and Waterman (SAW) that put her in line to the throne. The Hit Factory produced no fewer than 18 UK Top 20 hits for the artist formerly known as Charlene Robinson between 1987 and 1993. To celebrate the anniversary of her self-titled debut album on July 4, here’s a look at the seven best from the Aussie’s first imperial phase. 

1. “Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi”

The slightly shrill-sounding bubblegum pop of “I Should Be So Lucky” may have catapulted Kylie from Erinsborough to the top of the charts. But it was the fourth single from her 1988 debut, only kept off pole position by Enya’s “Orinoco Flow,” that remains the jewel in its crown.
"It was the fourth single from her 1988 debut that remains the jewel in its crown"
As with much of SAW’s top-drawer material, there’s a glorious air of melancholy running through “Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi,” a lovelorn ballad which no doubt gave many Smash Hits readers their first taste of the French language. The Parisian period drama of its accompanying video further showed that Kylie had more to offer than many first thought. 

2. “Especially For You” 

After eclipsing Charles and Diana with the wedding of the decade, Charlene and Scott Robinson, aka Kylie and Jason Donovan, took the next logical step: release an unashamedly slushy duet which allowed Neighbours fans to further buy into their on/off-screen romance.
“Especially for You” was denied the Christmas number one by Cliff Richard’s “Mistletoe and Wine.” But buoyed by a crowd-pleasing Top of the Pops performance in which Kylie jumped into Jason’s arms, the ballad took its rightful place at the top of the charts in the New Year, eventually becoming SAW’s biggest seller ever.   

3. “Hand On Your Heart” 

The first single from 1989 second album Enjoy Yourself, like pretty much all of the Hit Factory’s chart-dominating oeuvre, certainly adhered to the "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" school of songwriting. But the effervescent synths, bittersweet lyrics and Kylie’s joyous vocal delivery ensured that late Eighties kids still lapped up “Hand on Your Heart” regardless.
"'Hand On Your Heart' remains a masterclass in shrouding teenage melodrama in insanely infectious pop"
Unexpectedly taken into the Top 30 two decades later by acoustic troubadour José González, the Aussie’s third UK number one remains a masterclass in shrouding teenage melodrama in insanely infectious pop.

4. “Wouldn’t Change A Thing”  

“Wouldn’t Change a Thing” was released amid the tabloid-friendly news that Australia’s most squeaky-clean musical export was now dating its most hell-raising. INXS frontman Michael Hutchence apparently preferred follow-up “Never Too Late,” but UK record buyers favoured this winning combination of the “Funky Drummer” sample, wistful melodies and the kind of stuttering vocal effects that had previously sent another SAW regular, Mel and Kim, to the top spot.
Kylie had to settle for runner-up on this occasion, thwarted for the first but not last time by bogey team Wet Wet Wet.

5. “Better The Devil You Know” 

Having played it safe second time around, SAW thankfully realised their main protégé required something more in keeping with her new good-girl-gone-bad persona for album number three, 1990’s Rhythm of Love. Hailed by many as an early career best, first taster “Better The Devil You Know” still contains the brain-lodging hooks the trio were renowned for.
But it also serves up the type of vibrant house-pop production you can imagine Kylie enjoyed partying to herself. It’s a surprisingly subtle transition which helped lay the groundwork for all the reinventions that were to follow.

6. “What Do I Have To Do”

Proving that “Better the Devil You Know” was no fluke, Rhythm of Love’s third single was another self-assured dancefloor banger, with the Hit Factory this time leaning more into the burgeoning movement known as Italo House.
"As a full package, this is early Kylie at her most mesmerising"
Boasting one of Kylie’s most euphoric choruses, “What Do I Have to Do” also came equipped with one of her most stylish promos, a monochrome feast of catwalk-ready looks in which the Aussie cosplays as her favourite glamourpusses from the golden age of Hollywood. As a full package, this is early Kylie at her most mesmerising.  

7. “Shocked” 

Mariah Carey is often credited as pioneering the pop diva/hip-hop crossover. But four years before she recruited ODB for “Fantasy,” another enduring chart icon was busy building the same musical bridge. And in an additional display of girl power, Kylie and remixers DNA of “Tom’s Diner” fame roped in a female rapper too: that’s future Big Brother contestant Jazzi P providing the playful rhymes.
The breakbeat-driven pop of “Shocked” was the last great hurrah for one of the era’s most potent partnerships: following 1991’s underwhelming Let’s Get to It, Kylie left SAW for pastures new. But these early pop gems remain setlist stapes more than three decades on.
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