A few years ago I wrote this piece for another blog and I thought I'd re-post it. Why? Simply because I want to...celebrate the brilliance of Light Years. Written by Kylie, Biff and Julian Gallagher over eight years ago the song still sounds as fresh as it did then. In many ways its the starter track. The one that kicked it all off the haze of brilliant female pop musicians delving into the electro synth pop-pools of disco exuberance. For me, Light Years is the song that suggested you gotta look back to move forward. In many ways, it planted the seed for likes of Madonna's Hung Up and its entire parent album, Robyn and With Every Heartbeat, Little Boots and La Roux. As such, it needs celebrating...


Kylie’s comeback album 2000 contained many potential singles. Murray Chalmers at Parlophone once said that Light Years sounded like a greatest hits of pop music of the last 30 years. Its no surprise then the LP was voted above the likes of similarly iconic albums by Madonna, Donna Summer, Pet Shop Boys and Grace Jones by Attitude (2006).

Its title track that is symbolic as to how great the album is. Bouncing between Kraftwerk, Star Trek and Moroder, Light Years included its own countdown and spacecraft special effects. It was ground-breaking. Kylie was your purser. Your very own cosmic space queen. You, the listeners were the travellers, fastened in and buckled up. Your eyes? On the planets that whizzed by.

The chorus was simple and minimalist yet all over the place. You heard stardust dazzle past, rocket fuel burn up and planets fall away as you entered warp speed. Sometimes Kylie sung in the upper echelons of falsetto and then would just hum along. She also did a spoken introduction mid-song just to make sure her passengers were dancing comfortably and safely. Kylie just stops short at offering you refreshments and an opportunity to join the mile-high club.

Chronologically speaking Light Years is perfect as a single. It would have been the perfect prologue to the CyberKylie. The Kylie that gave us Can’t Get You Of My Head, Come Into My World and Slow. I Believe In You is, as Jake Shears has said so himself, a dedication to Light Years. It even mimics the high notes and the baseline.

When compared to its rivals on the album its absolutely shocking why it was overlooked. Some Kylie fans desperately wanted Your Disco Needed You to come out of its closet and strut its stuff on the charts. Parlophone commissioned an Almighty mix, a limited edition release, a video or two and most were happy with that. Then came the demands for Disco Down, So Now Goodbye and Butterfly. The latter had already been released so it was bets off for its eventual mainstream appearance.

Then came Light Years. The British newspaper, The Sun, started a mini-campaign to get the title track released as a single. Whispers that Light Years and Butterfly would be released as a double a-side started to spread. Out of nowhere a semi-official mix of Light Years by D-Bop suddenly appeared. It looked to be a cert. If the forum rumours were to believed.

However when bite came to crunch Please Stay piped all the others and left newspapers and fans alike speechless. Please Stay was the blip on the album. Not an entirely bad song in itself but it was about as advanced as a Geri b-side. It flopped. Tellingly, it didn’t appear in the set-list in the tour that was supposed to actually promote the album it was from. Only once has it made a full appearance in Kylie’s concerts and then only with Steve Anderson's absolutely glorious re-arrangement.

Light Years, however, has not gone quietly. It often takes pride of place in her shows. William Baker has always given the song huge special effects, lasers and stage designs that befit the brilliance of the song. While Mr.Baker makes it look good Kylie and Steve Anderson, her musical director, makes sure the song sounds its worth & adapts it every time its performed. The song has been mashed with I Feel Love and Turn It Into Love. Its like all involved seem understand its immense pop sensibilities.

Some six years later Madonna did her take on Light Years. It too has a spoken section where the icon addresses her passengers. It too has sweeping electro sounds. It too has that Moroder baseline. It too has an important place at her concerts. Madonna too, like Kylie, has sung the words to Donna Summer’s I Feel Love when performed on tour. It too hasn’t been released.

So raise a glass to Light Years. The best Kylie single that never was. Kylie once joked that the song was written when the she was tired and “a bit of pot was likely involved in its conception”. For this alone it demands bowing down to.


Peibols said...

The best way of starting a week is reading this post about my favourite album EVER!

Great, you must up-date it.

Fredrik said...

No no no! Great article Bobby but Madonna did not not copy Kylie. I seriously doubt she has heard the Kylie album

Paul said...

deffo. a kylie must. Your Disco Needs You remains one of my fave robbie williams penned songs ever and one of my fave kylie songs ever.

Sigh. Remember a kind of love in?!

Aaron said...

You know, I'm a fan of Light Years - It's decent enough, and the mix with Turn It Into Love is a killer.

I would love to remember the controversy surrounding the Light Years singles, Butterfly deserved a release as did Disco Down as did Your Disco Needs You (It has an "almighty mix"?) as did....

But Eventually Please Stay got it, and I'm actually quite happy - I think the track is absolutely glorious an one of Kylie's finer moments - It's surprising how much people can differ on tracks! I'm assuming you're talking about Please Stay showing up on the "showgirl" show?

At least we agree Light Years is good!

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Adem With An E said...


LOVED reading this. x

undisco_me said...

It's the best track on the album: robotic, kitsch and menacing with aloof 'foreign glamour'. Dannii's Gone almost tries the same trick but can't get itself off the ground despite an inspirational middle 8. I always like to imagine Kylie was using the influence of her Towa Tei collaboration - once again she sounds wired up to a Super Nintendo console. Please Stay is a miniscule competitor in comparison, but is still one of those flamenco-flutters akin to Gina G and 80s Madonna. On A Night Like This is another clean-cut dance alceration, but nothing comes close to Light Years - it's out of harms way and with its wordless sense of pathos seems to have performed some kind of heeling by the time it leaves you (dazed and in awe quite frankly).

Great post, and I had no idea about the Parlophone plotting for 3rd single was so legs-to-the-ceiling.

'Compliation of last 30 years' is almost exactly what the album is. I never saw the fuss of Fever - it had none of the dense otherworldliness of Light Years.