I have to confess that, had you asked me at the time which of the eighties acts who were then doing good business would forge a career with legs enough to not only take them into the new Millennium but to also record the most played song of the 2000’s*, I would not have pegged Kylie as a likely candidate. Or even a wild card bet to be honest - Madonna or Michael Jackson maybe, but not the one time Aussie soap star with the bad perm and nosy honk. Not on the basis of her early singles anyway, my views on which are there for all to see.
Ah but that was then and this is now and, as I pointed out back on 'Spinning Around', Kylie's career - whether by accident or design – turned out to be one that was playing an exceptionally long game. Few pop stars have the luxury of being able to wait 13 years before getting ‘round to recording their signature tune, yet 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' has come to be identified so closely with Minogue that a photo-biography published just one year later in 2002 had the confidence to title itself 'Kylie La La La'.
'La La La'? Oh yes, Kylie's "la la la" motif on this is as instantly recognisable/memorable as The Beatles’ "yeah yeah yeah"s or even the opening bars of Beethoven's Fifth. A constant presence throughout the song, they’re the swinging watch that hypnotises her into a somnambulistic trance to daydream about the boy she can't forget. A simple melody to be sure, a cool and seductive chant that any mother might have improvised to comfort a crying baby, yet its strength lies in that simplicity in the same way that attaching a pound of metal to a stick of wood provides a devastatingly simplistic and almost unimprovable means of driving a nail into a wall.
It's a simplicity that extends to the song as a whole, a pared to the bone 'popcorn' bounce that Kylie rides with the low key confidence of knowing it's never going to buck her off. In fact, its basic structure is such that it literally paints itself into a corner on three separate occasions during its running time, only for those "la la la"s to throw it a lifeline. Written by the unlikely as hell on paper team of Cathy Dennis and Rob Davies (formerly of seventies glam stompers Mud who also co-wrote 'Groovejet' and 'Toca’s Miracle' ) 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' works its magic like sleeping gas; you don’t have to be fully conscious that it's there in the room with you for it to seep into your consciousness.
How much of its success is down to Kylie herself? Would I be very uncharitable in saying very little? True, Kylie pushes her Pop Pixie ™ persona to the max in the promo video, but it's also worth remembering that 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' was turned down by both Sophie Ellis Bextor and S Club 7 before Kylie picked it up and, to pick up my previous musings on what makes a pop song a ‘good’ one, I can't imagine it being anything other than a hit if either of those had got there first. Hell, even Mud could have had a hit with it. In fact, by adopting a coy snarl, Kylie's own vocal recalls Bextor's on 'Groovejet', meaning she didn't even have to sound like herself to make it work.
Maybe though this was the package that sells it the best, the combination of that Pop Pixie ™ persona mixed with the clean lines of the song that made it a sumptuous treat in a way that serious Sophie or the multi-angled S Clubbers wouldn’t have. Maybe. But whatever - 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' remains as shiny as a freshly minted penny. And, just like that penny, it comes with a dry familiarity that lacks the confrontational edge of, say, the similarly pared to the bone 'I Feel Love' (a song that's a close cousin) that speaks the universal language of irresistibility without causing the slightest offence to anyone. La la la, la la la la la………..
* In late 2011, the Performing Rights Society declared 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head' to be the most played song of the 2000's.