[Editor's Note: Fuck Guilty Pleasures celebrates the over-produced, commercial, artless, lowbrow music that we believe is genuinely worthwhile. Like, among the best music ever.]
It was the wee hours of the morning about ten years ago when I first saw Dannii Minogue, on Top of the Pops. Chains dangling from her baggy black pants, gold earrings grazing her shoulders, she performed her hit song “Put the Needle on It.” I perked up.
I knew Dannii's name, but mostly just as the younger sister of Kylie Minogue. Despite breaking out first, she'd always been considered the less successful sibling — not to mention, early on, the fatter, less attractive one. Nowadays it's more like botox jokes.
Don't get me wrong. Dannii is popular, but only really in her native Australia and the U.K. In the U.S. she barely registers. Her 2003 album Neon Nights had a minor dance hit here called “I Begin to Wonder,” but, really, she was always considered too pop to be hip.
In my opinion, however, that's backwards — she's actually too hip to be pop.
Around the time Neon Nights came out I was DJing at a very small club on Santa Monica Blvd., and began to play “I Begin to Wonder” in my sets. It was so damn catchy. Our clientele was diverse: Kids who looked like they could be in the Human League piled in, while random guys arrived fresh from the neighboring porn theater. While the music mainly veered toward the artsy — underground classics from Throbbing Gristle and brand new singles from German producers — Dannii somehow fit in just fine with this crowd that prided itself on its obscure taste.
Dannii's music became so ingrained in my sets that one of my friends made me a t-shirt with her image screenprinted in the Andy Warhol style. Despite the fact that her music was purely pop, she was such an unknown personality in Los Angeles that dancing to her didn't feel like a betrayal to the underground. This certainly wasn't Britney Spears.
A little more background on Dannii: She was a child TV star in Australia and a cast member of the show Young Talent Time, where she sang pop hits like “Material Girl” and “Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves” during the '80s.
A few years later she was on her own, and though her albums saw some success, Kylie's star quickly rose higher. Dannii got married, and then posed for Playboy after her divorce. Kylie had become the pop princess while Dannii was being portrayed as the bad girl.
I recently went back and listened to Dannii's earliest albums from the early '90s, Love & Kisses and Get Into You. Had I heard them when they were released — when I was a teenager into shoegaze like Ride and Lush — I would have hated them.
But amidst the overproduced ballads and quasi-house beats I can really hear Dannii's progression as an artist. Starting from pop, she became increasingly comfortable in the high-heel shoes of a dance diva. She kept going despite the jokes, despite the constant comparisons to her sister, and ended up with an album that was freakin' awesome.
With every sample choice on Neon Nights, with every hook, it was like she had read our minds. Dannii made pop music cool, picking up on what was happening at small clubs everywhere from Berlin to New York to L.A. This was around the time Madonna attempted to redeem herself with Confessions on a Dancefloor; Dannii had quietly beat the Queen of Pop at her own game.
Sadly, Dannii herself has left the dance floor. She was a judge on the U.K. version of The X Factor, which is flat-out horrible. No amount of drama between her and Sharon Osbourne could make it watchable. Recently she left the show, however, which made me want to throw a party. Hopefully she'll use this opportunity to record another album. If she does, I'm going to break out my turntables again. I need to dance again, and I know a lot of other people who do too.