How Kylie Minogue’s ‘Padam Padam’ Pumped New Energy Into the Aussie Pop Star’s Career

Ten days before her 55th birthday, Kylie Minogue released “Padam Padam,” the first single from her 16th album, “Tension.” Since last May, the tune has become ubiquitous on social media, emerging as a worldwide anthem for the LGBTQ community and qualifying as the singer’s biggest hit of the streaming era.

Named for the sound made by the rhythm of the human heart, it’s also become a drumbeat building to Minogue’s best chance to nab her second Grammy. Her first came 20 years ago at the 46th annual ceremony, when “Come Into My World,” the fourth single from her 2001 album “Fever,” prevailed for best dance recording.

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As so many of her 1980s contemporaries have aged out, retired or otherwise faded from the musical landscape, Minogue has embodied the enduring power of pop stardom. Perhaps it’s because she refuses to take longevity for granted. “I will take literally every gain, big or small,” she says of the nomination. “At this stage in my career, ‘Padam’ really took us all by surprise, and I’m so cognizant that this is a good moment for me.”

Echoing the feeling she had while recording “Fever” — still the biggest of her career — Minogue tells Variety that “Padam” was the bellwether that told her she was on the right track as she put together “Tension.” The experience reminded her of the excitement she felt while working on her last worldwide hit, “Can’t Get You out of My Head.”

“‘Padam’ hit me the same as ‘Can’t Get You out of My Head,’ and I just said, ‘Give me that song and let me make it my own,’” Minogue says.

With more than 80 million records sold, she’s not only the highest-selling female Australian artist of all time but a global phenomenon. A second Grammy trophy would offer a kind of validation in the U.S. — where her stardom pales in comparison to her stature in other parts of the world — but she resists the notion that she’s been chasing it. “I would say, ‘Oh, it’s so great in the States. I can go and just be free and do whatever I want,’ until once in a while there’d be someone saying, ‘Hey, are you the “Loco-Motion” girl?’” Minogue recalls of her 1988 hit. “And after ‘Can’t Get You out of My Head,’ then I was the ‘la-la-la’ girl. Maybe now I’m the ‘Padam Padam’ girl.”

“It would’ve been great to string those together a bit with a few more moments,” she acknowledges. “But it will never be what it was in other territories.”

Minogue is in the midst of a 20-date residency at the Venetian in Las Vegas that began last November and runs into May. Her stay in Sin City indicates a hope for a bigger North American footprint. She even recorded “Vegas High,” the album’s ninth song, in anticipation of the stopover. “We wanted a song to reflect that, and that’s where it’s going to live,” she says.

Although she’s been in the spotlight for her entire adult life, Minogue has only sparingly revealed her true self in her work. “I like to open the window, but you don’t need to get into the full messy room,” she explains, nodding to the freedom that it gives her. “I like being malleable, chameleon-like, and I think my audience understands that. They can always find me within songs — even if it’s dressed up as something else.”

These days, she doesn’t go anywhere without her mobile studio, a necessary creation during the pandemic that enabled her to complete 2020’s “Disco,” and she credits for the “enormous” payoff of “Tension.” “I think spending so much time with a microphone myself, with my voice, with my thoughts, with my choices, just, God, I wish I knew this stuff earlier,” she says. But with the Grammys, the back half of the residency and an expanded rerelease of “Tension” due in the coming months, “Padam Padam” feels less a culmination of her career than the beginning of a new chapter.

“It’s really a wonder I’m still doing this,” she says. “On paper, maybe it shouldn’t have panned out this way.”

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