Music Article

Kylie vs America

It's a shocker: An Aussie sex-pop superstar who can't crack this country. The real shocker? It wasn't ever part of her plan.

Avalon is a nightclub on the corner of 20th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan's Uber-trendy Chelsea neighborhood. It is unique for its Gothic, high-steepled look -- and in that it is, in fact, a converted church. The perfect place to ponder the mystery of an international sex-pop goddess whose deity status in the U.S., for some cosmic reason, is in direct proportion to her 5-foot-1 frame: small.

Herein, on a chilly Friday night in February, the local congregation of the church of Kylie Minogue is warmed over with the spirit. It is the release party for TV sensation Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's soundtrack album, on which Minogue is featured. Cinched into a sparkling blouse by a black corset tight enough to squeeze a last life's breath from a normal-size diva, Minogue sings and spins within an octet of sexy backup dancers in skintight Clockwork Orange -- meets -- Rocky Horror outfits. As the crew launches into a slinky, reggae-ish version of Minogue's once-wholesome 1987 hit ''The Loco-Motion,'' the fetishwear fantasy realizes its full potential. Her sheep clamor for more.

Yet she quits after a handful of songs -- odd when you consider that this is Minogue's only non-talk-show performance on a scant two-week promo tour for her new album, Body Language, a tour that ends tomorrow -- just four days after the album's U.S. release.

''This was my two-week window, and I'm here, and it's been great. Everyone's been very welcoming and positive about the album,'' Minogue tells L2T while blowing through a string of mini-interviews in a downtown hotel room. She is tired. Her fairy-green eyes pick up the color in her billowy, emerald top spectacularly, but below them her generally supple 35-year-old skin is creased with exhaustion. Just a week earlier she won a Grammy for ''Come Into My World'' from 2002's Fever, and within a few days of her hasty departure back to England, ''Slow,'' the first single from Language, will reach No. 1 on Billboard's Dance Club Play charts. ''Red Blooded Woman,'' the album's second single, thanks to a provocative video and a sonic similarity to Justin Timberlake's tale-of-Britney-woe hit, ''Cry Me a River,'' seems ripe for regular MTV rotation.

So why the hasty departure? Doesn't Kylie Minogue want to be big in America?

''America was not in my plan,'' a pragmatic Minogue confides. ''It wasn't in my mind.''

Kylie the famous-everywhere-but-here phenom started when Minogue was plucked from the successful Australian soap opera Neighbours at age 19 by London hitmakers Stock Aitken Waterman (of Bananarama and Rick Astley fame) to record ''The Loco-Motion.'' Since then, she has grown into a global sensation, with top 10 hits in nations as diverse as Finland and Turkey. Like J. Lo, she merchandises well, with dolls (see box, at left) and underwear available for purchase. Her private life and paramours are targets of ever-prying paparazzi. And, like Madonna, she's been through musical and physical incarnations aplenty, including a drastic Goth turn with fellow Melbourne-raised musician Nick Cave in 1996.

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