Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr It’s unlikely that anyone in the pop music sphere was clamoring for an artist as tenured as Kylie Minogue to pivot to country, but that’s exactly the direction her 14th studio album, Golden, has taken. On paper, it sounds like a sensationalist marketing gambit disguised as a genuine creative risk, the sort of left-field hail-mary artists increasingly must try in the ever-evolving streaming era of music. But it’s actually a pleasant, if occasionally confusing, listening experience. Now, Minogue did co-write and produce a lot of the new songs in Nashville, where she collaborated with songwriters from the pre-1989 era of Taylor Swift, but this is more country in affectation than spirit. There’s strummed guitars, intermittent banjo plucking and other overt hallmarks of the genre on display to be sure. It all feels like any dancing shoes worn to the new tunes would need to be cowboy boots. But beyond Minogue’s vocal impression of Dolly Parton somehow sounding like Gwen Stefani, the thrust of the album is still the broad, glittery pop she’s been churning out for decades. That’s a good thing, too. It’s not that Minogue, as a musician, is somehow incapable of shifting gears. Throughout her career, she’s moved through styles with aplomb, functioning like a less extreme version of her contemporary Madonna, but she’s always been at her best belting big pop numbers that transcend arbitrary genre lines. Had she completely jettisoned her trademark hooks for sullen tracks about being cheated on and driving trucks, it’d be a real shame. As it stands, the best cuts on the albums all follow the same general structure, noodling with country music tics in the verses before devolving into vaguely EDM-inflected release for the chorus. The A sides start off strong with instantly likable songs that make the transition easy. “Dancing” may as well be the final Kylie Minogue song ever produced, because nothing would close her career better than a song this grand and illusory about shaking your ass when the reaper comes to collect. Similarly, “Stop Me From Falling” makes the marriage between the ramshackle instrumentation of the verses with the jangly rapture of the hook so seamless. It makes the prospect of line dancing to Kylie Minogue less laughable. But then the title track cuts in, with its yodeling interpolation of Morricone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly theme. Nothing stops a good time dead in its tracks like “yodeling Morricone.” As far as stylistic offenses go, it’s pretty innocuous, but it highlights how the rest of the track list doesn’t blend the old Kylie and this new reinvigorated one quite so well. “Sincerely Yours,” a rueful ode to her longtime fans, is too weird and bland to really love, coming off flat and perfunctory instead of passionate. “One Last Kiss” fares a little better, but by the final few tracks, the gimmick is wearing off, as if Minogue’s country shtick is a Cinderella pumpkin ride about to end at the strike of midnight. Perhaps a shorter LP, with less gristle at the outer edges, would allow for the highlights to shine brighter, but the repetitive tracks drag down the whole experiment, detracting from what works by going to the well to diminishing returns. “Shelby ‘68,” a sly play on the iconic car and Minogue’s own birth year, prove that exploring elements of country breathe new life into the singer, empowering her songwriting and giving her new perspective. It just doesn’t hold up as well outside of the bigger cuts. It’ll be interesting to see if she stays in this new wheelhouse on the next release or what newfound inspiration will move her elsewhere.