With a new Christmas album, Kylie Minogue is helping to spread the festive joy in her own infectious way. And Stylist is fully on board…
Words: Helen Bownass
Photography: William Baker
So far Kylie Minogue and James Corden have sung Only You 308 times to me in the run up to Christmas. When I’ve been full of festive cheer, when I’ve been lacking in festive cheer, when I’ve needed something to soothe me down London’s Oxford Street at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon two weekends before Christmas. (Disclaimer: I am listening to it right now, on a loop.) For me, it’s everything a Christmas song should be: a tiny bit camp, very twinkly and basically like it was penned to be in the finale of Love Actually (it wasn’t; it was originally recorded by Eighties synthpop duo Yazoo in 1982). Indeed, it’s rather like Kylie herself, a woman who knows the power of a festive celebration.
The song is one of 16 on her new album, Kylie Christmas. It contains plenty of ‘proper’ Christmas songs – including It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year and Winter Wonderland – to keep the purists happy. As well as collaborations with the late Frank Sinatra (on Santa Claus Is Coming To Town) and the more unexpected Iggy Pop. Christmas songs come so naturally that I’m surprised, when I google it to check, that a Kylie Christmas album doesn’t already exist. “When people mentioned it to me years and years ago I pooh poohed it,” she reveals, while deep in rehearsals for her Christmas show at the Royal Albert Hall. “But it was so much fun. I was so excited to have these amazing musicians and feel so good about making this album. I’m just bouncing around like a five year old who’s had too many fairy cakes.”
I have interviewed Kylie a few times before and she’s always utterly cheery and totally professional. Nothing has changed – other than the fact that the cheer seems to have ramped up a notch. Rather uniquely, this time she calls me herself. Totally out the blue. It’s so unexpected that I pick up the phone on the last ring, with a “who’s calling me now, hello”. “Hi, it’s Kylie,” she laughs. “Sorry for catching you off guard.” (I swear I wrote to Father Christmas asking for the gift of this very phonecall in the Eighties, when all I wanted was to be best friends with Charlene Robinson from Neighbours.)
This year has been another exciting and inventive one for Melbourne-born Minogue. As well as owning Christmas – crowned with a BBC Radio 2 special on 25 December and a new festive waxwork at Madame Tussauds – there’s been a summer tour in Europe, a parting of ways with Jay Z’s management company Roc Nation, a collaboration with electro music pioneer Giorgio Moroder and the introduction of a new man to her life. He is 27-year-old British actor Joshua Sasse, who she met while guest starring in fairy-tale comedy TV series Galavant. She seems rather smitten. One thing that has been in rather short supply though, is an album of Kylie tunes. Something that looks likely to change in the New Year, as she can see herself “going full pop” after her festive offering and “getting back to my dance/pop roots.”
Before that, there’s much to discuss including the secrets of Christmas wrapping, stepping away from social media, and why she’s ready to have her own Eat Pray Love moment in 2016.
You recorded your Christmas album back in July, have your festive levels waned yet?
Not at all. There is no end to the festivity in my life: I’m surprised there’s any decorations left for any other Londoners. I’m just super excited that everyone else has caught up now. When it struck 1 December I breathed a sigh of relief because we’re finally getting there.
As 2015 draws to a close what’s been your highlight of the year?
Playing at Hyde Park in the summer was great. It was kind of a homecoming; I’m a Londoner these days. Performing 100 Degrees with Dannii [on Australia’s The X Factor last month, the first time the pair had performed live together on TV in almost 30 years] was amazing. We were so relieved it went well. It was a big moment for us. She was worried for me and I was worried for her – you worry less about yourself and somehow over-compensate. But it was a bit like getting on a bike really; we’ve been doing it so long. Not that we get to perform very often together but it felt really natural.
What’s the best thing you’ve learnt this year? Any new skills or languages?
[Laughs] You’ve tapped into my New Year’s resolutions from last year. I haven’t learnt anything new, no new languages, despite saying I want to. I can speak OK French but I’d love to speak fluent French. I’d love to learn Italian, but it hasn’t happened either, maybe next year…
Why do we all do that? Set ourselves up for unrealistic resolutions at New Year?
But I guess if you don’t say it you’ve never got any hope of doing it. I think the older I get the more New Year is about decompressing the year and being thankful for so many things and taking a moment, rather than thinking too much about the following year.
Have you found you’ve done anything differently this year?
I’ve just been trying to live and enjoy work and trying to stress a little bit less. There’s no doubt that it’s all hard work but I’ve really been making a concerted effort to enjoy it. I think it makes a difference; a small difference. It’s quite normal and natural to forget to enjoy the moment. As creatures on a prehistoric level we’d be thinking where’s the next meal, where’s safe to sleep? You do worry about things but the world’s just got that much faster. I used to pride myself on being quite techy. Now I’m just like, “Oh God!” There’s just so much out there. Unless you’re really into [technology] there’s only so much you catch up on. So for me I’m not going to step away from technology altogether, just down tools when I can. I think there’s a growing general appreciation of walks in the country or real experiences.
Who’s the most interesting person you’ve met this year?
My beau. For sure. He has intrigued me and inspired me most this year.
And also, he’s very handsome!
[Laughs] There is that!
What’s on the cards this year for Christmas?
I’m here for December, but for actual Christmas I’ll be somewhere in Europe, hopefully in the snow.
Do you and Dannii send each other lists at Christmas – my sister gets a very detailed one from me…
Does she? Does that mean you get everything you ask for? We don’t make them no, but I will say that Dannii is very organised, she will think about it weeks, months in advance. I am – to put it lightly – not like that. I’m an air sign; I go with the wind. I’m more last minute. I’m not that person who thinks about it. And then people also say, “What do you want?” and I don’t know what I want.
Who is the cook?
My brother [Brendan, a news cameraman] and sister, not I. I’ve got a couple of uncles who are very good. My mum’s very good, dad is more likely to be on drinks duty. I am not the cook, that’s for sure.
What are you responsible for then?
I’m on vibes! I maintain that while they’re all crazy in the kitchen. Someone has to light the candles, that’s my thing. I’m very sensitive to the way a place looks, what the lighting’s like, what it smells like. I’m actually in my zone when I’m charge of that, which is good. And I don’t mind doing the washing up.
What’s your seasonal scent of choice?
Anything with cinnamon. And in Australia most years I have gardenia on my person. I’ve usually got my hair up and put it in my hair because it grows outside my parents’ house. It’s possibly one of my favourite flowers. That’s a little tradition I have.
How do you feel about present wrapping? What’s the secret to good gift wrap?
I love wrapping. Love it. I would do everyone’s wrapping if I could. I don’t know the secret, but just try not to be boring, try to do something unusual, try to make it neat. I don’t have a theme; I just make it up. And I also do a smash and grab of whatever paper and ribbons are in the house, bits I’ve collected over the year.
An important question: do you pre-cut your bits of Sellotape, or use one of those nifty dispensers?
Well if it’s a tricky gift you do need to pre-cut your tape and have them stuck [on a surface] ready to go. I’ve tried one of those dispensers but it didn’t work for me so I go old school.
Are you a fan of a board game?
I love a board game. It’s generally Scrabble and the same Scrabble board comes out every year. God knows how many tiles we’ve got left in the box – we must have lost at least 20 of them. I don’t know that anyone actually finishes a game of Scrabble, it’s more that the Scrabble board is traditionally brought out. I’m a stickler for the rules. And I also know a few of the nifty two or three letter words that get you lots of points.
What’s your favourite sound at Christmas?
Wham!, Last Christmas, it’s very hard to beat that. Then I would go Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Dean Martin, all those classics…
You did a duet with James Corden on the album, would you do Carpool Karaoke [the sketch on The Late Late Show, where host Corden duets with stars – including Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber – while driving]?
Yes I’d love to do Carpool Karaoke, I just don’t have time to get to LA. Maybe next year. We’d have to do Spinning Around.
Have you given much thought to what 2016 has got in store?
I’d love to do some travel that doesn’t involve work, not necessarily quite Eat Pray Love-style but a bit of discovery. I’ve been to Mumbai before, and I wasn’t there for long so I’d love to see more of India. I’ve never seen the Northern Lights. I’ve never been to the Antarctic.
I can see you having a Julia Roberts moment…
Maybe yes! [Laughs] Helen before I go can you just wish everyone at Stylist and all your readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from me!
The Kylie Christmas album is out now (£10.99, itunes.apple.com)
Illustrations: Hattie Stewart