With Pride Month celebrations in full swing across the United States, the soundtrack for queer partygoers has a noticeable Australian twang.
“I’ll be in your head all weekend … Padam. Padam.”
Just over a week before her 55th birthday, Kylie Minogue unleashed a fresh cultural phenomenon upon the world.
Padam Padam is shaping up to be the sound of summer on both sides of the Atlantic, giving Australia’s pop diva her first truly global success in decades.
The fresh anthem has been embraced by the queer community, which remains Minogue’s biggest fan group even as her hold on the popular imagination has slipped in recent years.
And for those in the US, it could not have come at a better time.
“The single dropped serendiptously at a moment where the queer community in the US is feeling especially beleaguered, attacked, there have been coordinated efforts to attack and demonize LGBTQ people here in the United States,” explains Karen Tongson, who specializes in pop culture and gender studies at the University of Southern California.
The lead-up to mid-term elections in November saw a surge in anti-LGBTQ+ protests across the US, against a backdrop of rising resentment towards the community from the conservative right over the past few years.
In addition to demonstrations and violence against LGBTQ+ Americans, Republican-led states are cracking down on everything from drag performances to access to gender-affirming medical care.
In the 2023 legislative session alone, the American Civil Liberties Union has been tracking more than 400 different bills targeting LGBTQ rights.
“There’s something about the release of Padam Padam that coincided with this sort of moment of despair and conflict,” Tongson says.
“And that reminded us of the kind of intensity, lightness and kind of queer joy, the celebratory nature of queerness.”
Kylie as a gay icon
Before she was crowned as Australia’s queen of pop, Minogue became a household name in the UK as Charlene on the much-loved soap export, Neighbors.
This worked in her favor when she made the transition from TV to music, with the traditionally strong UK market sending her debut single I Should Be So Lucky straight to the top of the charts.
She has released seven UK number 1 singles and eight number 1 albums, spending a combined 30 weeks at the top of the UK charts.
But she has experienced less success across the Atlantic.
Her highest-charting single remains The Loco-Motion, which hit number 3 on the Billboard 100 in November 1988. Fourteen years after that, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head reached number 7.
Minogue found her most loyal audience in the queer community.
She’s performed at Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Party three times, and headlined World Pride earlier this year.
In the 2006 documentary Kylie: Becoming A Gay Icon, Minogue told Molly Meldrum her gay fans “probably adopted me in my most uncool period”, and stuck with her through thick and thin.
“I never was marketed towards that audience, it was very organic,” she said.
Better The Devil You Know, the lead single from her 1990 album Rhythm of Love, is widely regarded as the original Minogue anthem of the queer community.
For years it played at the iconic London GAY nightclub at the stroke of midnight, every Saturday.
Minogue has always found it difficult to explain why her music and performances resonate so deeply with her queer fans, but sums it up as an instantaneous, mutual, organic acceptance.
She has been described as “the gay shorthand for joy”, and an ally who recognizes the challenges faced by the queer community — struggles that have been amplified for young LGBTQ+ people in recent years.
According to the US-based Movement Advancement Project, about a quarter of queer youth live in states that censor discussions of LGBTQ+ people or issues in schools under so-called “Don’t Say Gay” laws.
US-based studies have found LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers.
Decades on, a new generation is seeking queer joy wherever they can find it.
A whole new generation is discovering our Kylie on TikTok
Even as a bona fide queer icon, Minogue’s success was by no means guaranteed.
In the UK, where she first became an international sensation back in the 1980s, her latest single was initially shunned by the likes of Radio 1.
But chart-topping success is no longer decided by the traditional powerbrokers of the music industry.
According to a 2022 survey of more than 44,000 music fans from around the world, subscription-based streaming services now account for almost a quarter of music engagement, ahead of radio at 17 per cent.
Discovering new music through short-form video apps such as TikTok is the most popular among the younger demographic. And that’s exactly where Padam Padam hits the mark.
It’s the soundtrack for thousands of lip-syncs, remixes and dance videos, having been so fully embraced by gen Z that Padam has taken on its own meaning in the slang vernacular of the summer.
Tongson says Minogue’s success shows how the music industry has changed.
“People can access music in so many different ways and can run around that kind of middleman or middle brow, arbiters of culture,” he says.
“So I think it’s wonderful that Kylie Minogue is benefiting from that.
“We can’t forget that TikTok started as a music platform. It was supposed to be something that helped sell and market music before it evolved into the kind of video virality machine that it [is].
“TikTok’s roots are in music. And so the fact that it has an impact on popular music is not accidental. It’s there by design.”
Could a new generation take Kylie’s icon status to new heights?
In the UK, Padam Padam has reached number 6 on the singles chart and number 1 on the Big Top 40 — a narrower measure than the traditional charts, based on streams and some radio play.
It has also entered Australia’s ARIA singles chart and the global Daily Viral hits list on Spotify.
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Minogue has found America hard to crack, but she sees this as an opportunity.
It’s already hit number 1 on the electronic dance music chart and she’s doing what she can to get the song heard by an even wider audience.
While the recent success has been driven by TikTok and its millennial cousin, Instagram, Minogue is also pursuing a traditional media campaign, recently performing on the season finale of American Idol.
It’s possible midway through her sixth decade, she could be on the cusp of her biggest career success.
And although that may seem strange, it’s not all that dissimilar to what we saw with Cher or the recently departed Tina Turner.
“I think that dance music, ironically, club music is where people can suspend their disability around age, right? And where people can remain ageless,” Tongson says.
“I think that that’s another way that it interacts with the legacy and impact of queer culture on the broader culture, the sense of age being nothing but a number and that we will continue to thrive and thrive and, you know, experience joy well into our years.”
In many ways, the time is ripe for Kylie Minogue to be fully embraced by Americans.
Kyle Jones poses with the horn section and conductor Robert Ambrose at the 2023 West Virginia Music Educators Association All State Band. (Photo Provided)
st. MARYS — St. Marys High School senior Kyle Jones, 18, is passionate about music and plans to make a career out of it.
Jones has played horn for over eight years and participated in numerous activities as a result.
“I have been selected for the (West Virginia Music Educators Association) All-State Choir twice and the All-State Band three times. This year I was the first chair horn of the band,” he said.
In order to participate in the All State Band or Choir, students must audition. Once selected, they will be invited for a three-day event taking place each March in Charleston, W.Va.
Jones and Payton Woodard, a Williamstown Middle/High School senior, were recently awarded a $1,500 scholarship named the Donna Campbell Award for Excellence by Artsbridge. The award was established in 2019 by Parkersburg native Luke Frazier in honor of his grandmother.
Jones poses with his accompanist, Nancy Weber, after performing at the West Virginia Music Educators Association State Solo and Ensemble Honor Recital. (Photo Provided)
“I am a past recipient of the Dr. James F. Dunphy Memorial Scholarship through the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra,” he said.
This scholarship was named after Parkersburg resident James Dunphy (1930-2011) who had a passion for classical music and educating young people. Recipients are in grades 8-11 and live in Calhoun, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Tyler, Wood and Wirt counties. Students are given private lessons from a West Virginia Symphony Orchestra member and are invited to orchestra rehearsals in order to interact with the musicians, directors and guest artists. Jones was the recipient in 2021.
Jones also challenges himself in the classroom, maintaining a 4.16 grade point average.
“I have taken college classes as well as (Advanced Placement) classes,” he said. “I took them because normal classes weren’t very challenging for me.”
This summer, Jones will attend the Renova Music Festival, an application-only orchestra for pre-professional musicians from ages 18-25. The festival will take place in New Castle, Pa., from June 4-17.
St. Mary’s High School Marching Banc competes in the 2022 West Virginia Marching Band INvitational, held October 29, 2022 at University for Charleston Stadium, Charleston, W.Va. (Photo Provided)
Jones will attend West Virginia University in the fall and major in Music Performance. He will study with Albert Houle, Assistant Professor of Horn and principal horn of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
“This degree is designed to prepare me for a career as a performing musician,” he said.
After college, Jones plans to attend a conservatory of music for his master’s in performance for his ultimate career goal.
“I want to win a position in a premier military band,” he said. “These bands are professional ensembles that play a variety of music for important leaders, diplomats and citizens of this country.”
The 2023 West Virginia Music Educators Association All State Band performing in Charleston, W.Va., in March. (Photo Provided)
Kyle Jones poses with his horn at Marshall University’s Honor Band in Huntington, W.Va. (Photo Provided)
The Knife’s Olof Dreijer has teamed up with Tomorrow, in a year collaborators Mt. Sims for a new record of steel drum music. Souvenirs, Dreijer’s first full-length as a lead artist since the Knife split, comprises five songs spanning 33 minutes, each resulting from 10 years exploring the instrument in a bid to deconstruct its stereotypical depictions in Western music. “We tried to find our own thing,” Dreijer said in a press release. “That’s usually our way around using an instrument that has been heavily exoticized and appropriated.” The record arrives June 9, via Rabid, and you can listen to “Hybrid Fruit” below.
Dreijer and Sims began work on the five-track record after the Trinidad-via-New York organization Special Friends of the Earth (SFOTE) invited them to compose with a steel drum created by the Trinidadian instrument maker Ellie Mannette. In experimenting with the instrument, the musicians incorporated materials such as ball bearings and water to make unorthodox sounds. They also drew attention to Scandinavia’s role in colonizing the Caribbean by reinterpreting the medieval Swedish folk song “Liten Karin” for the record.
The writers Anna-Maria Sörberg, Nathan Hamelberg, and Tomas Hemstad co-authored a text to accompany the release, which you can read on Dreijer’s website. Dreijer also intends to release new solo music this year, according to a press release. He contributed production to Knife bandmate Fever Ray’s recent album, Radical Romantics.
I think it’s time for another Mayhem singles round-up, don’t you? Here coming the fourth for 2023, it includes a baker’s dozen of tunes that have been passed on to me or recommended during the previous few weeks and months, there are some rather spiffing tracks.
It features many artists and bands that have appeared on Mayhem’s pages before. There are also four great cover versions in this collection. There are new tracks from Avalanche Party, Apollo Junction, Vaquelin and Liz Davinci who I think all have new albums coming out sometime this year. Judging from their latest offerings, choosing Mayhem’s album of the year for 2023 will be very difficult! Let me know what you think of this great collection of tunes!
You will find a YouTube link to each song in the title (or a link to the audio of the track) and a link to the artist’s website or one of their social media pages when you click the artist’s name. You can also find the link to a Spotify playlist of all these songs by clicking here.
“Serious Dance Music” – Avalanche Party
Ain’t no party like an Avalanche Party and the AP boys are back with what is most definitely a tune for partying to. You probably wouldn’t play this at a work event! I sense an Amazing Snakeheads influence in this fast-paced, frenzied, frenetic, funky, feral, fest of a song. The band all seem to be in top form, especially Kane’s drumming. This is the first single from their upcoming sophomore album, ‘Der Traum Über Alles’. The video is very classy indeed.
“History” – Apollo Junction
The Apollo Junction boys are back with another offering that will feature on their third album, due out later this year. For the first minute, it is soft, acoustic, mellow and pensive. Then the sound continues to build with an almost drone-like guitar sound underpinning it. It finally builds to an immense orchestral-sounding, epic finish. The harmonies are superb and I can imagine this sound echoing across festival fields for years to come. Possibly my favorite Apollo Junction song so far.
“The Grayston Boogie” – Hazy Janes
This is a fine slab of fuzzy, dirty, electric blues. If you are not doing the Grayston Boogie by the end of the track then you should frankly seek medical help. The video has a few fleeting tips as to how to boogie in a Grayston way!
“Back To Black” – The Palava
A brave choice to cover this one. No one could ever hope to emulate the original Amy Winehouse, so the Palava chose to take the song in a different direction. An immaculate blues rock vocal and some gritty, scuzzy garage rock style guitars. I have seen the band play this live and they do it well, but this recording is so much better than that! I bloody love it!
“FKN H8 U 2” – Sad Like You
This bunch is from Adelaide, Australia and this track is reminiscent of the softer side of Blink 182. It is a close-to-perfect amalgam of great pop punk and emo. A heartfelt tale of heartbreak. I am looking forward to hearing more from Sad Like You.
“Pain Reliever” – Liz Davinci
Is Liz Davinci descended from Leonardo? I don’t know, but she is certainly an incredibly talented artist. Vocally there are elements of Kate Bush, Suzanne Vega, and Marcella Detroit here. This tune is beautiful and almost baroque in its construction. I love the way that Liz is not afraid to use the space between the notes. This augers well for her forthcoming album ‘Fata Morgana’.
“Five Years” – Easy All Stars/ Steel Pulse
This is the second cover in this singles selection (there will be more) and it does what I think makes a perfect cover in that it isn’t a simple facsimile of the original. This is the first track to be released from the Easy All Stars forthcoming album of a reggae reimagining of Bowie’s ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ album. This one works perfectly and bodes well for the album. The Dame’s rarely touched reggae, and when he did it was never particularly good in my opinion. But Easy All Stars with Steel Pulse show with absolute certainty that Bowie can work in a reggae style.
“Feelin’ Good” – The Black Skies Ft. Hellbound Glory
We have another cover in the singles round up. This time it was a smoky, heavy, swampy, garage rock version on Nina Simone’s iconic classic “Feelin’ Good”. For me this version takes back ownership of the song from Muse after Matt Bellamy’s somewhat histrionic and over-the-top take on the tune from a few years ago.
“Tell Me With Your Eyes” – Witch Of The East
Witch Of The East returns with a fabulous new song. This is punk, post punk, electro, dance with a goth icing and a pinch of New Order. Based on this, if there is another Witch Of The East album in development it will be bloody wonderful.
“Back-Alley Barn Dance” – I Tell Lies
Get into this band now, then when they break big you can impress your friends by saying you were there at the start. This song is full on rock with large shots of Yard Act and Sleaford Mods and a shady undercurrent of mounting anger. Go see them live as soon as you can!
“Wicked Game” – JW Paris
Gemma, Danny and Aaron returned with a stonking cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”. It feels like the Velvet Underground made the song originally back in the 60s and then Isaak covered it in 1989. OK, I know that isn’t true, right? This must be top of the list to be on the Twin Peaks soundtrack if there is ever another remake, prequel or sequel. I love that in the blurb to the video on YouTube the band state “Dear lovers, snoggers and nighttime doggers. We’ve recorded a cover of one of our favorites in light of the smoochin’ season” that cracked me up, well the nighttime doggers bit anyway!
“The Bona Fide Money Laundering Society” – Vaquelin
Another banging tune from Vaquelin, it kicks off like Led Zeppelin on Quaaludes and the vocals are classic 70s rock style with a dash of Bowie’s Tin Machine Style. The screaming lead guitar, particularly in the last part of the track is something Mick Ronson would be proud of. The second album from Vaquelin looks like it will be better than the first based on this tune!
“Greed” – The Undercover Hippy
The Undercover Hippy is an expert at protest tunes, because it’s done in a very clever and subtle way. The reggae backing has shades of another great band, Captain Ska. This song questions the greed and or incompetence of our less than industrial leaders. We need more artists like this calling out the scummy liars in government.
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