Kylie Minogue’s highest-selling album – Fever - arrived 14 years into her stellar career. That up-ended the pop tradition of sales generally peaking early in a career – following a path set by Kylie’s idols Cher (1998’s Believe) and Madonna (2000’s Hung Up) to demonstrate there is no timeline on popularity.
Fever was released on October 1, 2001. At the time in the UK the album’s lead single Can’t Get You Out Of My Head was already sitting at No.1, where it would bed down for a month. Most pop careers are lucky to have one ‘imperial’ period where everything works everywhere; Kylie Minogue had just commenced her second.
Fever – Kylie’s eighth studio album – sold over six million copies, won a Grammy and reached No.1 in 40 countries, peaking at No.3 in the US. Yet just three years before Fever, Kylie had parted ways with UK label Deconstruction, after disappointing sales of 1997’s fan-favourite album Impossible Princess.
Signing with Parlophone, Kylie channelled her love of Studio 54 era disco for 2000’s ‘comeback’ album Light Years, featuring Spinning Around – her first UK No.1 in a decade.
“Never at any time have I believed my time was up,” Kylie said promoting Fever in 2001. “Before signing with Parlophone there were people wondering if I’d come to a dead end of my career, but I never did, I always felt there as more to do. With Light Years and Fever, I guess I was right.”
For Fever, Light Years’ campy cocktail-sipping pop was out, edgy electronica was in. “It’s as if we’ve gone to the club next door,” Kylie said in 2001. “It’s a little more streamlined, more sounds from late ‘70s and early’ 80s. That’s when I became interested in pop music with those synthetic sounds.”
Brothers In Rhythm’s Steve Anderson, who went from remixing Kylie in 1992 to becoming a creative collaborator on her transformative Confide in Me two years later, also doubled as Musical Director on the star’s tours since 1998’s Intimate and Live. He and Kylie had started to work together at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Bath before Light Years, resulting in beloved B-sides as well as album cuts Bittersweet Goodbye, Butterfly and So Now Goodbye. They reconvened in Bath again to start writing for what would become the Fever project.
“We’re not very good at writing to a brief, we just do what we feel like on the day,” Anderson explained to I Like Your Old Stuff. “Hence why most of those songs ended up as B-sides as they didn’t fit what Fever became.”
Parlophone teamed the singer with songwriters including Biff Stannard, who penned the Spice Girls’ Wannabe and had written Light Years’ title track and single Please Stay with Minogue.
They were also sourcing finished songs from top-shelf writers.
Artists-turned-songwriters Cathy Dennis and Rob Davis had written Can’t Get You Out Of My Head in one afternoon, initially offering it to S Club 7. The song - a minimal, highly-digital mantra with no traditional chorus – was rumoured to be then offered to Sophie Ellis-Bextor (Davis co-wrote her hit Groovejet) although the British singer denies ever hearing it before it was a hit.
When Parlophone A&R Miles Leonard heard the demo of Can’t Get You Out Of My Head he knew it could work for Kylie.
Indeed, Kylie knew within 30 seconds she had to have it, and insisted the label secure it for her. “The first time I heard it I fell in love with it, I thought it was tailor made for me,” Kylie said in 2001. “I can’t quite believe it’s mine.”
Kylie Minogue | Can't Get You Out Of My Head
She was so in love with the song that when Kylie’s On A Night Like This tour began in March 2001, promoting the Light Years album, she included Can’t Get You Out Of My Head in the setlist, despite it being six months away from being released. It would be the only time Kylie would perform her future-signature song to a less than roof-raising reaction.
Steve Anderson was co-writing a song called Dancefloor (which would wind up on Fever) with Cathy Dennis, who played him the Can’t Get You Out Of My Head demo.
“She said ‘I’m thinking of sending it to Kylie’,” Anderson said.
“I said ‘You definitely should, they’re still looking for songs’. I remember being struck by the fact it was very raw, I adore Cathy’s writing, she goes to the places you never expect to go. Because it had that Kraftwerk backing track it sounded rough but cool.
“That was the first time I heard it. The next time was when Kylie had recorded it and she said ‘OK, this is going to be massive, let’s put it in the tour’.”
Anderson said the demo version and world-conquering version were quite similar.
“It sounded like what I’d heard in Cathy’s room, but with Kylie on it. But the vocal Kylie did on it had so much attitude. It turned it from something I thought was special to that massive, massive hit.”
Parlophone now used Can’t Get You Out Of My Head as the sonic benchmark for Fever.
“It’s a very cohesive album,” Anderson said of Fever. “The moment they had Can’t Get You Out Of My Head they knew ‘OK this is the sound of the record’.
“Even on Dancefloor we went in and did a posher version, with strings, and they said, ‘You’ve lost the vibe of the original’. They were very keen on making sure the album had that edge, that toughness, that it didn’t sound too polished.”
Daft Punk, French house and Ibiza dance parties were reference points while songwriters including Pascal Gabriel (Bomb The Bass, Dido) and Tom Nichols (All Saints) contributed tracks.
“Reinvention and change are Kylie’s oxygen,” Anderson says. “There was no point in doing Light Years again, so we had to move on.”
Anderson teamed up with US DJ Mark Picchiotti (who had produced Butterfly) for a writing session for Fever. They wrote two songs in London – only one, Give It To Me, would make the album – co-written with Kylie.
“The first song we did I really loved, it was called Don’t Say That You Love Me, it was based on a Chaka Khan sample. It had a really raucous Tell Me Something Good vibe,” Anderson said.
“Give It To Me was done really quickly, it had that Basement Jaxx feel that probably fitted in with Fever. We spent so much time on the other song and not much time on this one. It was that situation where you present two songs – one you feel amazing about and one you feel OK about and they go with that one.”
Several Minogue/Anderson songs from the Fever era would surface although Don’t Say That You Love Me is a rarity – an unreleased Kylie song that has never leaked. Harmony and Never Spoken became B-sides, another collaboration, Feels So Good, was recorded by UK girl band Atomic Kitten for their British No.1 album of the same time.
“I adored that song,” Anderson said. “I felt that was on brief, but it may have been a tiny bit too pop.”
A version of Feels So Good with Kylie’s vocals leaked online – not to be confused with a different song called Feels So Good on her album Kiss Me Once, produced by MNEK.
Kylie Minogue | Love At First Sight
Ironically, Fever also contained another song title Kylie would recycle – Love At First Sight was the final song on her 1988 debut album, a completely different song with the same title became Fever’s third single. She has also released two different songs both called Right Here, Right Now – 14 years apart.
The American rollout of Fever was slightly different. Can’t Get You Out Of My Head made No.7 on the US chart, her first time in the American Top 10 since The Loco-Motion in 1988. Her US label opted for an R&B-oriented remix of Love At First Sight as Fever’s second single – it reached No.23. The rest of the world followed Can’t Get You Out Of My Head with In Your Eyes – a No.1 hit in Australia and No.3 in the UK.
Love At First Sight would make No.3 in Australia and No.2. The fourth single – another Cathy Dennis/Rob Davis collaboration – Come Into My World became the album’s fourth consecutive Top 5 single in Australia, and Top 10 single in the UK. Anderson said the success of Fever was extraordinary, from the inside of Team Kylie looking out.
Kylie Minogue | Come Into My World
“When you have a career defining juggernaut of a record like Can’t Get You Out Of My Head it just does so much of the work. The moment that happened, it happened on a global scale and you know everything is only going to get bigger.”
Before commencing the KylieFever2002 tour, the singer performed her mash-up of Can’t Get You Out Of My Head with New Order’s seminal Blue Monday at the 2002 Brit Awards. She would win Best International Album and Best International Female that night. At the 2002 ARIA Awards Minogue won four gongs, including Single Of The Year and Highest Selling Single for Can’t Get You Out Of My Head and Highest Selling Album and Best Pop Release for Fever.
Anderson says the strength of Fever remains, 20 years on.
“There’s not a Kylie tour where Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, In Your Eyes and Love At First Sight aren’t in there. They have to be. It’s rare you get an album that has three songs that remain a staple of someone’s career.”
Kylie Minogue | In Your Eyes
This month marks 20 years since Fever was released. To celebrate this milestone, a special 20th anniversary edition of the album will be released on white vinyl including a print, as well as on frosted recycled clear cassette. Pre-order, here!
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